Fear and Loathing in Srebrenica
The Scotsman June 1994.
Vehida Dedic. Bratunac, Republika Srpska.
16 April 1994 .
This is the story of a girl who was raped in the midst of a civil war, not by her enemies, but by men who claimed to protect her.
The brutality and horror of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been measured over the last two bloodstained years, less by death and wounds, but by rape. Almost from the first fighting, rape - actual, threatened and rumoured - became a tool of terror and control. Now, in the chaos and lawlessness of the Muslim enclaves in southern Bosnia , a new pattern of the same crime is emerging.
Only a few survivors have yet been able to testify to these latest events. One of them is Vehida Dedic. Raped and beaten by a gang of men led by the Bosnian Muslim commander of Srebrenica, Naser Oric, she was left with no-one to turn to in her own town. For her, crossing the lines into the hands of an army which was shelling the people around her, was the only means of escape.
A rotund, gentle, elderly man, a lawyer from Belgrade , sits in the cramped, dusty office of a disused factory in the Bosnian Serb town of Bratunac . Opposite him is a tall, thick-set young Serb soldier, toying with a handgun, slumped in a chair. A diminutive 15 year-old girl enters and the two men stiffen. They each know why she is here.
The soldier is the girl's temporary warder. She is, after all, an object of some curiosity in Bratunac: an infiltrator from across the nearby front-line. The lawyer is here to take a statement for Yugoslavia 's own War Crimes Tribunal. Vehida Dedic, visibly in pain and with one side of her face swollen by toothache, tells her story.
"I was desperate. I realised that I couldn't live there any more ... I was thinking of committing suicide." As fighting spread across Bosnia and Herzegovina , Vehida and her family had fled from their village of Pobudje to the nearby Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Vehida, initially in makeshift refugee accommodation, had recently found space - although no protection - in a house in the centre of Srebrenica. It was there that she met the town's commander. "Two months ago, I moved to that house. I lived there until the first of April. Every second evening or so, Naser Oric used to come, usually with a different woman. He was always followed into the house by three Muslim soldiers."
"On the 27th of March, they came again. I made coffee, as the housekeeper told me to. Then the three soldiers ordered me to another room. I knew their names: Safet, Serd and Ibro, boys of 20 years, all three from the village of Glogove . When I entered the room, the soldiers told me to strip off, lie down on the bed and have sex with them. I started protesting. I tried to free myself. At one point, I tried to jump through the window; this was upstairs. Safet caught me and started to beat me on the face and body. Then all three started to beat me and take off my clothes. That's how they stripped me naked. Safet was the first to rape me. After that, Serd and Ibro raped me as well."
Vehida's quiet, measured voice continues, weakened only by her swollen mouth. She holds back tears and stares into the lawyer's eyes. She remains outwardly calm. "By the end, I was unconscious. I came round before dawn. I realised that I was alone and naked, and the door of the room was open. The rape started around eight in the evening. I don't know when they left the room."
"At first, I couldn't stand up. Then I dressed, and went to find the housekeeper. When I found her I told her what had happened, but she just laughed at me. In the morning, Commander Oric came back, so I told him what his comrades had done to me. He hit me and swore at me."
Vehida Dedic's only culpability had been to trust those around her. Now, she was to be victimised by all. "I went to the Muslim police, to complain to them. But when I told them what happened, they shouted 'Get out of here!' and threw me out of the police station. 'You have complained to Naser', they said 'If he didn't help you, nobody can!'"
Naser Oric, the 24 year-old army commander of Srebrenica, first came to prominence in March, 1993. At that time, the charismatic UNPROFOR General, Philippe Morillon, demanded that - if the town was to become a so-called "safe area" - then Naser Oric must hand over his weapons to the Canadian UNPROFOR troops. Oric dismissed the demand and halted the evacuation of the town's women and children. Faced with angry demonstrations as the townsfolk stampeded on to UN trucks, the Muslim commander said that he would "screw up those convoys", preferring to maintain a human shield of 9,000 civilians for Srebrenica's 8,000 fighters.
Once she had been publicly victimised, Vehida Dedic had no future in Srebrenica. But she had the idea to escape, inspired by two other rape survivors, from a chance encounter: "I met two girls who had been in Bratunac and wanted to get back to Srebrenica, in a prisoner exchange. Their nicknames were Ceca and Buba. They came from the village of Tegere . They told me that they were okay in Bratunac, but when they came back to Srebrenica they had both been raped. When they complained to the police like I did, the police told them to go to Naser."
Vehida persuaded a girlfriend, Serifa, to come with her on the five mile walk across the front-line, to Bratunac. But by this time - under Naser Oric's instructions, and with the active compliance of the UN - Srebrenica had effectively become a prison. The walk was almost suicidal. "The only way out was down the main road from Srebrenica to Bratunac. If we went into the hills, someone could have shot us. There were Muslim positions there. We could have found some Muslim soldiers who could have killed us. So we went down the street."
"Myself and Serifa walked out from Srebrenica. But, when we came to the UN guards, they prevented us from going on and told us that they would shoot at us. They were very short with us. They ordered us to go back to Srebrenica ... but we didn't want to go."
"So the two of us agreed to bypass the UN guards. We crossed a stream about five kilometres from their post and went on our way to Serbian territory ... where the Serbian soldiers were posted. At about half past twelve we reached their positions. A Serb soldier saw us and beckoned. Then we saw that we were in the middle of a minefield. We asked the soldier to come and take us out ... so that we didn't step on a mine. He came and took us to the Serb guns. The Serb soldiers gave us food. Then they took us to Bratunac by car. Sarifa was taken to hospital, she was pregnant."
The lawyer completes his notes. The statement is concluded. But now, what will happen to Vehida? What can be done for someone so totally dispossessed? "In no way would I ever go back to Srebrenica ... I want, if I can, to stay here and live in Bratunac. But if they won't let me, I'll go on, to Valjevo, to see my grandmother ... she's called Dessa Mehmedovic." But no-one knew if Dessa Mehmedovic was still alive.
Rape! The(In)human shame!!
1992 Bosnia, Mujahedeen Rape and kill Child in front of Mother!