The Peace That is Not

The statue “Woman fighter”, part of memorial park Vraca, Sarajevo.

The statue “Woman fighter” was created by famous Bosnian and Herzegovinian sculptor Alija Kučukalić who was killed during the siege of Sarajevo. The “Woman fighter”, with her hands raised high, symbolises the antifascist struggle and is dedicated to the brave women of People’s Liberation Struggle. It also symbolises the equality of women in all spheres of society.

The statute is part of memorial park Vrace, Sarajevo, which commemorates victims of fascism during the Second World War. The memorial park was open on 25 November 1981 and was entirely funded by the citizens of Sarajevo. The place chosen for its construction was the fortress from Austro-Hungarian era that was used by the Nazi regime as an execution place, where numerous citizens of Sarajevo were killed and buried. There are 4.113 names of women victims listed on the memorial plaque in Vraca; 208 of them are women who were killed as antifascist fighters.

During the siege of Sarajevo, the Army of Republika Srpska used the memorial park as a military position from which the shelling of the city and the people took place. After the war and the territorial division of the country the memorial park ended up on the “border” between the two entities, and as such was abandoned

The statue “Woman fighter” faced the same destiny as the memorial park itself. It was abandoned and destroyed.

There have been several attempts to revive the memorial park by the citizens of Sarajevo, but unfortunately those attempts have remained unsuccessful. One such intervention was made by feminist activists on 8th of March 2015, marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Sarajevo from fascists. A group of feminists, together with some artists, symbolically intervened replacing the missing hand with a wooden one. The sculptors behind the intervention were Maja Matašin and Adis Fejzić. This intervention is photographed by Sanja Vrzić.

By placing the “Woman fighter” in four different seasons in this header created for this essay series, the photographer Sanja Vrzić wanted to symbolise the continuity and persistence of feminist and antifascist struggle.

Photo credit: Sanja Vrzić

Dayton Peace Agreement - the peace agreement that was not

The signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, in Paris 14 December 1995.

Seated (left to right): The President of Serbia Slobodan Milošević, President of Croatia Franjo Tuđman, President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegović; standing (left to right): Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, US President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, UK Prime Minister John Major and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

There were no women present during the peace negotiations. The lived experiences and traumas of BiH women were completely disregarded in the Dayton Peace Agreement. The ‘women ghosts’ in the picture represent all of those left outside of the negotiations and the peace agreement.

Photo credit: Sanja Vrzić; original photo WikiMedia commons.

Men in military uniform standing on the left with their guns resting near their feet. A red carpet on the right. A woman in a red dress sweeps the carpet with a broom.

(De)militarisation that was (not)

In preparation for a presidential visit. Sarajevo, February 13, 1996

There was no room for women during the demobilisation and demilitarisation efforts.

Photo credit: Danilo Krstanović, REUTERS

Dividing territories and power, dividing minds

While the war was raging in BiH the elites were mostly concerned with finding the right “formula” for dividing the country.

Photo credit: Original photos (The burning government building by Mikhail Evstafiev, WikiMedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5; Welcome to Hell by Northfoto, Shutterstock; Mass protests, no known copyrights; The signing of the peace agreement conference, screenshot from the clip uploaded on Wikipedia).

Interventions in the photos: Sanja Vrzić

A crumpled paper with two arrows in the centre, one pointing left and the other to the right. To the left of the picture are the words Dayton Peace Agreement, International Community, IMF, the World Bank, Peacebuilding industry. On the right the words peace, democracy, justice, equality.

Experimenting with neocolonialism: civilian administration of the peace agreement

Photo credit: WILPF

White textured background with the silhouettes of the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina stretched apart.A chess board below with the chess pieces arranged on left and right of the board.

The Regional Geopolitics of Dealing with the Past

Photo credit: TAM99PH, Shutterstock

Blue textured background with the words “There are two epochs in one’s life when there is a war. One is before the war and the other is after”.

Who Needs Redress Anyway!

Photo credit: Heather J. Moore Prodigious Fugitive Savant/Flickr.

A pond. In the background a beige multi-storeyed building.

Outsourcing justice internationally

International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, Hague, Netherlands.

Photo credit: UN International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Dealing with the past in the shadow of neoliberalism

There are many commemorative events and memorials in BiH through which people of BiH are seeking recognition for victims and their suffering, both at the communal and individual level.

Photo credit: Sanja Vrzić

Graffiti on a wall. A hand pulling back the curtain to the left with the words “Mir” (peace) being revealed on a colourful backdrop.

Dismantling the structures of violence, building a society of peace

Illustrative. In the photo the word spelled out on the wall is peace. It is intentionally spelled out in supposedly three different languages (Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian) and two alphabets used in the country (latin and cyrilic).

Photo credit: WILPF