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by Aleksandar Tima
Ten women have recounted, in the language I write in, their sufferings during the fratricidal war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995.
It is because of this language, which is both theirs and mine, that I am appearing, that I dare to appear next to their statements, rather than next to the no less painful and anguished statements that could be made by women from other corners of our planet, where people are also killed because they belong to a certain nation or religion, in Zaire or Ruanda for instance, in Israel, France or Brazil.
Do I have more of a right or duty to speak out here, where I am bound to these grieving women by language, than there? Of course not. As a man who writes, who records what is going on in the world, of course I could and should speak out when women of other languages, of other nations and lands and continents recount the pain of losing their families and homes.
But just as the dead should be buried by their families, so the fact that women have once again had cause to grieve and mourn, should be made known by the writer, the scribe, the recorder from their language area.
Whether this grieving, this mourning will be of any use is another matter. It may not be, because human cruelty is boundless, and someone will always be found to repeat the crime. Then again, it may be, because that same someone, after reading about these women's grief, may decide not to cause or instigate any more suffering.
Regardless of whether it will be of any use or not, it is important to bear witness, because if we do not, we recorders, scribes and writers, then why have we opted for our chosen profession in the first place? Is it only out of vanity, to see our names in print? If we use the word to imagine or relate what happens to people in the radiance of sunshine, then I think we must also say what kind of misfortune befalls them in the real-life wake of hatred and cruelty, such as befell these women.
There is, admittedly, one disadvantage here. It is both the recorder's and mine.
The disadvantage of the book is that all the women whose anguish it records are Muslims; there are no Serbian or Croatian women here, for instance, no Romany women or women of mixed blood who in that same war suffered the same kind of grief, which equally is known and should equally be recorded.
The disadvantage of the person who recorded these statements, Janja Bec, and my own, is that we are not pure Serbs, yet we are to attest with our names to accusations against Serbs, because in this case it is they who were the culprits of these women's suffering, and not to accusations against, say, Muslims or Croats, who were the culprits of Serbian and other women's suffering.
With regard to the first disadvantage, I think we can discount it because human suffering due to mutual hatred is universal, and by presenting the suffering of some we are presenting the suffering of all, and the right place to present the suffering of Muslim men and women is the very environment which spawned it, the Serbian environment, because it is precisely there that may appear that one person who, moved by these stories, decides not to inflict further suffering.
As for the second disadvantage, perhaps it is not a disadvantage after all. Janja Bec is Serbian on her mother's side and I am Serbian on my father's, which, I should think, gives both her and me the right to speak out in the name of Serbianism against the evil inflicted by Serbs, not by them alone of course, but in this case by Serbs.
On the other hand, she is not Serbian on her father's side, and I am not Serbian on my mother's, so whoever would condemn or brand us, to themselves or to others, as traitors and degenerates, because we added our words to the laments of women who come from what hate-mongers view as an enemy nation, can attribute our betrayal to that alien, non-Serbian ingredient in our being.
That will make it easier for them, the hate-mongers, yet our mixed blood will not stop good people from Joining us in the pain of all pains of these women, whose only fault was that when hate boiled over they happened to be in its way
Simon Wiesenthal Center-Museum of Tolerance Library & Archives