By the end of 1993 Women in Black had been protesting in the streets for two years. In that time they acquired a jaded view of peace plans and international interventions. In their New Year’s Message of 1994 they had only universal condemnation for all parties: “The sanctions imposed by the [United Nations] Security Council do not affect only those who have caused them: the militarist Serbian regime and its partners, the new elite of war-profiteers, whose world-wide bank accounts are safe and sound. The so-called international community has moreover given political support to this regime by legalizing the results of its conquests and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and elsewhere…. We mistrust a ‘peace’ based on ‘deals’ made by the nationalist-militaristic elites who have caused this war. We mistrust the so-called mediators who use peace slogans to fan war and ethnic hatred; they are part of the same old patriarchal militaristic machinery” (Women in Black 27 December 1993, 15).
Women in Black continued to wear black and stand in the street until after an enforced peace was brought to Bosnia. During 1997, they supported and participated in the grassroots democracy movement in Serbia. The situation looked more hopeful for the first time in many years. But Slobodan Miloševic was not about to be maneuvered out of power by democracy. He refused to accept the results of the election and soon had control of the government again. When Serbia renewed the violence in Kosovo, Women in Black working with other pro-democracy, human rights and anti-violence groups organized protest rallies.
On 19 September 1998, the government banned the antiwar rally Against War. Women in Black issued a statement: “…by banning this protest, the regime in Serbia proves its policy of isolation, xenophoby [sic] and confrontation with the world. With this repressive act the regime also shows its determination for war, hatred, destruction and violence against all who think they opposite, even against an indeed small group of citizens, who from 1991 until today raise their voice against all kinds of violence” (Women Black, et al, 19 September 1998).
Nine days later, threats to Women in Black and other groups that spoke out against the Serbian regime were issued in the Serbian Parliament. At this time, NATO had threatened to bomb Belgrade in order to force the Serbian regime to stop the police and military aggression in Kosovo. Vojislav Šešelj, previously a war criminal in Croatia and Bosnia and now the Deputy Prime Minister, responded with self-annihilating nationalism and threats to retaliate against peace activists, who he referred to as “Serbia’s inner enemies.”
In response to these threats, the Women in Black issued their annual statement “Seven Years of Women in Black Against War: 9 October 1991 to 9 October 1998.” This time the annual report was in the form of a confession of their guilt for seven years of activism for peace, freedom and democracy for all people in former Yugoslavia.
to my longtime anti-war activity;
that I did not agree with the severe beating of people of other ethnicities and nationalities, faiths, race, sexual orientation;
that I was not present at the ceremonial act of throwing flowers on the tanks headed for Vukovar, 1991 and Prishtina, 1998;
that I fed women and children in the refugee camps, schools, churches, and mosques;
that I sent packages for women and men in the basements of occupied Sarajevo in 1993, 1994, and 1995;
that for the entire year I crossed the walls of Balkan ethno-states, because solidarity is the politics which interests me;
that I understand democracy as support to anti-war activists/friends/sisters – Albanian women, Croat women, Roma women, stateless women;
that I first challenged the murderers from the state where I live and then those from other states, because I consider this to be responsible political behavior of a citizen;
that throughout all the seasons of the year I insisted that there be an end to the slaughter, destruction, ethnic cleansing, forced evacuation of people and rape;
that I took care of others while the patriots took care of themselves” (Women in Black, 9 October 1998).
Translated and edited by Rimma Soghomonian.