When are mentioned women in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war, from 1992 to 1995, they are mostly considered as victims. Mass rape, population displacement, ethnic cleansing (improper term since Croats, Serbs and Bosnians are all Slaves) and prison camps have crystallized an image of prey. As authentic as it is, this vision doesn’t obviously cover all realities of women’s lives during this period. According to the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s archives, 5360 of them were engaged in its ranks during the conflict.
These women enrolled themselves by conviction, necessity or risk-taking tendencies. The majority of them has been assigned to these positions traditionally reserved to women: administration, kitchen, infirmary. But in the first months of war, the situation and equipment of the bosnian army was critical; by compensating the necessity, women gained access to fighter’s positions, brought into hand-to-hand fights. Even today, few countries accept to bring their females soldiers in such situations, for reasons that lie midway between moral and tactical needs.
This is portrait of 10 of them, who fought on different frontlines of Bosnia. During the twenty years that followed the war, they were gradually discarded and forgotten. Bosnian are aware of what their society grant to women in general during this time of war: for many, they were those who run the country while the men were fighting. But women who fought are exceptions. Except few official ceremonies and good words, very little assistance was offered. Many of them are unemployed and most do not receive veteran’s pension, while all suffer in different degrees from post-traumatic stress syndromes.
They fallowed their lives, they rebuilt its. Many say their deception and concern about the political situation in the country, still one of the poorest in Europe, and unable to escape the nationalistic division’s game. By there very specific position of women and fighter, they have experienced the contradiction of the bosnian society, and stand the disappointments of these past twenty years. They also speak more generally about the place of women in Bosnian society, where aspirations are very different between cities and countryside, between a modernist ideology (socialist or European type), a traditionalist ideology (muslim or conservative), and all who sail between these two spheres.