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Rape Crisis Remembering Srebrenica

9 Jul 2017

In the course of just one week in July 1995, 8372 mostly Muslim men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in an act of genocide. Srebrenica was the final act in a genocidal plan aimed at Bosnian Muslims between 1992 and '95.  Among the victims of this plan were the 20,000 to 50,000 Bosniak women and girls, who were subjected to sexual violence.  We do not know the exact number of victims, because many have remained silent, through stigma, shame and fear.


Bosnian women broke the silence around sexual violence used against them as a weapon of war. Through the courage of women who dared to speak out about their experiences and fight for justice, rape was prosecuted for the first time under international criminal law.


Remembering Srebrenica is the UK charitable initiative that promotes Srebrenica Memorial Day on 11th July and educates about the consequences of hate. 

On this day, Rape Crisis England & Wales will join in honouring the courage and resilience of the women of Bosnia who are working to rebuild their communities and a country still living with the consequences of hatred.

On this day and throughout Srebrenica Memorial Week, from Sunday 9th - Sunday 16th July, RCEW and its member Rape Crisis Centres will show solidarity for the survivors of sexual violence who are still struggling to get the support they need and fighting for the perpetrators to be held to account.

 Di Whitfield, Co-chair of Rape Crisis England & Wales, said:

"The systematic and widespread use of rape as a weapon of war was one of the brutal legacies of the Bosnian conflict. We at Rape Crisis England & Wales know very well the devastation that sexual violence causes to individuals, families and communities. As in Bosnia, all too often the perpetrators are walking free and the survivors do not get the support they deserve. We work with survivors who often struggle to talk about their experiences due to shame, stigma, being blamed and not believed.

 Whilst there are important differences to recognise between sexual violence as part of a strategic policy of 'ethnic cleansing' and the ongoing prevalence experienced by women and girls in so-called peacetime, the root causes are the same - attitudes of stereotyping, discrimination and dehumanisation. The case of Bosnia, where women and girls were targeted both because of their religion and their sex shows that gender-based violence often does not exist in isolation - it intersects with other forms of hatred. This absolutely resonates with our work here in England and Wales where 27% of our clients are from BME backgrounds and 23% are Disabled women and girls.

We commend Remembering Srebrenica’s important work, and agree that we cannot truly stand up to hatred unless we stand up to misogyny in our society. Violence against women and girls is a serious problem here in the UK. Last year, our member Rape Crisis Centres answered 171,000 helpline calls. 1 in 5 women between 16 and 59 have experienced some form of sexual violence since turning 16. A recent government report showed the shocking extent of sexual harassment and sexual violence in our school system. We must address these issues – by speaking out, by understanding the consequences if any form of hatred is left unchecked, and by working together as a community to challenge the attitudes that contribute to sexual violence.  We look forward to working with Remembering Srebrenica this year and welcome the 2017 theme 'Breaking the Silence: Gender and Genocide'."

Louise Williams, South West Regional Trustee for RCEW visited Srebrenica in October 2016 along with the University of Gloucestershire, Gloucester Action for Refuge and Asylum Seekers and A Call To Men UK.

“Bosnia today is a beautiful country. Our first stop in Sarajevo could in no way prepare the group for the horrors and atrocities that we were to learn about during our trip.  A country once living in harmony with different religions and ethnicities living side by side, ripped apart overnight by war. Our lessons from the Bosnian genocide are too important to ignore in the UK today – especially now. What bubbles under the surface of a society through propaganda in newspapers or age old resentments  is used by those in power to tear whole communities apart, to hate one another, to murder one another and to rape. By calling out misogyny today, by continuing to campaign about our right to be free of violence, by challenging fake news and propaganda, by being kind to any neighbour and showing solidarity towards another human being, each of us can make these small changes, and as a whole, prevent against the dehumanisation that war brings.”


In keeping with this year's theme of ‘Breaking the Silence: Gender and Genocide’ and to mark International Women’s Day, Remembering Srebrenica organised an all-women’s delegation to Srebrenica that focused on the experiences of women in conflict and more specifically on sexual violence.

RCEW Trustee Jane Gregory was the RCEW representative on this delegation.

The group met with the Mothers of Srebrenica and had the opportunity of meeting staff from Medica Zenica and Snaga žene, organisations which have supported survivors of sexual violence during and after genocide. 

On the final day of their visit, the delegation met with Bakira Hasečić, President of Women Victims of War Association, who has fought tirelessly to bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice in both international and domestic courts. As a survivor of wartime sexual violence herself, Bakira is vocal about the need to fight for justice, and the need to break the silence and stigma surrounding sexual violence.


This film features two women, Bakira Hasečić and 'Mirsada', who were both subjected to horrific ordeals at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces during their brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing, but bravely speak out to prevent anything similar from happening again.

Watch the video