Women Speaking Truth


Building of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in Scheveningen, The Hague.
Julian Nitzsche, via Wikimedia Commons

Robin Basselin and Liz Waid tell about a brave group of women. They confronted their abusers in an international court.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Robin Basselin.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

A woman sits in a court room. Her heart beats very fast. She is worried. Court officials ask her many questions. The questions are about something bad that happened to her. It is very hard for her to talk about this experience. But the woman tells her story. She was raped. And the man who forced her to have sex was a soldier.

Voice 2 

After the trial, the woman talked with the PBS news organization. She said:

Voice 3 

“I was not feeling shame. I was really proud and full of strength. I looked him in the eye. Why is he not the one who is feeling shame? I wanted to prove that I had survived. I wanted to tell what had happened.”

Voice 1 

This woman is called Witness 99. She is a Muslim who survived the Bosnian War. She is one of 16 women who spoke to the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal. Today’s Spotlight is about the women from this tribunal.

Voice 2 

In 1991, the country of Yugoslavia had recently split into several smaller countries. There was fighting in a lot of these smaller countries, especially in the area called Bosnia. During this fighting, women were held in prison camps.

Voice 1 

One of these camps for women was in Foca. Foca is a small town in Bosnia. The soldiers made the women stay in a prison near the middle of the town. One woman told PBS how her time in the prison began,

Voice 4 

“They said we should get ready. There was a truck waiting in front of the school. They did not tell us where we were going and we did not ask. We could not say anything.”

Voice 1 

Another woman told about how they were treated in the prison,

Voice 5 

“They would come in and call us names.  They would tell us that we Muslims were getting what we deserved.”

Voice 2 

Soldiers raped many of the women in these camps. Rape was used as a weapon of war.

Voice 1 

After the Bosnian war, women from the prison camps were asked to speak to the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal. The tribunal was at The Hague in the Netherlands. Sometimes it is difficult for national courts to bring justice for war crimes. So, an international legal trial or tribunal is used. And the United Nations enforces the law and decisions of the tribunal.

Voice 2 

The legal advisors and judges in the Yugoslav tribunal came from countries all over the world. People from the United States, Germany, Nepal, and Great Britain all came to help.

Voice 1 

The Yugoslav tribunal was the first international war tribunal since World War II. The tribunal after World War II was called Nuremberg. It was to punish Nazis for the crimes of the Holocaust. But almost no women were at the Nuremberg trial. Peggy Kuo, a legal advisor or lawyer from the United States, told PBS:

Voice 6 

“If you look at the pictures of Nuremberg, it is almost all men... In that environment, women are not given a chance to be a part of the process - not even as a witness, in many cases.”

Voice 1 

But the Yugoslav tribunal was different. Women were at the center of it. The trial started with three men who were head of the women’s prison camp in Foca, Bosnia. The tribunal charged the men with rape as a war crime. And the women had to speak about what happened.

Voice 2 

Wendy Lobwein is an Australian lawyer. She talked to the International Criminal Court about the women at the tribunal. She said:

Voice 7 

“Witnesses come for four main reasons. They come to speak for the dead. Or they come to look for justice now. Or they want the world to know the truth. Or they hope that such crime can be prevented in the future.”

Voice 1 

Encouraging the women to speak was not easy. For many of the women, speaking at the tribunal was very hard. It meant sitting in the same room with the men who raped them. It meant that the world knew all about their lives. It meant that they had to answer a lot of questions about private things. The tribunal was very public. People all around the world knew about it and were watching.

Voice 2 

People also threatened the women. These people did not think the women should speak. They did not believe the women. They thought the women should not try to punish the men. So, the women were afraid of what might happen to them if they did speak.

Voice 1 

The people at the tribunal did everything they could to protect the women. The tribunal did not release their names.  They called them by a number instead of their name. When the trial was talked about on the news, the women were called by their numbers. No pictures of the women were released. Even their voices were changed. Only the people in the court could see the witnesses. Refir Hodzic is a writer who reported on the trial. He talked with PBS about the women’s stories:

Voice 8 

“It was about the truth. It was about all of us knowing what happened. But the women paid the price. Let us not forget this. This truth was not said in a private doctor’s office, where they could know that no one else would know. It was said in a public place. We can try to believe that their identities were protected... But in their communities, everyone knew who spoke. It was a pure act of heroism, especially because no one could know what would happen in the end.”

Voice 2 

At the end of the trial, the men charged with these war crimes were found guilty. They were sentenced to many years in prison.

Voice 1 

The tribunal brought justice for the war crimes. But it also had another effect. The women who spoke at the Yugoslav tribunal changed the lives of women everywhere. They talked and the world listened. And their stories are helping other women around the world share their similar stories of struggle. Witness 99 told PBS:

Voice 3 

“I was happy to be able to say what had happened to me. I was happy to say who had done this to me and my people. I feel like I did my duty. I had come to look him in the face. I came to speak.”

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “Women Speaking Truth.”

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us for our next Spotlight Program. Goodbye.

Question:

What is the hardest thing you have ever done?

Comments


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Narath
said on January 16, 2012

I understand it is very hard to say about the rape to the court and especially in front of the person who did this on her . I am very proud of those women and if I were her I would be not sure I am able to speak it out the same as her or not . Any way the true is true so face it because the world is wonderful and there are a lot of great places and people are waiting for us . Narath , Cambodia.

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abozenka
said on April 17, 2013

This are very courageous women….

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kenhieuloilam
said on April 18, 2013

In the life each of us has choices of good things or not good things. We get freedom when we live in good things. We lose freedom when we live in not good things. We are responsible for our choices of not good things. We follow the good when we do good things and keep away from not good things. We follow the evil when we do evil things. In the life sufferings are big. We feel painful when we live in suffering. Sufferings pass by. Sufferings make us purer. Our crimes lose us our dignities. Our crimes follow us in regret all our lives. We can not escape our crimes. Each of us wishes good things. We wish to get peace. We wish to get happiness. Crimes destroy the life. Crimes are of death. Crimes need to be pushed away.

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thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on April 18, 2013

In the past,women always got an unfair behavior.The man supposed women were their slaves and had to serve for their needs especially being sex need.It was the worst torture to women.

Nowaday,we are living in equal society.Women almost have freedom life.They have the right and live,develop their ability like the men.They become social women.

But somewhere,there is still women violence issue happening.

I hope there will be many organizations all over the world defend women’s right to bring them a happy and fair life.

Have a nice day!

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thuyanle
said on June 03, 2014

I think man and woman have the same right.To day woman have proved their role in society also family. Nowday more and more woman participate in political area even leader a country in some country on the world

hellokitty's avatar
hellokitty
said on June 04, 2014

If I had been in the court, I couldn’t have spoken about that like the women. I can grok and understand the women. So I am very proud of their courage!

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miboo
said on June 05, 2014

In my country Korea, There was a sad also galling history. about ‘comfort women’. From 1910 to 1945, Korea was in ‘period of Japanese occupation’ It is simmilar history about this Spotlight. Japanese soldiers took many Korean women for themselves. Sodiers raped them, and killed them. Today, many women who experience this history have protest in Japan. But japan government don’t accept it.

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Dela
said on June 08, 2014

These women are heroes because of their determination to stand face to face with the men who abused and raped them. The women were threatened but in spite of it they came to the tribunal, they answered many questions and said the truth. They came for justice and achieved it, their brave behaviour supported other women around the world in fighting for justice. The most important fact is The War Crimes Tribunal punished hard the persons who commited so terrible crimes against humanity.
Thanks for the great program!