The bereaved Bosnian women who find solidarity in communal art

Ilijas, Bosnia –  In the Bosnian town of Ilijas, about 18 kilometres from Sarajevo, a lots women satisfy on a Saturday afternoon.

Some chat while consuming standard strong coffee from a little white cup, as other deal with their kilims, hand-woven carpets and a national sign of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They call themselves the Zlatne Ruke, or Golden Hands.

“We are women who come together. We’re just bonding and sharing, and being there for each other,” discusses Zekija Avdibegovic, organizer of thegroup

“We do traditional Bosnian crafts, like knitting and the rugs. We also cook traditional Bosnian dishes, and we’ve participated in competitions all around Bosnia, and even internationally.”

The war in the Western Balkans ended more than twenty years back.  Harmed roadways and structures were fixed and restored, however the deep scars of injury withstand.

Family associations in Bosnia and Kosovo – primarily led and comprised of women – have actually been at the leading edge of assisting individuals rebuild their lives and use a space for cumulative recovery. 

Tapestry-woven carpets made by the women from Golden Hands [Chantal Flores/Al Jazeera]

“Time doesn’t change the trauma, trauma is still there for many people,” states Aida Mustacevic-Cipurkovic, a psychotherapist dealing with Vive Zene, a women’s association from Tuzla, in northern Bosnia.

“Their role in the family changed. Women took the responsibility of their families after the war because the men were killed, or missing, or were suffering from PTSD, and had lost their jobs. Here, women activated themselves to create different kinds of associations and civilian organisations to heal their communities. Women took their own initiative to deal with the trauma around them and this created new responsibilities.” 

In the summertime of 1992, Avdibegovic’s other half and boy were drawn from their home in the close-by town of  Kadarici to a camp in the main school of Ilijas.

Ever Since, she has actually not gotten any info on their location.

In Addition To a few of the Golden Hand members, she continues to look for 46 missing individuals out of the nearly 7,000 individuals who are still unaccounted for from the 1992-1995 Bosnian dispute. 

“This story is common for many of these women. In two days, every single man and boy – all Muslims – were taken out from their homes. The women were forced to stay in their house and couldn’t do anything to save their loved ones,” includes Avdibegovic, who is likewise the president of the Association of Loved Ones of Missing Out On Individuals in Ilijas.

Through the association, households of the missing out on have actually joined their needs for truth and justice, however it is through Golden Hands that war survivors – with or without missing out on loved ones – have actually developed brand-new types of survival through communal art and sorority. 

“These associations are a place for the victims, for the survivors, where they can talk about their problems and everyday life. These associations are very important for them,” includes Mustacevic-Cipurkovic.  

Over time, the long-lasting mental damage that war triggers is handed down to othergenerations

Throughout the Western Balkans, lots of children just remember their daddies from stories that grownups have actually informed them.

When her other half was taken by Serbian forces in July 1992,

Amela Avdibegovic was 7 months pregnant.

She is among the couple of Golden Hands members who had the chance to bury her enjoyed one.

Emina, now 27 years of ages, is sitting in between her mom and granny silently. Unlike her sibling, who was 3 at that time, Emina never ever had the chance to satisfy her daddy.

“We’ve been in pain for generations. I was inside my mum’s tummy when she was experiencing trauma. I know everything from the stories and my mother still cries. It’s tough. Our people was killed just because we are Muslims,” states Emina.

“My mum had a really strong depression. We survived because of the help of other people.”

Households from Krushe e Madhe collect at the town cemetery and lay flowers to grieve those who were eliminated in March 1999 [Chantal Flores/Al Jazeera]

For households of the missing out on, the present is typically focused in the past.

With no proof to show the death of the enjoyed one, the mourning and grieving procedure can not happen.

Women loved ones of the vanished likewise deal with extra difficulties, such as financial issues due to the loss of the family’s income producer, and victimisation and stigmatisation in their efforts to support their children, look for justice and reconstruct their lives.  

Fahrije Hoti was 29 when she needed to get away to Albania with her three-year-old child and boy, simply 3 months.

In March 1999, Serbian forces entered her town, Krushe e Madhe, in southwestern Kosovo, and eliminated over 200 young boys andmen A couple of months later on, she returned just to find her town totally ruined and her other half missing out on.

“It was very hard at that time. The village has just gone through the war, and the mentality and patriarchal society says that if you are a widow, you have to be in the house, take care of the children and be a victim. There were a lot of problems for me, but that just made me stronger. I decided I was not going to give up,” she states. 

In Between 1999 and 2003, Hoti and other women arranged demonstrations frequently to require the return of their enjoyed ones.

However the financial concern was too heavy. Hoti turned to cultivating peppers and started offering homemade ajvar, a standard spicy spread, in a makeshift market in the close-by city of Gjakova. Need grew, and in 2005, Hoti developed Kooperativa Krusha, a cooperative that utilizes lots of women, primarily war widows. 

“It took courage to start this and to actually come to work because of all the prejudices: we are widows and also women. In this way we made sure that with work we actually heal ourselves and the most important thing for us is that we’ve managed to educate our sons,” states Hoti. 

Producing a task for herself, and other women, took her life in another instructions.

Hoti’s other half is still missing out on from the 1998-1999 Kosovo war, and the past can not be forgotten. Working, nevertheless, has actually offered the women financial self-reliance. 

“Spiritually, women were changed once the cooperative was established. When they wake up in the morning, they have this place that they can go to work. They know that there is something waiting for them,” discusses Hoti.

“They can share with each other their pain and their experiences. A lot of times within the day, they talk about the tragedies and the people they are missing, but here they also share their joys and laughs. Sometimes, they even sing.”

This story was supported by a reporting grant for women’s stories from the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Women from Golden Hands weave kilim in the town of Ilijas. The regional association of women maintain standard crafts of Bosnia and Herzegovina [Chantal Flores/Al Jazeera]

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