09 / 1996
In Belgrade, since October 9th 1991, every Wednesday morning, women dressed in black gather in the city’s streets and squares. They are known as the Women in Black. To celebrate their fifth anniversary, on October 12th 1996, they gathered on the main square of Belgrade to make a declaration, extracts of which are given below.
"We know that despair and pain need to be changed into political action (...). With our bodies (...), we declare our bitterness and hostility against all those who want and wage war. During the gatherings, we remain silent, sometimes whispering encouragement and support to each other when passers by insult us or anger us. We have continued in this way every Wednesday, carrying placards and distributing tracts (...). Our numbers at these gatherings have varied from few to many, with different women coming to them. Each woman, alone, individually, would not have been able to last it out. Together we have persevered (...).
"We have not stopped the war, but neither have we given in to powerlessness and resignation (...).
The political alternative offered by the women
"Although nationalism has not divided us, it has created a kind of vulnerability among the women from the regions of former Yugoslavia. We wanted to restore confidence as soon as possible, by writing letters, by holding "small" meetings and "large" international meetings (...). Since autumn 1992, we have organized the international meetings of "The Women United Against War Network" and have thus brought to light the links between women and their non-violent resistance. We promote solidarity, exchange, mutual support and common strategies. During the fifth meeting, in August 1996 at Novi Sad, we were delighted to find that our friends living in Bosnia were able to visit us for the first time since the war (...): two hundred women from more than twenty countries and all the republics of Yugoslavia. We agreed that this year, we would organize simultaneous demonstrations against war and militarism in each of our cities.
The deserters are our allies
"Our antimilitarism is not an additional activity to conscientious objection. Our daily lives confirm how much the military budget and forced mobilization affects us. We do not want to make the experience of women the only "women’s problem", since all problems concern women. We do not consent to be the victims of militarism; instead we want to call into question the militarist value system by carrying out small, continuous actions of non violent resistance (...).
Refugees seeking to return
"For two years, we have been going to refugee camps. We have not been traditional givers of humanitarian (charitable)aid; but rather as the refugees friends and as witnesses of their degraded conditions at the hands of this regime and a large number of international humanitarian organizations. We have denounced their systems of repression everywhere we have been able. After the signature of the Dayton Agreements, exile does not only mean waiting to return to a country, but also greater fear of the future. Profound despair and depression are the realities the refugees have to face, as they have no place to return to. They do not want their destinies to be determined by their first and family names. They do not want to serve as the instruments of colonization by ethnically pure countries (...).
We remember, speak and write
"We remember, speak and write to ensure that the experiences lived by women are not buried by silence, so we do not forget anything of what has happened during the war, because by blinkering memory, the politicians hope to erase the violence and crimes that have been committed. We publish reviews, newsletters, books, and so forth".
"Before the Dayton Agreement, we had to cross four countries to reach Bosnia, requiring a journey taking fifty hours. This journey now requires less time, but the frontiers are guarded by soldiers. What sort of peace is one that is maintained by arms? For us, there is nothing worse than an "armed peace". Peace means disarmament, without which there is no peace".
(...)"Those of us who live in this "armed peace" ask themselves, "Is this a post-war period?" or "Are we creating military and social structures, with ideological hypotheses for a new war?" We are afraid that this so-called post-war period will last so long that it will transform itself into a preliminary for war. Haven’t we learnt to recognize the words and signs that lead to war?"
"Since Dayton, the war has continued in a different way. The rationale of war and militarism are everywhere around us, because the Serbian government still has not relinquished its territorial prerogatives over Bosnia, because it is still "all the Serbs in a single State", because it is still oppressing the Albanian population of Kosovo. A war in the future is not improbable".
"Five years have gone by and we are still protesting. We continue because we refuse increasing militarism, because this regime continues to wage war against others, by using fear, repression and blackmail. We continue to protest because we live in a country where fear and poverty are spreading to affect most of the population. We continue to protest because this regime is ready to do anything to remain in power, at the cost of millions of unemployed, civil war, chaos and obvious dictatorship".
The demonstrations on Wednesday mornings give the opportunity for the Women in Black to support other struggles similar to their own. Thus they have supported, among other things, the striking workers of the Kragujevac arms factory and organized a "Belgrade anti-war marathon" to support the men opposed to military service and deserters returned from the front.
Source : The declaration diffused by the Women under Islamic Law Network. BP 20023, 34791 Grabels cedex, Montpellier, France. Phone: 33 (0)4 67 10 91 66. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact : Women in Black. Belgrade, Serbia. Phone/Fax: 381 11 347 877. Original sheet in French in this data base.