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24 May 2006
My story

“After all, I survived”

BIRN BiH
Asmira S, not her real name, recalls for Justice Report a year of sexual abuse and rape in her house in war-torn Bijeljina, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“After I told him everything, the psychiatrist said it was the most terrible life story he had ever heard.

I was only 20 years old when my life became hell. I lived in a house in Bijeljina, with my husband, two children and mother-in-law. My daughter was only six months old and my son was two.

At the end of April 1992, a few members of Arkan’s unit came into the house. They threw themselves at me like beasts. One after another they raped me in front of my children, my mother-in-law and my husband. He tried to stop them, but they beat him until he lost consciousness.

I thought that was the worst thing that could happen to me. But actually, the horror was just beginning.

STORY FROM HELL

They took my husband to do forced labour in a detention camp. I stayed with my children under house arrest. My birthday was around that time but I was not even aware of it.

Soldiers came every day. Half drunk and crazy from alcohol, they tortured us like animals. I cannot even describe all the things they did to us.

They did not only rape me. They beat me and cut my body with a knife. I still have the scars everywhere.

They brought more women to my house. In total there were 11 of us and we all went through the same thing. They enjoyed torturing us.

They also had fun taking me regularly to the front line towards Orasje. There they would let their soldiers, who were dirty and drunk, rape me again and do things to me which are hard to even imagine.

This was not only sexual abuse. They were using me to vent their rage. It was horrible.

In the house, things were more or less the same. They tortured my children as well. One day they pressed the hand of my little daughter on a hot plate. She screamed. So did I. They laughed like crazy.
I tried to commit suicide three times. One time I found vinegar acid and drank it. Twice I got hold of some pills. Each time I thought: ‘Now it is over.’

After all, I survived.

It is not easy for me to talk about that hell. It is in my nightmare. Everyday I remember what I survived there. I cannot forget and I wonder what it is like to live normally.

The worst day was when they tried to kill my child.

They came for my little girl and said they would stab her with a bayonet. I screamed, begged, pleaded…and then I just fell into a coma. When I regained consciousness, I could not recognize my children. I did not remember anybody anymore. I could not even remember my own name.

They did not wait for me to recover. The rapes continued, day after day, night after night, every day in 365 days.

I want to forget, but I can’t.

RESCUE

And so we lived until 18 April, 1993. That day a man came, a Serb, a friend of my parents. He bought us off from the soldiers for 5.600 German marks.

He let us go wherever we wanted. I went to Tuzla, where they put us in a refugee camp. I didn’t tell anyone about what happened to me in Bijeljina. At 21 years of age my hair was completely grey and I was destroyed.

I looked like a ghost.

Although I did not think that anything nice could happen to me again, after one year it did. One beautiful morning, my husband appeared.

He survived a detention camp in Serbia. Then he was in some centre in Croatia. In August 1994 he was able to escape with another camp inmate. They went through forests and were hiding. During this trip his friend stepped on a mine and was killed. He continued until he found us.

I froze when I saw him. My extreme joy was mixed with fear that he would leave me if he found out what they had done tome. I wondered whether he would want to live with a woman who had been raped so many times. But he did not leave me. He just promised that he would never ask about the things that I didn’t want to talk about.

LIFE IN PEACE

Today I have 60% disability. I cannot find a job. I live in Sarajevo, with my husband who is also not working, and the two children. We feed ourselves in Merhamet’s public kitchen. I go for psycho therapy on a regular basis.

Recently I also became a victim of domestic violence. Although for years he ignored what happened to me, my husband all of a sudden became aware.

A daily newspaper from Sarajevo wanted me to tell them my story. They secretly photographed me and the children, although I did not want that. They also published our real names and photographs in the newspaper.

After that, the children did not want to go to school and my husband beat me. He beat me so much that for a month I was unable to move. The doctors diagnosed me with permanent personality change caused by the torture I survived and accompanied with depressive conditions.

I receive 90 KM of social care per month. The medicines that I am supposed to take cost 250 KM. I do not have that kind of money.

I can barely survive. But I dream to see mychildren finish school. I want to watch them grow. I want them to be happy and healthy and to have their own families which they can support.

But in January last year the government informed me that I have to leave the apartment in which I am living. They said that our house in Bijeljina is reconstructed and that we can return.

Can you imagine, they want me to return to the house in which I survived immense torture and rapes?

We did not leave. This month, on May 19, I received a new order for eviction. Now I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to set a foot in Bijeljina, everagain.”

Asmira S. is a pseudonym of a young woman from Bijeljina who survived a year of rape and torture in her house. Her story was recorded by Mirna Mekic, a journalist with BIRN’s Justice Report ([email protected]). For the Record is an occasional column within Justice Report in which ordinary citizens are able to tell their stories from the war. If you wish to give your story please write to [email protected]
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