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Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada


Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada
Published: January 28, 2011  

As one of very few people today in Bosnia and Herzegovina engaged in the problems of searching for mission personas, I have very often been in a position of a witness to finding and collecting evidence on war crimes against women in Bosnia and Hezegovina.

As an operation, I will present the data our Commission gathered during the period from 1992 till today, and this data can be used in some research institutions which are dealing with these problems and which can produce expert, scientific analysis.

1. Women as missing persons

Just like men, disappearances of women happened very often during the war. In most cases they were means of achieving war aims.

A great number of missing women has unfortunately suffered the worst possible fate-they were murdered. Some were exchanged, and a very small number returned to Bosnia after the war. It is well known that a certain number of women were taken by different military and paramilitary formations to neighbouring countries and only a few of them managed to send a word from different parts of the world. The Commission found one in Serbia, the other in Macedonia etc.

The percentage of women exhumed from mass graves is about 10-12%. Knowing that our Commission is searching for around 27,000 missing people, than it follows from this that there are approximately 3,000 missing women in Bosnia. Unfortunately, there are cases where missing women are only just being reported by their families.

Due to more strict criteria for reporting of missing persons, the ICRC in its book reports about 19,700 reported missing persons, out of which around 1, 400 are women.

In a record of missing people from Prijedor, out of 3,148 reported 225 are women.

During the war, the Commission has dealt with exchange of bodies of missing and murdered persons. Along with the everyday life in war where a great number of women was killed each day by grenades and snipers, which was possible to see and document straight away, through our work during the post-Dayton period we established that women’s suffering was by far greater than what we could assume or know about at that time.

Criminals’ handwriting can be recognized in almost all mass and individual graves. When I say this, I am thinking of the fact that we haven’t found a mass grave yet ,which didn’t contain bodies of murdered women.

Up till now 358 were exhumed at different locations. They are women ranging in their age from infants to women born in the last century. There were blind and invalids among the murdered women, and it is particularly distinctive that we have found the attempts of burning these bodies, more often than was the case with men.

There are cases where our doctors-pathologists found traces of murders of pregnant women, even at late stages of pregnancies. This just confirms that thesis about the monstrosity of crime in Bosnia. In such cases, it is the matter of double murder, because through the act of murder of the mother, the infant is killed too.

Each case were are going to present here is specific and could be used to reach different thesis. I will mention a few of them:

1. Village Prhovo-a small settlement near Kljuc. Out of 36 bodies exhumed from one mass grave, 18 women were found or 50%. The youngest, Indira Medanovic, was born on March 31,1985, and killed on July 1, 1992. Our of 18 women, there were five adolescents, eight between the ate of 20 and 30, and oldest Ramiza Jusic was 70. Most of them were butchered. They are:

1. Fata Nurkovic, born in 1896, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
2. Ajna Omerika, born in 1900, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
3. Saima Omerika, born in 1900, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
4. Muskija Brajevic, born in 1900, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
5. Zejna Alicic, born in 1909, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
6. Fatima COlakhodzic, born in 1913, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
7. Plema Kasumovic, born in 1915, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
8. Sala Pehilj, born on 1915, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
9. Hata Omerika, born in 1916, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
10. Serifa Alibasic, born in 1917, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
11. Celebija Kasumovic, born in 1920, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
12. Mejra Kasumovic, born in 1921, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
13. Fatima Mahinic, born in 1922, murdered on the 25 June 1992;
14. Mejrma Brajevic, born in 1932, murdered on the 25 June 1992;

3. Village Kljevic-Sanski Most. On May 7 and 8, 1998, a mass grave containing nine bodies were exhumed, where five were women or 55%. It is specific that all five women were Croats by nationality, and the oldest was Kata(Blaza) Banovic, born in 1925.
4. Village Ljubina-Sarajevo. On October 18, 1996, a six-member family of the imam Hasic Ramic were exhumed. Among the murdered was his wife Sefika and his children Meliha and Amina.

5. Kamicak-Kljuc. On November 24, 1996, 7 bodies were exhumed out of a mass grave, where found were women. The youngest Safeta Behar was born in 1980, and murdered in 1992, and the oldest Minka Jusic was born in 1923.

6. Zebina suma-Gorazde. Out of 21 bodies exhumed froma mass grave, 10 were women, and three youngest were born in 1991, 1986 and 1983. All were killed in 1992. Very nearby, in a place called Kosova, out of 44 exhumed, 8 were women.

7. Praca. On July 2, 1997, Jasmina Djozo aged 23 was exhumed. She was stabbed 7 times, together with a two-year-old child.

8. Bosanski Petrova. On November 28, 1996, Azra (Mahmuta) Dudovic born on the 05 January 2022 was exhumed. She was killed by a bomb in a house on the 21 September 1992.

9. Village Hrustovo-Sanski Most. In October 1996, 48 bodies were exhumed from a mass grave, where 27 were women or 56%. All were killed in June 1992, and among them were:

1. Edita Medanovic, born in 1991,
2. Almina Keranovic, born in 1985;
3. Aldina Keranovic, born in 1984;
4. Asima Keranovic, born in 1988;
5. Sabina Keranovic, born in 1990.
6. The oldest was Zumra Medanovic, aged 90.

10. Rogatica. Only on the territory of this municipality, 105 exhumed, there were women, where 9 were older than 70.

All here mentioned cases are connected to crimes against women committed by Bosnian Serb and the Yugoslav Army. The fact that same methods were applied in crimes committed by the certain extreme parts of HVO and Croatian army, particularly in Herzegovina and Central Bosnia, tells how the concept of destruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina was continuously prepared in Belgrade and Zagreb.

The following facts tell about this:

1. Prozor. Out of 82 exhumed bodies, 22 were women. The oldest one was born in 1905, and among the murdered were Semsa Pilav and her seven months old son.

2. Mostar. Out of 199 exhumed bodies, 33 were women; the youngest were: 2 months old Elma Fazlic, 8 months old Dzejlan Kajtaz, and the oldest was Merka Gastan born in 1912 and killed in 1993.

3. Capljina. From one mass grave 30 bodies were exhumed out of which 11 were women. The youngest was 10-year-old, Adela Bucman, and the oldest Saha Alicisic born in 1907 and killed in 1993.
4. Sarajevo. On December 9, 1994, through an exchange, the Commission took over the body of Jagoda Galesic. She was a nurse, murdered by Chetniks on May 14, 1992, in Ilidza. It was a murder of a medical worker who was at the time accompanying a group of wounded towards a hospital and among them a her own daughter too. It took 2 years to achieve this exchange, because the criminals were trying to hide the evidence.
2. Captivation and exchange of female prisoners as a method to realizing war aims.

The captivation of women as a method of realizing war aims occurred frequently during the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina. A great number of women were thought concentration camps, prisons, house arrests, collection centers etc. Very often they were exchanged for some other persons.

We are going to mention only a few examples:
On November 4, 1994, on the road to Gorazde, a medial worker Enida Bezdrob, and as such a protected category, was kidnapped from a UN troop carrier. She was kidnapped although there was a guaranty for safe passing from Momcilo Krajisnik, in order to be exchanged for a person accused of espionage.

Our commission also participated in the exchange of three girls: Amela talovic, Jasmina Greljo and Lejla Cengic. They were also in the prison in Foca.

On October 6, 2021 in Sarajevo, 23 women were exchanged out of prisons in Foca, Visegrad, Rudo, Rogatica, Batkovici, Kula etc. Among them was also Haseina Muharemovic with her two children spent 2 years in a prison in Visegrad. We can only imagine what kind of consequences the prison will have on her daughter Nermina, who spend her eight, ninth and part of year ten in prison.

On the same day, the Serb authorities brought to exchange 58 women from villages around Rogatica and expelled them into a free part of Sarajevo. Among them were:
1. Azra Alic born in 1991;
2. Mirsada Husejinovic born in 1982;
3. Sejla Katica born in 1985;
4. Merima Razanica born in 1991;
5. Nezira Dervisevic born in 1985, etc.

Is it possible to understand why the Serb authorities treated Ifeta Bajramovic, a young woman who was taken to a camp in Vlasenica on the October 6,1993, and who remained there till the January 26, 1996. That woman had to bear her son Damir in the camp, who was 17 months old when they were released and spent his entire life up to that time in a camp.

The case of a Turkish journalist Munira Acin, exchanged also by our Commission also known. She was arrested only in order to take away the articles she compiled in different part of Bosnia. Along with her journalist’s freedoms being violated, she was also robbed.

What is left to say after seeing these facts? I have mentioned here only two aspects of violations of women’s human rights: deprivation of freedom and life.

When one knows that there were other violations of human rights of women in Bosnia such as raping, forced by labour, heavy beating, taking away of property and the right to work, forced conversation to Christianity, forced displacement of women, then it is clear that what happened here has never before been recorded in history. War as social phenomena have been fought since the beginning of mankind. Man of them because of women, but the women, was the always protected because it was believed that she ensures the continuation of mankind to create the world, as someone once said. In this war the dark forces of fascism obviously spotted a way to destroy one nation, by reducing the female population. This can be seen clearly in a fact that women of all age were killed, starting from little girls, young and middle-aged women and elderly.

Now I rightly ask this question: why is the role of women in this war considered so insignificant? Why do we mention our women so rarely? Other peoples used to write entire books on sporadic cases of suffering or success of women. Do we have the right to be silent about our women who suffered so much in this war, and who carried such a heavy burden? We have to do everything to affirm the role of our women in this past war. All the sooner because there was a woman on the aggressor’s side, standing side by side with all the worst criminals, who was probably jointly with them responsible for the suffering of such a great number of Bosnian men and women.

Jasmin Odobasic
The Vice-chairman of the Commission


Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada