Always disobedient, and still in the streets...

Women in black - 30 years of resistance

9th october 1991 we took to the streets of Belgrade for the first time - that is when we began non- violent resistance to the war and the policies of the Serbian regime. So far, we have organized about 2,500 street actions. We are still in the streets ...
Women in Black / WiB is an activist group and network of feminist-anti-militarist orientation, consisting of women, but also men of different generational and ethnic backgrounds, educational levels, social status, lifestyles and sexual choices.


Panel discussion: Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Women Human Rights Defenders, and Peace Activis

Conference organized on October 31st to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325

Belgrade, Center for Cultural Decontamination, October 31st 2005

Women in Black organized this panel discussion based on the following beliefs:
-The Amnesty International position that “many women are targeted, because they are strong, because they are political activists and community organizers, or because they persistently demand that human rights be upheld.” This position is in accordance with feminist and anti-militarist politics, which rejects the reduction of women's identity solely to that of a victim. It is important to draw attention to courageous, strong, determined, and persistent women from civil society who, because they defend the rights of others, have become the victims of various forms of violence and repression, both institutional and cultural.
-Since the beginning of the 1990s, women started civil society organizations more often than men, especially those civil society organizations that advocated for human rights. Women consistently and visibly participated in anti-war actions throughout the former Yugoslavia and in Serbia in particular.
- The demonization, defamation, and discreditation of women human rights defenders started in the beginning of the 1990s. However, the campaign in Serbia intensified after the assassination of the Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, and grew even stronger when the government of Vojislav Kostunica came to power.

Tanja Tagirov, panel discussion moderator

I would like to greet all of you who agreed to take part in this panel discussion. Today, we will talk about violence against women, primarily against NGO women who are working for the protection of human rights. The women on this panel vary greatly. They are politicians, NGO activists, women from Belgrade, women from Montenegro, and women from various parts of Serbia. Some of these places are very hard to work in, since the women advocate their ideas and positions alone. It is somewhat easier to work here in Belgrade. We support each other and there are many media outlets. When we talk about attacks on women in Belgrade, ‘the four witches’ are usually those under attack. Some of them are with us today.

Gordana Comic, Democratic Party, member of Serbian National Assembly

“The most dangerous creatures in Serbia are women who clearly say ‘the past can't be denied, because that denial takes away our future.”
I call my lecture ‘Hello state, what are you doing (to me)?’ In my attempts to analyze our state, its mission, the mission of the politicians, and the mission of civil society and NGOs, I have reached the following conclusions.
It would be good if I, as a citizen, felt good in the state of Serbia. It would be good if I were secure, if I had a sense of safety, if my country had a strategy for improving everyday citizens' lives, if there were responsible people in public offices and workplaces, and if we had economic and social justice and respect for human rights. If that were the case, I would be satisfied and I would invite people to come and live in the state of Serbia. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Everything that I have stated as the parameters of a well-organized state, Serbia – unfortunately – doesn't have. Here in Serbia, I have a constant feeling that my state wants to harm me and put me on trial. I feel that this state adheres to Thomas Hobbes' philosophy. Let me clarify – this state constantly keeps me afraid of it. I think that the state in the previous, one-party system was more distant from Hobbes' state than the state that emerged after the multi-party system was introduced. Hobbes argues that citizens can be either agents or subjects of a society. With regret, I have to say that we, here in Serbia, are more subjects than agents – and we have to change that. Let’s see what happens to laws in that kind of state and how that affects our security.
It would be normal if laws were applied and followed. That again isn't the case in Serbia, unfortunately. From the local to the federal level, laws are not respected. The laws that protect human rights are those that are most often broken. This gives us an additional feeling of insecurity.
I'll give you one example. In the English language, there is an excellent example, ‘rule of law’ or ‘law as an instrument of rule.’ In Serbia, unfortunately, ‘law as an instrument of rule’ dominates and that gives us a feeling of personal insecurity.
I think that Hobbes' state needs to be destroyed and that a state that will serve, and not rule over its citizens needs to be created. If you have a state that constantly uses laws as instruments of rule, it will constantly deny responsibility. It doesn't operate with responsibility towards its citizens, but it uses law as an instrument of its own rule. That kind of state doesn’t consider its citizens to be agents, but views them as the subjects of society. Just take a look at how politicians here yell at the people on almost every occasion. That has to do with their lack of respect for the people. They don't consider them to be agents.
Let us see now what kinds of fears we have in that kind of state – fear of losing a job, fear of sending a child to the military, fear of being attacked in the street, fear of having a child get hurt at school, fear of drinking polluted water, fear of being infected with the avian flu virus, and other fears. If all these things make me afraid, then the state is not doing its job. There are many examples of everything that I have mentioned. I, as a politician, am not denying my responsibility, but I have to tell you that, during Djindjic’s leadership, we made a powerful attempt to abolish Hobbes' Serbia.
How do we react to this kind of Serbia? The majority of the political parties just weakly plead for changes, for the country's accession to the European Union. The only clear voices can be heard from NGO activists, human rights defenders and a few politicians. The majority of political parties just take care of their electoral base. They don't want to deal with the past or confront crimes or criminal politics.
I believe that if we deny the past, we don't have a future. Citizens, as active agents of society, have to take part in resolving these problems. Of course, the role of us politicians is also important.
And at the very end, let me express my personal position when it comes to insecurity. Poverty is, in my opinion, the greatest source of insecurity. I ask, ‘state, what are you doing to relieve me of chaos, poverty, and feelings of insecurity when it comes to human rights?’ There are no answers here; my state is silent. The problem within our society is lack of interest, ignorance, and apathy—which has spread quite a bit.
Does a woman's voice have strength? Of course it does. The most dangerous creatures in Serbia are women who clearly say, “the past can't be denied, because that denial takes away our future.” Those women are the most honest and the clearest in their opinions. However, as far as I see, the majority of women are silent. The greatest silence in Serbia is when women are silent – Hobbes' Serbia is made possible by women's silence. This is why the strength of women's voices is necessary. Thank you.

Sabina Talovic, activist of NGO Bonafida, Pljevlja, Montenegro

ldquo;I am a traitor to my national and ethnic community”
I come from a very poor town, but a town that was known in the previous period for its huge war-mongering euphoria.
As war began in Bosnia (1992), my activism began. It stemmed from the pain and desperation that I experienced while watching convoys leave Pljevlje to go to Bosnia and Dubrovnik. Every convoy was accompanied by women, creating an aura of war euphoria. I was desperate and I did everything I could to stop that conflict and to make my state better.
The current political elite in Montenegro are the same ones who led us to war in the beginning of the 1990s. Now, they are trying to reach reconciliation with our neighbors.
Now, some of the political elite are apologizing and they call this ‘confronting the past’ in Montenegro. My town ‘confronts the past’ in such a manner that some young people promote people who were convicted as butchers and murderers by the international community as national heroes. At our sports stadiums, even today, “butcher, kill” is a common chant and the radio stations play the hit ‘Radovan [Karadzic], Come Down from the Mountain.’ How insecure am I in these surroundings? I think that I have never been less secure than I am now.
Montenegro is completely helpless. It doesn't want to resist organized crime, since the politicians themselves are not safe. Every attempt to stop organized crime would jeopardize the political elite.
The same would happen if serious work was done concerning dealing with the past. Right now, a television channel is broadcasting a series of television documentaries from the state archives about the wars. The documentaries’ editor, Branko Baletic, described those who took part in the wars as poor people, victims who were pushed into the war against their will. These shows don't initiate any broader social dialogue, but the officials consider them to be a form of confronting the past. I think that in Montenegro there is an institutional denial of crimes and criminal politics, and that the approaching referendum [on Montenegrin independence] could easily bring new ‘storms.’
Such things have already been predicted. How could we feel secure in this situation?
Although I was very courageous in my struggle against all forms of militarization, I was often lonely. The support of groups, especially the Fund for Humanitarian Law and Women in Black, meant a lot to me. Thanks to them for their support.
<> For the last ten years, I've been living with anonymous threatening telephone calls every day and with regular public threats against me on the street. I am a traitor to my national and ethnic community—the Bosniak community. My status in my town is best illustrated by the fact that, due to my anti-war activities, I can't find employment.
I remember August 8th and 9th 1993, the days when all Bosniaks were driven from their homes. We formed a convoy which moved towards a military barrack. Then, I became the leader, to represent everyone and negotiate on our behalf. It wasn't easy; I was subjected to numerous humiliations and offenses.
I will give one example of how important it is to support us outside of the major cities. I was the first to speak up and advocate for the right of conscientious objection in Montenegro. I protected one young man who wanted to do military service without carrying a weapon. It was hard. If I didn’t have the support of the Fund for Humanitarian Law and Women in Black, who knows how it would have ended for me.
On May 7th of this year, one local ‘hero’ performed for two hours on his motorbike – from which two Chetnik flags hung – in front of the place where we women gather for our activities. He wanted to frighten us. So you ask, “what kind of security do I feel in my town?”
Thank you.

Suzana Antic Ristic, Committee for Human Rights Office and Network Chris, Vranje

“How can we find clarity about Mackatica and war crimes in general, when we are immediately visited by the state authorities? It is a sign that they want nothing to be done or discovered.”
It is necessary to support each other. Those of us who are from the smaller towns especially need support. We are lonely and we don't have support from the local community.
We, in Vranje, hoped that a change would occur in the last elections and that the mindset of citizens had changed. We hoped that citizens had become courageous and that they wanted to change the government. Unfortunately, such changes didn't occur and south Serbia remained a Socialist Party of Serbia stronghold. Citizens' mindsets give me reason to think that this stronghold will remain for some time.
During Milosevic's reign, civil society did not even exist. Until the bombing (1999), police repression was constant. Citizens, especially journalists, were intimidated into acting loyally. My husband, a journalist, spent a month in jail. In 2000, after the fall of the Milosevic regime, there was a period of silence. Even Dragomir Tomic, a director of a Simpo factory, one of the greatest strongholds of Milosevic's power, settled down and withdrew from public life. He has become politically active again recently and is stronger than ever.
When the Fund for Humanitarian Law expressed suspicions regarding Mackatica (about the cremation of corpses of Kosovar Albanians during the bombing) and some new graves, the President of the Republic immediately came to the area. He was greeted by Dragomir Tomic; they had lunch together. Recently, the same thing happened when Prime Minister Kostunica came to Vranje.
How can we find clarity about Mackatica and war crimes in general, when we are immediately visited by the state authorities? It is a sign that they want nothing to be done or discovered. Those citizens who know something are silent; they fear losing their jobs. Vranje is a poor region, the majority of the citizens work at Simpo, or ‘work camp,’ as we call it.
Our office has operated actively since 1998. We have a SOS hotline for victims of domestic violence, but things are not going smoothly. If someone reports violence, the police arrive immediately to persuade us that that is not the case and that it won't happen again. The police constantly visit us. In one month-long period, the police were on our premises continually, asking various questions and making demands. Their questions included “what do you want?,” “let the court worry about human rights,” “you should go home,” “you should do something smarter," ”who is paying you?,” and “what do your donors want?”
After 2000, the number of visits and calls to our office increased. Domestic violence is increasing and we are trying to help citizens in very difficult circumstances. Once, the local neurological-psychiatric clinic sent us a patient who almost demolished our office. The City Assembly almost passed a regulation calling for a tax on NGO’s activities.

Sonja Biserko, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

“When women raised the question of war crimes, they were criticized, demonized, and attacked. Sometimes, their physical integrity is endangered in the street.”
My contribution to this discussion is about confronting the past. The revival and promotion of the Chetnik movement as an anti-fascist movement is occurring. Even the Serbian Parliament passed a bill that equalized Partisans and Chetniks.
Several NGOs, in Belgrade and throughout Serbia, are confronting the recent past. It has become a nightmare for the authorities. The political idea that ‘we are all one’ dominates, and any dissenting opinion is unacceptable. In these circumstances, the aforementioned NGOs are viewed as proponents of imported Anglo-American politics that have the alleged aim of destroying Serbian identity specifically and Orthodox Christianity in general.
According to this ‘logic’ the concept of human rights is not acceptable. The main promoter of this ‘logic’ is the Serbian Orthodox Church. It recognizes only collective human rights and believes that the promotion of individual human rights ‘kills the identity of Serbs.’ Therefore, all of those who advocate respect for human rights, first and foremost NGOs, are Western agents.
What does this tell us? The current political elite believe that Serbia isn't ready for transition, so transition hasn’t started here. We can state that after 2003 and Djindjic's assassination, there were changes. Yet, the elite believe that there is no difference between left-wingers and right-wingers; they have a suspicious attitude towards anyone who thinks differently than they do. It is a defense mechanism that they use to protect themselves from all the pressures and changes that are coming from the outside, as part of Serbia’s inclusion in European processes.
We were granted an Agreement on Association and Accession to European Integration, which was a political and strategic decision by the EU. Unfortunately, there is no potential for a political movement to respond to this challenge. There was Djindjic; he's gone away. There is Kostunica who has not accepted The Hague Tribunal. Now, he considers The Hague to be the question of all questions. Because of this, Serbia has no other option. After Djindjic's assassination, Serbia did not act but stepped aside to wait for a new time to come.
There is no opposition in Serbia today. The only opposition is the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) which is a coalition partner of the ruling party, both on local and various informal levels. There isn't any political thought given to which direction Serbia should go. Everything depends upon the civil sector, a part of it. Even the civil sector has its problems, though, since it has its own internal politics. Several NGOs and associations have raised issues with which political elites are not ready to grapple. Primarily, these are issues related to confronting the past. Additionally, issues related to the status of refugees, minorities and women haven't been addressed. Everything that belongs to the human rights corpus in a wider meaning of that word is ignored.
Women, especially women NGO activists, are the main ones that tackle these problems. Because of this, they are under attack. Women who plead for human rights to be upheld and who ask the questions which the political elites don't have the courage to answer are under attack in various tabloids and electronic media. Women are more courageous and ready to talk about problems that affect us all.
When women raised the question of war crimes, they were criticized, demonized, and attacked. Sometimes, their physical integrity is endangered in the street. Lately, these incidents have been occurring more frequently.
What encourages me in this situation is the latest research by S. Mihajlovic. For the first time in this type of research, when people where asked which institutions they trusted, civil society was included on the list of possible answers. Twenty-five percent of citizens trust civil society, while only 10% trust political parties. In this poll, the NGOs were listed with the names of the women who lead these organizations, women who are widely hated. The poll illustrates that this sector has managed to explain itself to the public and has become recognized for addressing problems that the political parties haven't had the courage or political will to deal with. I think this is a good sign and that media should follow all that we do more closely. In this was to happen, we would communicate more directly with citizens about problems which affect us all.
Political parties have nothing new to offer. Apathy is present; this moment has to be used.
Everything that is positive here comes from the civil society and I see some possibilities here. The fact that the political elite are so afraid of some individuals and organizations illustrates how politically necessary it is to raise these question and the correctness of our decision to do so. Therefore, we should strive towards bigger networks and better organizations.
In Slovakia and Croatia, pressure from the public brought about the initial transitional changes. I think that here something can be done by us through one well thought-out and well-organized action.
The fact that the government is passing laws on non-governmental organizations that could make our work more difficult is indicative of the importance of what we do. Yet, our mandate isn't always clear. Often, we are skilled as political organizations. We should be mediators in dialogues on all topics of importance to society. The government controls how we declare ourselves politically and they decide how suitable we are. Every polemic on the human rights issue has been characterized solely as a political polemic. Many things which are normal in democratic societies are stopped and condemned here. The state stops and condemns every human rights effort.
All this shows that Serbia is one very unstable country in which all citizens have not been integrated. I won’t even mention the integration of minorities. Serbia, as well, has bad relationships with its neighbors. It didn't open a proper dialogue with them. It acts as if it is still the most important country in the Balkans. It tries to dictate the political situation.
Taking all this into consideration, it's no wonder that Serbia has this problematic relationship towards groups and individuals who have different beliefs and opinions. This trend will continue regardless of warnings from the outside. I believe that the international community would rather support the stability of government than a dialogue within society. The international community often attempts to quiet non-governmental organizations. I think that they are making a huge mistake; Serbia will not be able to make a step toward Europe unless it speaks with an authentic voice.
I will conclude by saying that it looks to me like there was never less freedom of speech in Serbia than there is now. There are active campaigns against everyone who thinks differently. By these efforts, the government shows how weak it is. To me, it is a wasted paradigm that has nothing to offer.

Ivana Dulic Markovic, Minister of Agriculture in the Serbian government

“I was invited to Leskovac by the presidents of the local communities in south Serbia. They told me that they could only meet on Saturday. I went on Saturday and no one showed up to talk to me.”
Thank you for inviting me to be present and in good company. I am terrified as always, since I represent the hated state and government. I really don't feel completely guilty for what the authorities are doing, but I take a part of the guilt on myself. I entered the government because I thought of Milosevic as our consequence. I did not think of him as the cause of all that is happening in Serbia. I wanted things to change and I thought that there would be more people who want changes. It turned out that it was one small circle of people, including those of you who are here today and a few others. In the Ministry of Agriculture, I see that I'm completely alone in my political views. Everyone talks about changes, but when it comes to completely simple changes, everyone is against them. They are even against the application of laws that were valid until 1992. They say, “come on, why are you applying laws now? This is Serbia, where there are no laws. Next year, you won't be the minister and everything will be as great as it was before.” As you know, we, in the Ministry of Agriculture, created an agriculture development strategy which was harshly criticized, though the government adopted it in the end. The strategy states that we have to work on rural development, it specifies how much competition to allow, and it contains some very good solutions.
I don't think that it will be adopted due to widespread dislike for me personally, so now I have a dilemma. Should I resign? It's obvious that the socialists (the Socialist Party of Serbia) will not vote in favor of laws which are proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture because of their relationship towards me. Now, should I keep my position or is it more important to change the law on land and adopt a law on organic agriculture? The destructive energy of stupidity and ignorance endangers all people, in all ministries, who want change. I think that those who should lead the change are not in this country anymore.
We don’t have the inner strength necessary to overcome stupidity and ignorance because people from different political parties will never work together even though there are many people who are good and smart. I know that things will never be perfect here, that we'll never have a perfect government in which everyone will be the way we want them to be and the way they should be – professional, responsible, and mature. Still, we have to struggle towards that goal in every possible way. I think that in this moment, no one wants to take responsibility because the situation is hard, because big decisions need to be made regarding Kosovo, Montenegro, and the deportation of Mladic.
The role of the media is terrifying. Seselj was his least popular during the years when independent media ignored him. I believe that the radical forces figured that out and they are now producing the media. People believe what leaders and the media tell them. I've been asked about it wherever I go. Whether things are true or not is not discussed, because if the radicals (the Serbian Radical Party) have said it is so, then it certainly is. People don't doubt that I'm paid by Americans to poison Serbs and to import chickens infected with the avian flu. They take it for granted that those accusations are true. I have no special need to defend myself since I think that you can't defend yourself at all against that kind of stupidity and ignorance. On the other hand, I think that you should always do things better and that the role of the non-governmental sector is important.
I was invited to Leskovac by the presidents of the local communities in south Serbia. They told me that they could only meet on Saturday. I went on Saturday. No one showed up to talk to me.
I sometimes feel very alone and endlessly tired, probably like all of you.

Natasa Kandic, Fund for Humanitarian Law, Belgrade

“I feel completely sure about what I'm doing, thinking and advocating. I will do it regardless of the costs. I will say what I think, regardless of the cost.”
Not even in Milosevic's time was there so much political primitivism as there is today. On one hand, it looks like there is no way out. On the other hand, everything is mixed.
The ones who don't believe that any Serb could be responsible for war crimes deported 16 war crime suspects to The Hague within a very short period of time. It is true that they saw them off as national heroes, but they deported them. When things are looked at factually, they are of interest to all of us...
The announcement of the initiation of a judicial process related to Suva Reka [2] is also important. The war crimes in Suva Reka are terrible and similar to the sufferings of Albanian children in Podujevo. Now, we ask what has happened to us since the spring 2001 when we discovered mass graves throughout Serbia. All of the ministers talked about it, condemned it and were ready to discover the truth. Now, after Milosevic is sent to The Hague, nothing has happened. Everyone is mute.
Now, these things are again talked about and it is important for us that the truth be discovered and brought to court. I'm afraid that if there isn’t pressure and rebellion internally, nothing will come out of it.
In June of this year, one framework was created. We, from the non-governmental sector, created it. It was not used properly, but we still managed to have a dialogue in the Parliament, admittedly in the most shameful way, about crimes, Srebrenica, and related topics. At least these things were talked about. Currently, no political parties are ready to speak clearly and articulately about crimes. No one but us is ready.
It seems to me that for anyone who is dealing with human rights and the investigations of crimes, the question ‘do we feel secure?’ is meaningless. I have personally seen so many terrible things that I would feel uncomfortable if I said that I'm threatened. Those words are stripped of meaning for me. What happened to thousands of other people? Who cared about them? We didn’t pay attention to atrocities; we were a comfortable backyard of war... Who am I to say now that I need police protection, that I’m not secure? What do I care about some insecurity? I feel completely sure about what I'm doing, thinking and advocating. I will do it regardless of the cost. I will say what I think regardless the cost. I have no problem with security. Radicals once threatened us with knives and physical violence. Now, they use their political power to file false criminal charges and initiate baseless investigations.
The fact is that we live in a country in which not only non-governmental organizations are hated. Everyone who is not an obedient subject or a member of one of the dominant political parties is hated.
Women are hated especially. Just look at the media and our National Assembly. We see only men there. When a woman makes a rare appearance under the spotlight, she is subject to a barrage of curses that is simply too terrible to hear. Those rare women in public life and politics are only there for appearances. They say that public space is not for us, women, because we are better, more humane, more moral, smarter, and braver. Look what is going on with men, we have eight local policemen who are involved with terrible crimes [Suva Reka] and nothing is done about it for years. No reaction from the justice system or the prosecutors. There is a lack of public debate about it. For years, it was not spoken of.
The opening of the investigation in Suva Reka has to do with the upcoming negotiations on Kosovo. The political instructions were given to the prosecution: “you should bring charges so Serbia gets political points and strengthens its position for negotiations. Even if we lose Kosovo, this can be useful; everyone will see how we killed them. Naturally, they will not want to live with us.” Everything is so nicely planned politically, but it is still moving forward, which is the most important thing.
We, from nongovernmental organizations, always have to be focused on human rights. It is important to know that those who are in power are not our closest associates in what we want. What we want is to establish the rule of law, but we must first respond to what has happened since 1991. Thank you.

Ljiljana Raicevic, Women’s Safe House, Podgorica

“Media persecution of me doesn't stop. They claim that I'm detrimental to the reputation of Montenegro, that I'm the shame of Montenegro. When they couldn't find a lover of mine, they said I am a lesbian.”
For ten years now, I've been trying to inform citizens of Serbia and Montenegro about the problems of corruption, human trafficking, money laundering, and police involvement in crime and the importance of judicial reform. These problems are deeply rooted and create cracks in society.
Our society is profoundly ill and crime is rampant. The new elite that emerged during the wars became rich through smuggling cigarettes and selling drugs and weapons. It is especially important to stress that they became rich primarily through women, through trafficking of women, and the abuse of women in various criminal acts.
What we need here is a way to purify everything and to bring in some new young people who will create a different and better state.
For the six and a half years of the safe house’s existence, we have helped and talked to 938 individuals and 62 women were taken care of in our house. I will now explain how that happened.
We take every woman that we take in to the police. She is interrogated and there is a record of the interrogation. In their testimonies, the women have accused 250 people of wrongdoing, including police officers and government officials, not just from Montenegro but from other countries in the region. The prosecutor never filed charges, and the documents related to the testimonies disappeared. The case of a Moldovan woman is known, and you know how it ended.
We have heard terrible stories from women who were victims. They were maltreated and threatened. They were forced to smuggle drugs in their genitals. (Between 250 to 300 grams of heroin can be placed into a vagina.) They smuggled arms and ammunition. Police knew that this was occurring, but they did nothing. Many women were transferred, after they were deemed ‘worn out,’ to places where they were used for organ harvesting. Those who were designated for organ harvesting were not older than 25 years of age. I recently met one woman, relatively young, who looked like a fifty year old. She was kept for years as a sex slave for Arkan's troops. After her parents abandoned her, a Montenegrin soldier bought her.
I have to confess to you that the Moldovan woman had a relatively good outcome. After she turned states’ evidence, she was given protection and accommodation in a third country.
Women’s Safe House has been working on three laws about witness protection which were adopted in the National Assembly. Now, we are working on a law that will decriminalize prostitution.
Various things happened to me during the last year. I became known because of the Moldovan woman, as if I didn't do anything but that. There have been several legal investigations made against me. I've been followed, and my phone has been tapped. Our computer database was broken into. The media persecutes me endlessly. Some so-called intellectuals, like Jevrem Brkovic, claim that I'm detrimental to the reputation of Montenegro, that I'm the shame of Montenegro. When they couldn't find a lover of mine, they said I am a lesbian.
Lately, we have had a serious problem with donations. Everyone is avoiding us. The funding team from Europe doesn't recommend cooperation with us. Recently, I was interrogated at the American Embassy. It's not easy, but we are still working.

Barbara Davis, representative of UN Human Rights Mission in FRY from February 1998 to February 2001

“If all this happened to me while I had diplomatic immunity, I can’t imagine what happens to you as human rights defenders.”
My contribution will be shorter because of the language barrier, but the first thing that I will say is this ‘the signs beside the road were the signs of darkness.’
My stay in the Balkans was in the role of an international official. I enjoyed functional international immunity in Croatia and diplomatic immunity in FR Yugoslavia.
Here is a small list of situations in which my security was threatened: twice my office was broken into. Twice, my apartment was broken into. My appointment book and agenda were stolen from a hotel; they were given back to me later. I was beaten in a crowd of 200 people and 10 policemen. Two times, I was a victim of premeditated car accidents; both happened near the police station. I was kidnapped and held at gunpoint for four hours.
All this happened to me while I had functional or diplomatic immunity. If this was happening to me, I can’t imagine what happens to you as human rights defenders.
I will conclude by asking how it is possible that no one from any international offices is taking part in this conference. Thank you.

Stasa Zajovic, Women in Black, Belgrade

Why did they accuse us of prostitution when the new year began? Initially, no woman worried about it. Yet, women understood the charge as moral stigma. Women from outside of the cities understood it as a moral insult and had problems within their families because of it. What kind of ‘innovation’ is the security service introducing and what is its purpose?
I was invited to different departments of the interior ministry, to the department for organized crime and prostitution, and to the department for financial crime. Then, they came to the Women in Black office. Then, they called. What was most interesting to me was that it wasn't systematic.
Milosevic, for example, had total, absolute control over all government apparatuses. They called us spies, which means they considered us to be worthy political opponents. The warrants were issued.
Now, we have the same persecution, but it is decentralized. It means that Kostunica has no control over the security services. The ‘creative’ work of certain security officers is what is happening. I can't say that it's a state matter, since the state doesn't exist. There are different institutions close to the Serbian government who have various kinds of ‘creations,’ like accusing us of prostitution. Which services do they use? Milosevic didn’t need any delinquents, scum or vagabonds to interrogate us. Now, the government uses these people as instruments to repress and intimidate us. Kostunica's legalism is of good use to them. For six months, I was called in the night by a man who said “whore, I will slay you,” and similar things.
We, women who are doing this work, know that this is an ever-present risk. We are taking that risk from the moment we start to work. I felt ashamed to complain about something like this. One night, I was called by the Minister's office and told that they are concerned about certain ‘immoral’ behavior. They are confronting and questioning my morals. They are telling me that they can't allow these ‘prohibited’ activities to take place within the non-governmental sector. I knew that ‘creative’ employees from the State Security Service (SSS), and the Security-Intelligence Agency were at work.
There is a total difference between previous and current SSS officers. Those working now are not convinced of what they are doing. They are just doing it because it is work to be done. These scum and vagabonds are using Kostunica's legalism. They say that they were notified by a citizen and are following proper procedure regarding it, that they respect the voice of the people, and similar things. That is legalism.
From the beginning of Women in Black’s activities, we have faced different forms of repression, both on administrative-state and social-cultural level. These two levels are interwoven and there is a causal-consequential relation between them. I will try to present the repression chronologically, in three phases which are connected to Women in Black’s relationship to war, war crimes, and confrontation with the criminal past. We, as a women’s peace group, have problems almost entirely due to our enduring insistence on collective responsibility for the war and war crimes that have been committed in our name.

Phase I
State-organized crime and denial of the criminal reality (1991-2000)

The State denied crimes through slogans such as ‘Serbia isn’t at war.’ Such ideas have been repeated and rephrased by the subjects through various mechanisms of ‘relativization’ and blaming others (including such arguments as ‘others are guilty,’ ‘Serbia is in this situation because of you [anti-war activists],’ and ‘you brought NATO here – you are betrayers and spies).

Problem types:
Administrative: Prohibitions
* Prohibiting work in a refugee camp (Kovilovo, May 1995): We were banned by the order of the Serbian Refugee Commission and the warden of the Kovilovo camp due to the alleged lack of a work permit, which was incorrect, considering that humanitarian activity was part of our work. Additionally, the State Security Service had interrogated refugees in a number of refugee camps in which we had worked on several occasions.

We had denounced this as a form of threatening.
* Legal Proceedings: Since 1993, legal proceedings were initiated on numerous occasions. The reasons for these proceedings included alleged improper and inaccurate reporting of public manifestations and protests. These charges were false since we have always operated in accordance with regulations.
* Police interrogation: More than a few dozen of activists have been subjected to police interrogation, which is used to threaten, frighten, blackmail, and break solidarity and group cohesion.
* Obstruction of International Women in Black Network meetings: From 1992 until 2000, we organized eight meetings of our network. Obstructions of these meetings were attempts to prevent our contact with networks of international solidarity. The government of FR Yugoslavia made visas compulsory in 1993. Obstruction became much harsher beginning in 1995, illustrated by the Embassy of FR Yugoslavia in Madrid refusing to issue visas for thirty Spanish activists in our network. The border police forbade the entrance of a bus full of activists from Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Croatia who were supposed to come to the meeting together. Police have interrogated foreign participants in the meetings, meeting organizers, as well as some of the local population of Tresnjevac (near Senta) where the meeting took place. The border police maltreated participants from Croatia.
* Organized attacks: The language of demonization and violence became a call for violence against us. I will illustrate this with one example. Vojislav Seselj, the president of the Serbian Radical Party, said the following during a session of the Serbian Parliament on September 28th 1998: “If the USA decides to attack Serbia, they should evacuate their quislings – members of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, the Belgrade Circle and Women in Black – and should not leave them as hostages. Perhaps, we will not be able to take down each plane, but we will grab those [from the aforementioned organizations] who are close to us.” Other members of the Serbian Parliament responded to this threat with laughter. However, thanks to great support from civil society in Belgrade, we organized a public protest “I confess” on October 9th marking the 7th Anniversary of Women in Black activities.
* Culmination of the repression: The most aggressive campaign against Women in Black occurred in the period from June to September 2000, the last months of the Milosevic regime. This campaign took various forms:

- Every day, Serbian State Security (SSS) officers interrogated activists, both in the Women in Black office and the Ministry of Interior Affairs;
- Strict financial control led to criminalization;
- Activist Bojan Aleksov was subjected to unlawful detention and torture by the SSS;
- An arrest warrant was issued for activist Stasa Zajovic. A warrant was also issued for activist Srdjan Knezevic because of his desertion from Kosovo during the military intervention. This warrant remained outstanding, even after Knezevic was acquitted under the amnesty law;
- The passport of activist Dunja Hadziomerspahic was confiscated;
- The police searched apartments, secretly listened to activists’ telephone calls, planted listening devices in some apartments, including the apartment of Stasa Zajovic;
- SSS officers confiscated activist material and Women in Black documentation during interrogations in June and July 2000. This material still has not been returned.
- International volunteers who were expressing their solidarity by helping and supporting Women in Black’s work were expelled from the country. From 1991 to 2000, three people were expelled.

Cultural and social repression

- Physical attacks: We experienced our first physical attacks during a protest in October 1993. The attackers were members of the paramilitary organization “White Eagles.” The majority of the attacks happened during our protests against the violent apartheid politics that the Serbian regime conducted in Kosovo, but some attacks happened because of our symbols, including a rainbow flag.
- Reactions of people on the street during our protest always reflected political ideas in accordance with the war-mongering state institutions and state-run media;
- It has been shown that the state is the biggest security threat to activists, but that state apparatuses are not the only source of repression even though it has converted (and still converts) its subjects into police informers. This means that the system of control is not only vertical, but horizontal;
- Stigmatization and demonization represent a way of expulsion, exclusion from the community (i.e. ‘those who break national consensus deserve punishment’). By this justification and legitimization, violence against those who think differently is achieved (i.e. ‘you deserved that…’);
- There has been an organized attempt to separate us from the rest of the population through demonization and fear, with the goal of repressing the ideas which are contrary to the dominant ones from reaching other people;
- There have been attempts to create discord within the group and instigate paranoia and distrust among us;
- The aforementioned mechanisms have always been used to deny the criminal past (i.e. ‘you made up Vukovar, Srebrenica and other crimes’);
- Both sexes have been contaminated by the regime’s propaganda, but there are differences in their attitudes. Men were more active in expressing their opinion, but women were also active in attacks until 2000. A change was noticed after 2000, which will be explained later.

Phase II: From the Fall of the regime to the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic (October 2000 – March 2003)

During this period we haven’t been only AGAINST since the regime change created more space FOR promotion of different values;

- A decrease in fear: We even, on one occasion, spontaneously and without informing the police organized a women’s street march (March 8th 2003) and we didn’t suffer any consequences or sanctions;
- Decentralization of public activity: In this period our activities (protests, performances, and campaigns) expanded to towns outside of Belgrade;
- Problems with authorities continued on the administrative level: The legal proceedings which were started against us by the previous regime (because of the alleged accounting problems) continued until February 2003, when they were stopped. This illustrates that in judicial bodies, reforms haven’t been undertaken, and that the system has stayed intact. This turned out to have catastrophic consequences.

The campaign ‘Enough crimes’ (which was organized in all of Serbia after the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic) showed the following:
- There was an agreement (during a short period of time) between institutional messages and those from civil society, which the majority of the media supported;
- The first and second phase of action was very efficient and was widely accepted by citizens;
- During the period of marshal law, actions were carried out and problems with the police were rare;
- The third phase of action, called ‘Vukovar, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Kosovo, and 8 Nemanjina Street,’ included the distribution of stickers with the names of places where crimes were committed in our names printed on them and clear public demands for responsibility, caused substantial citizen discontent. This phase of action was supported by significantly fewer nongovernmental organizations than the previous two phases. This showed that confrontation with the past is one of the most painful problems, which is further illustrated during the next phase.

Phase III: Institutionally organized denial of the criminal past and refusal to confront the past

After the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic, especially after the December 2003 elections and Vojislav Kostunica’s rise to power, the following thins have been noted:

- Not only were representatives of the Milosevic regime rehabilitated into public life; methods from the previous period were rehabilitated as well;
- The methods of repression differed;
- Our action ‘Deport them’ was banned. It was scheduled for December 10th, International Day for Human Rights and included the demand that all those who are suspected of war crimes should be extradited to The Hague Tribunal. We were also prohibited from celebrating March 8th, International Women’s Day.
- Administrative measures, such as criminal charges were used to intimidate activists;
- There were police interrogations and hearings held in different departments of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (in a department for organized crime and prostitution, and for financial crime)
- Police officials visited the Women in Black office. This was most frequent from April until October 2005.

Physical attacks

- A group of football hooligans and skinheads attacked Women in Black activists on November 9th during the celebration of International Day against Fascism. This attack illustrates society’s increasing facisization and the tolerance that authorities have to fascist incidents;
- In April 2004 we organized a protest against violence in Kosovo, including the destruction of mosques and attacks on those of non-Serbian ethnicity in Serbia. Two of our activists were attacked;
- On July 10th, 2004 in Republic Square in Belgrade, a huge group of ‘patriotic oriented citizens’ attacked Women in Black during the commemoration of the 9th Anniversary of genocide in Srebrenica. Police didn’t respond adequately and the criminal charges brought up against attackers were dismissed;
- An attack against Women in Black activists from Belgrade and Novi Sad happened on February 2nd, 2005 in Svetozar Miletic Square in Novi Sad during the street action ‘Deport Them’;
- On July 10th 2005 in Republic Square in Belgrade, a group of neo-Nazis threw tear gas at participants in a protest commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica. Criminal charges were filed against the attackers, while civil charges initiated by Women in Black have not been taken into consideration.

Financial Investigation

Investigation occurred during June 2005, in an attempt to criminalize Women in Black. Records showed that there are no irregularities of this kind in our work.

Prostitution accusation

In order to further criminalize and discredit Women in Black, authorities reached for a new ‘invention’: they accused Women in Black of ‘organizing the practice of prostitution’ from April until October 2005.

What do the aforementioned types of repression against Women in Black show?
- The source of repression is always the same – institutions under the control of the Serbian government;
- Those institutions use delinquents, football hooligans, criminal groups with clero-facistic orientation, and pathologically violent types to carry out violent acts;
- The actions of the aforementioned groups are not spontaneous, but threats and premeditated actions aiming to discredit, frighten and exhaust Women in Black;
- Repression has a gender connotation – accusations of prostitution target the moral integrity of activists and discourage them from activism, especially women in smaller communities;
- Use of women as instruments of repression: since 2004, women have been used more often for attacks on Women in Black than during the Milosevic’s regime. This method represents a rehabilitation of the model of "state-pimping,” which was used by JUL (United Yugoslav Left), headed by Mirjana Markovic, the wife of Slobodan Milosevic. Political “pimps” take women into the streets to fight their female political opponents. This leads to a conclusion that certain institutions (some being under the control of the government, while others may operate autonomously) use both the people and the methods popular during the time of war.

What else does our case show?

- The current government doesn’t have absolute control over the apparatuses of repression. Accusations of prostitution represent not only the rehabilitation of former methods, but the ‘creative invention’ of those from previous regime who remain in power. They are using the legalism of the present government as a way to retain power and rehabilitate the previous regime.
- Institutions connected to the Serbian government are very cooperative or – to put it more accurately – obedient in their relations with the international community. On one hand, they do everything that the international community asks of them in order to stay in power. On the other hand, they express their rage against human rights defenders and justify the violence against them in order to maintain their patriotic image among voters.
- The perverted value system and the intermingling of war mafia with institutions: war criminals and war mafia are still ‘heroes and patriots,’ and human rights defenders, anti-fascists -- all those who support radical discontinuity with the criminal past and the responsibility for war crimes-- have been labeled ‘extremists’ and ‘criminals.’

Borka Pavicevic, Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade

Moralism is always an instrument of doctrine. The emergence of whores, witches, and ‘the other’ is in accordance with the beliefs of our regime. Our state and its elite believe that the unenlightened masses will be brought to a higher state of consciousness through moral enlightenment and the church.
This country is, so to speak, divided into fiefdoms about which our friend from Vranje talked: you have a fief in which Simpo rules (Vranje), one in which Ilic rules (Cacak), and one for Kostic (Nis). In Novi Sad, Maja is ruling, which is even worse since she is a woman. In this feudalization, tribal communities are created, which produce moralistic principles. Therefore, the number of whores on the public scene is increasing, following the language of those in power. That is what their worldview is like.
I just want to explain something, and that is a question of charging some, but not all, non-governmental organizations with the misuse of funds. I was watching a show yesterday. As in all shows, they only talked about money. It is true that we are a poor society and that money fascinates many of us. During socialism there were debates among Marxists and neo-Marxists, new left and everything else, after which that group split into patriots and betrayers. I stated yesterday that there is a huge amount of people who need money and that fact greatly influences their values. It is simply amazing that money is what they care about most. They don't have it. If we have to give them a per diem, then we would rate better in their minds.