Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 02:47:07 GMT
We are still on the streets of Belgrade; Statement to mark the fifth anniversary of Women in Black protests
From Women in Black, 5 October 1996
Our feminist politics against war means public political resistance. On October 9, 1991 we formed Women in Black. Every Wednesday since then we have stood on the streets or squares of Belgrade.
On Wednesday mornings we would consider how to dress in black. Rebelling by wearing black was itself our personal and public expression - we do not agree with nationalism, we do not agree with killing. The Wednesday morning search for black clothes reduced the feelings of helplessness and guilt. We traded black clothing among ourselves. We dressed in black. We knew that despair and pain needed to be transformed into political action. Our choice of black meant that we did not agree with everything that the Serbian regime was doing. We refused their language which promotes hate and death. We repeated:
"DO NOT SPEAK FOR US, WE WILL SPEAK FOR OURSELVES "
With our bodies, as a call and warning/reminder, we stated our bitterness and hostility toward all those who desire and wage war. During the vigil we remained silent, sometimes whispering to one another to encourage and support each other when the words of passers-by insulted or angered us. And this is how we have continued each Wednesday, with signs, distributing flyers. From season to season - for five years. At the vigils there were sometimes very few of us, sometimes many of us, different women. Each woman alone, individually, would not have held out. Together we persevered. Standing together increased solidarity and friendship among us.
We did not stop the war. But nor did we succumb to powerlessness and resignation. Together we wish to share in the effort of creating an alternative; so that each of us individually and collectively takes responsibility for hope. We will continue to be on the streets of Belgrade...
Alternative women's politics
Although nationalism did not divide us, it did create different kinds of vulnerability among women from areas of former Yugoslavia. We wanted to reestablish trust as soon as possible; through letters, small encounters, "large" international meetings. We attempted to create a space for stating and recognizing differences. Since August 1992 we have organized international meetings of the "Network of women's solidarity against war" and thereby have made visible women's links and non-violent resistance. We will urge solidarity, as well as exchange, mutual support and common strategies. At the fifth meeting of the Network, in August 1996 in Novi Sad, we were thrilled that our friends who live in Bosnia were able to visit us for the first time since these years of war. We talked, discussed, sang, socialized together; 200 women from more than 20 countries and from all republics of the former Yugoslavia. We agreed that this year, in our own towns, we will organize simultaneous demonstrations against war and militarism.
Deserters are our allies
Our anti-militarism is not an "additional activity" to conscientious objection. Our daily life confirms how much the military budget and forced mobilization concern us and how much we are affected by this. We do not want to make women's experience the only "women's issue"; for all issues are women's issues. We do not consent to being victims of militarism; rather, through small, persistent acts of non-violent resistance, we want to question the militaristic values system.
Overcoming pain to autonomy
Like the rest of us who are disloyal to the state and nation, refugee- activists from our group, though in a much more difficult situation than we are, have not surrendered themselves to pain. Like other women victims of war we have worked together on self- empowerment and autonomy, and have thereby overcome our pain.
Refugees seek a return
For two years now we have been going to refugee camps. We have not been the typical (charitable) distributors of humanitarian aid, rather we have been friends to people in the camps, and witnesses to the degradation of refugees, at the hands of this regime and many big international humanitarian organizations. Wherever possible, we have denounced their systems of repression. After the signing of the Dayton agreement exile is not only an expectation to return to the homeland; yet a bigger fear of the future as well. Deep despair and depression are the reality of refugees who have nowhere to return to. They do not want their life's destiny to be determined by their first and last names. They do not want to serve as an instrument of the colonization of ethnically pure nations. Yet they have little or no choice...
And again we ask ourselves if our support is sufficient. Some of our friends who were refugees here have returned to their old homes. Is this enough to provide hope of return for other refugees who wish to do the same?
We remember, tell and write
We remember, tell and write so that women's experiences do not remain shrouded in silence, so that we do not forget everything that has happened during the war; because by obliterating memory, rulers wish to erase the violence and the crimes which have been committed. We publish magazines, newsletters, books...
Before the Dayton agreement we had to cross four nations in order to get to Bosnia - about a 50 hour trip. This trip now requires much less time, but borders are guarded by soldiers. What sort of peace is maintained with weapons? For us, there is no such thing as "armed peace". Peace means disarmament, or it is not peace. All sides are arming themselves, rearming themselves, "balancing" themselves under the supervision and command of the greater forces. Breht said long ago, "If we arm ourselves, we will have war. If we do not arm ourselves we will have peace." But those of us who are living in "armed peace" wonder: is this a post-war period or are societal and military structures and ideological hypotheses being created for a new war? We fear that the so-called post-war period could last so long that it is transforms itself into pre-war. Have we indeed learned to recognize the signs and words which prepare war?
On the streets after Dayton
Since Dayton the war has continued in other ways. The logic of war and militarism is all around us; because the Serbian regime still has not renounced territorial claims toward Bosnia, because it still envisions "all Serbs in one state", because it still oppresses the Albanian population of Kosovo. And some future war is not so very unlikely...
After five years we continue our protest
We will continue because we refuse the growing militarization, because this regime continues to wage war against others: through fear, repression and blackmail. We continue our protest because we live in a country in which fear and poverty pervade the lives of the majority of citizens. We continue, because this regime is ready to sacrifice everything in order to maintain its authority; at the price of millions of unemployed, a civil war, chaos and an obvious dictatorship.
We will continue to protest, especially now
We will keep the form, location, time and black color. We will maintain our visibility and persistence. We will speak with people on the street, and try to transform the main square into a place of dialogue and alternative communication.
Our vigil on October 9 will mark five years of our public protest. We will observe this anniversary on Saturday, October 12, 1996 on Republic Square at 2 P.M. That day on the square, we will perform a live story about Cassandra which we have entitled Cassandra among us. We will present this together with the experimental Dah (Breath) Theater from Belgrade.
Cassandra - a story of the resistance of women in war. Cassandra - a story about the struggle of women for autonomy. Cassandra - a real woman. Cassandra - here, at all times and in all places. That day we will organize discussions and workshops about the women's peace movement and anti-militarism. We will be together.
Also on that day we will promote the second issue of our magazine Prigovor (Objection), a magazine which deals with conscientious objection and anti-militarism.
Belgrade, October 5, 1996