The Letter to Women and Men, the Citizens of Sarajevo


1000 DAYS OF THE SIEGE OF SARAJEVO -1000 LETTERS FOR SARAJEVO


On May the 4th, 1992, the regular public bus service in Sarajevo was suspended. On that day the last regular bus entered and left the city. Since the beginning of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, more bombs were thrown on Sarajevo than on the whole of Yugoslavia during World War Two. Since then, the citizens of Sarajevo walk hand in hand with death every day.

We do not want relativism in condemning the responsibility for the killing of Sarajevo. If we say that everyone is responsible, we are avoiding the responsibility. Those most respon­ sible are those who have the greatest military power: Serbian militarists in Pale, helped by the same ones in Belgrade. Accepting our share of the responsibility for the things done in our name, we have long ago told the Serbian regime, "DO NOT SPEAK IN OUR NAME, WE CAN DO IT OURSELVES." Every Wednesday, since October 9, 1991, we, WOMEN IN BLACK, protest on the Republic Square in Belgrade against war, the Serbian regime, and mili­tarism.

We question words, as the most important means of communication—especially those we wish to address to you, women and men of Sarajevo. Words have numerous meanings, get shabby from prolonged use, lose their meanings. We have decided not to speak excessive words, as we think that relevant experiences and feelings are expressed and perceived through silence. Silence as the protest, here where the war is conducted; the visible silence is the cry, the warning. With black and silence we want to express both, the shame and the compassion.

We know that you are the most tragic victims of today's world. Do we have the right to tell you that we do not want to communicate with you only through your suffering, but through your energy and strength? We are telling you this because we know that many have politically benefited from your suffering, that many have fed their necrophilia on your mis fortune. We know that you were “most popular” when you were enduring the greatest pain. At the cost of a few tears during “live transmission,” cheaply, a global public crime was committed against you: expulsion of the real event from memory. The threshold for violence done aginst you was being rapidly lowered. Or, as Jean Baudrillard would say: “This is the process of forgetfulness, extinction, destruction, remembrance; it is absorption without a response, a black hole like Auschwitz.”

THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS AND DOES NOTHING. SARAJEVO WAS BETRAYED BY EVERYONE. EUROPE AND THE WHOLE WORLD. ONLY THE PEOPLE OF SARAJEVO DID NOT BETRAY THEMSELVES.

Flak from the surrounding hills destroyed private libraries, bombs demolished Sarajevo bookshops, and you, women and men of Sarajevo, were hurrying to the theatre, to a daily performance in front of a full house; actresses and actors were playing in the midst of a Sarajevo hell…

And thus we want to communicate with you through strength and vitality and energy. We shall not succumb to cheap pathetics by praising you. Feeling through your famous “black humor,” we know how much you are on the side of life, how you also fight with laughter against death and necrophilia.

WITH TENDERNESS, SOLIDARITY, AND FRIENDHSIP, WOMEN IN BLACK AGAINST WAR ARE EMBRACING YOU

Belgrade, January 18, 1995