Breaking the silence

It is the 11th of May 2013, in Prishtina, Kosovo. 14 years after the war, seven young female students of arts and acting, ready to break the silence. From the outside, Prishtina looks like a modern city, recovered from its tragic past. For some, the trauma from the war has still not been treated, nor talked about.

During the 1998-1999 conflict, rape was used as a weapon of war, with the purpose of destroying families and the society. In the Kosovo context, rape is closely connected to shame, which makes it also hard to talk about in the aftermath of the war.

The performance ‘INTERNALLY DISPLACED’ was presented during the International Literature Festival ‘polip’ in Prishtina 10 – 12 May. It was a brave attempt by the six young women to break the silence and reveal some truth about the past. The performance itself was the result of a five days long Documentary Theater Atelier supported by The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and the German peace organization ForumZFD, and led by the US based actor and scriptwriter Elizabeth Hess. With her help, the students created space for exploring the topic of war rapes through testimonies, through combining personal and collective experiences, and through explorations of the performative relationship between text and image. The half an hour long performance explores, almost without words, some of the stories collected by human rights organizations from women in the refugee camps during the conflict. Despite the heavy topic and the pain, the performance helps the spectator to understand why it is as necessary as it is painful to give the survivors a voice.

And it is not the only ongoing attempt to break the silence of war rapes in Kosovo right now. Many of Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organizations are currently involved in a campaign to advocate for a new amendment to the law on war invalids to include survivors of sexual violence during the conflict. A public recognition and a monthly financial contribution for the survivor could of course never compensate for the harm that was caused but for those individuals it can at least be a way to restore some dignity and justice. The women’s NGOs have received support from women parliamentarians and some international actors, including Kvinna till Kvinna, and the draft amendment to the law is currently being prepared to be adopted by the parliament. Despite some resistance, especially from conservative political forces in society, the chances are big that the amendment will come true.

Lina Andéer, Field Representative, Kosovo

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