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[balkans] Paper: THE WOMEN IN CONFLICT ZONES NETWORK

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  • Florian Bieber
    From: Ed Agro Subject: Lepa Mladjenovic: Women in War [Thanks to Zarana Papic , Faculty of Philosophy,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 1999
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      From: Ed Agro <pnbalkans@...>
      Subject: Lepa Mladjenovic: Women in War

      [Thanks to Zarana Papic <zpapic@...>, Faculty of Philosophy,
      University of Belgrade, for sending this to the Peacenet Balkans Desk. - ed]

      THE WOMEN IN CONFLICT ZONES NETWORK

      A comparative study of the issues faced by women as a result of armed
      conflict: Sri Lanka and Post-Yugoslav States

      Budapest, Hungary, October 1999

      A Paper by Lepa Mladjenovic, Autonomous Women's Center Against Sexual
      Violence and Women in Black Against War, Belgrade, Serbia

      THE POLITICS OF KNOWLEDGE OF DIFFERENCE: thoughts and contradictions in
      feminist politics in the anti war movement in Belgrade from '91 to '99

      short introduction:

      "Good Girls go to heaven, bad girls to LJUBLJANA" was the title of the
      Fourth Yugoslav Feminist Meeting which was held in May 1991 in Ljubljana,
      in Slovenia. The organizers at that moment could not think of the depth of
      the possible meaning of "hell and heaven" in the context of pain that will
      devastate many women across the homeland in the next years of war and fascism.

      Women's groups, in the beginning of nineties, were in the first phase of
      actively organizing, and all these small steps were historic moves.
      Feminists of Former Yugoslavia were planning to organize a meeting of the
      SOS Hotlines, to discuss for the first time only matters of male violence
      with activists from Ljubljana, (Slovenia) Zagreb (Croatia) and Belgrade -
      the first three feminist services for women survivors of violence. New
      initiatives were organized to support women in policy making, first time
      forum titled Women's parliaments appeared in Belgrade and Zagreb, a Women's
      Party in Belgrade, Women's Lobby in Belgrade and Zagreb. Feminists across
      the former homeland were collaborating, copying ideas from each other,
      having fun together. New issues were discussions on laws to be changed, on
      women in parties to be supported, on launching Women's studies.... More
      theoretical work on 'women's question' evolved. Feminist lesbian
      initiatives in Croatia and Slovenia were the matter of fact. Connecting
      among feminists across the continents was on the way. All these groups
      still did not have any space and money of their own.

      At that time, in '91, in the state now called Ex Yugoslavia there were 22
      million of inhabitants, 21 language spoken, 25 ethnic groups, six republics
      and the Adriatic sea. Of all employed, 39% were women. In that year,
      among feminists, nationalism was not yet an issue, abortion neither, the
      law of 1976 legalized abortion free and on demand. Average standard
      implied that more than 70% of families have washing machines.
      Kindergartens were for free, and there were not enough of them. School
      system and medical care were also state covered and free. Trade unions,
      instead of protecting worker's rights, took care that workers and their
      families go to vacations. "Communism before 91", we used to say, "was
      paradise for children".

      On 27th of June 1991 the lesbian and gay group ARKADIA had its first public
      discussion in Belgrade on Right to be Different, when the 7:30pm state news
      pronounced that the first Slovenian soldier was killed by Yugoslav Army
      soldier in Slovenia. It was a sunny day in Belgrade, very warm and people
      enjoyed beaches on local river. I was not aware at that moment that this
      was the first day of war, but a feminist in me was thinking days after that
      how men walk out off the beach, take a gun and kill other men.

      foundation of Women in Black

      In September '91 the Peace Caravan came along to Belgrade from Zagreb and
      Ljubljana, some four buses full of pacifists of Europe. It was an
      initiative launched by Helsinki Citizens Assembly which finished with
      thousand of people hand in hand in the streets of Sarajevo. In Belgrade,
      feminists organized a small session to meet women from the Caravan, peace
      activists from Germany and Italy. In that occasion we heard for the first
      time that in Italy there are Women in Black groups who protest against
      Italian government and involvement in Gulf war, and who support Women in
      Black initiatives in Israel, where, already for three years, Women in Black
      were protesting against their own Israeli government's occupation of
      Palestine.

      The first vigil of Women in Black in Belgrade was held on 9th of October
      1991. In those months, as well, every evening civil initiatives organized
      one hour vigils with candles "For all victims of war" in front of the
      Serbian parliament. From then on in the next two years there were many
      peace protests initiated by anti-war intellectuals but they ceased by '93,
      and were transformed into opposition demonstrations against regime. Women
      in Black remained the only permanent anti war public protest until this day.

      In the following years in Belgrade, women's and peace movement, if we can
      use these words 'movements', were practically not connected, except by
      individual women. On the other hand women were majority in the beginning
      of the peace initiatives. At that time our analysis of this fact said: 1.
      because women, traditionally, by knowledge of free work in family, know
      the volunteer work, 2, they traditionally, by knowledge of the one who has
      less, are better for horizontal, non-competitive activities, and, 3,
      because it was safer for women to act against regime, men were in the
      beginning under threat of forced mobilizations. We can conclude by saying
      that almost all peace initiatives in this first year ('91) were initiated
      [by] women. ( Anti war Center: Vesna Pesic, Jelena Santic, Zorica
      Trifunovic, Sonja Biserko; Candle vigils: Biljana Jovanovic, Natasa
      Kandic, Nadezda Gace; Peace Caravan: Sonja Licht, Janja Bec, Gordana
      Susa; Women in Black: Stasa Zajovic, Neda Bozinovic, Lepa Mladjenovic).

      By transforming peace initiatives into party demonstrations the men came on
      the stage, and women, apart from Vesna Pesic, slowly disappeared from the
      peace-opposition scene. Some decided that they did not want to be on the
      streets any more, but set up centers to work. Therefore Humanitarian Law
      Fund was founded by Natasa Kandic, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights by
      Sonja Biserko, non-governmental organizations which protect and register
      violations of human rights done by the state. Feminists as well started
      to work, and from '91 until today more than twenty five small
      non-governmental organizations were founded in Belgrade alone.

      Women in Black Against War - Belgrade. founded in 1991

      Founding team: The founders of the Women in Black were mostly feminists
      who were active in the Feminist group "Women in Society", which was a
      first such group in Belgrade from 1981 until '90. Very soon other women
      joined in who were not necessarily feminists, but were strongly opposing
      Serbian regime, war, nationalism. Soon, men found their way in, as well.

      Aims:

      -protest against Serbian government / war / militarism / nationalism /
      male violence
      -supporting solidarity of women across the "enemy lines' and internationally
      -supporting deserters
      -creating women's culture of peace

      Activities:

      -weekly vigils
      -peace protests on 10 of December, 24 of May, and participation in other
      peace and anti- government protests
      -public statements
      -annual international meetings "Women's Solidarity Against War"
      -publishing women's peace history (published eleven different books with
      1.000 to 3000 copies each)
      -women's peace workshops in five towns in the region ('97,'98,'99)
      -working in refugee camps ('94,'95,'96)
      -theoretical analysis of position of women in war and militarism
      -weekly meetings and workshops on all related issues: fear, militarism,
      violence, war...

      Weekly vigils are one of the key activities of the group: Wednesdays on
      the main square. Women wear black, stand in silence with banners, for one
      hour.

      Political principles:

      -supporting national differences
      -supporting all other kinds of differences due to class, age, social
      status, hetero/gay status, marital status, ableness.
      -solidarity
      -non violence
      -society free of militarism, male violence and patriarchy

      Relation to the state: The group is registered. Every street protest is
      announced to the police. Every of the five founders have been once or more
      times on police investigation interviews. Not one activist was in jail.
      Few times police banned the protests. On the weekly vigils two local
      policemen are usually sent to "protect" women.

      Contradictions and dilemmas

      This essay is written from a position of a feminist who is eight years in
      the anti war activism in Belgrade, in a town which is a symbol of the
      Serbian regime that manufactures fascist politics and nationalism, and it
      is also full .... already for years, with killers, war rapists, war
      profiteers, nationalists.

      The past eight years of war have formed many of us feminists in Belgrade.
      There were numerous disagreements among activists on every issue except the
      one that the dictatorship of Serbian regime should be [overturned]. This
      time I want to name only few points of contradictions that are alive in our
      women's networking. The sparkles of disagreements and misunderstandings
      happens often, and during the wartime they hurt. Some of the
      contradictions are not solvable, because the truth of some types of
      experience is contradictory in itself. Some dilemmas women see in their
      own ways. Many of these issues are actualities for feminists who work in
      states without wars. But many of these issues become intensified with
      nearness of torture and death of war. Therefore the disagreements do not
      remain just different points of view but carry pain, traumas, threats and
      other dangers inside themselves. This is exactly why I wanted to name few
      of them.

      War

      "I was every day working in order to survive war, small things, supporting
      each other, food, cold... and then at nights I wished that someone would
      hit a huge bomb, anything, atomic, nuclear bomb, and kill all of us
      together so that all this horror will be over once for all". These are
      words of an activist who was 17 when the war in Bosnia started, and four
      war years more of sniper hits, bombings, concentration camps, rapes,
      killings, when it ended ('95).

      "The distance between the town, my home and my soul was immeasurable..."
      These are words of a young woman who lived through the terror of ethnic
      cleansing and NATO bombing in Pristina, Kosovo, in spring '99, closed in
      her own apartment with her family. The street they live in they could
      sometimes see only through the small hole in the curtain.

      "I remember my neighbor Taiba Hodzic. We used to sit hours in front of the
      house and talk, talk, talk... And we laughed. Still now I wear the blue
      scarf that Taiba gave me before she escaped with her daughter to Munich.
      She has blue eyes like this scarf. Taiba, my best neighbor, like my
      sister. Even more. That is why I am silent now and I keep all the
      beautiful stories for us, so when she comes back we will have something to
      laugh about." These are words of a Bosnian Serbian woman about her
      Bosnian Muslim friend in '94 .

      From the '91 until now about five million of people, of all territory of Ex
      Yugoslavia, at least once had to move from their homes: they were called
      refugees, displaced, exiles, immigrants, deserters. Last cleansing is
      done in Kosovo with 700,000 people of Albanian nationality expelled in
      three months, March, April, May '99, and 200,000 of Serb nationality
      expelled after that. And fascism has not yet crumbled in Serbia.

      Most of the contradictions in the women's peace movement [in Belgrade arose
      from ] not walking the line of death and life as were the activists from
      Bosnia and Kosovo. But certainly the echo of their cry is the background
      of all the contradictions we, who were out of the front line, had to face.

      Contradictions among Feminists

      TO SHOOT OR NOT

      When a soldier comes to shoot at you or your daughter what shall you do?
      Shoot back or not?

      This was a first demand some of us posed each other in '91. Feminists in
      that time practically did not have any culture of ethics that will suggest
      answer to this question. The ex Yugoslavia had suppressed religion and
      feminists were not religious at that time and would not know the religious
      response to this question. The Marxist politics used to say: we shall
      defend our ideas even if it means blood, but by '91 Marxism was not any
      more so popular nor present in everyday life. On the other hand the Ex
      Yugoslav system annulled the notion of human rights, it was simply absent.
      So the few feminist activists found themselves in the emptiness, no
      knowledge of human rights, no knowledge about peace movement in the world,
      no religion, no communist politics, no feminism yet developed to become a
      subject of social change. Activists of women's groups were answering this
      question "To shoot or not" out of political void, faced with their own
      interiorized patriarchy and first steps in feminism.

      In the meantime, being outside or inside the war zone, many women passed
      through different phases of this dilemma. If we shoot then there is no end
      to shooting, we enter the circuit of revenge. If we don't shoot maybe he
      will shoot me? What is motherly thinking if not shooting the one who wants
      to shoot her daughter? And is it? The feminists who declared that they
      will not shoot felt hurt by those who said Yes. Those who said Yes felt
      betrayed by those who said No, they felt that we the pacifists will let
      them be killed. How shall we be pacifists if we say Yes to shooting? How
      shall we be pacifists if we go along the line of Big Serbian Intellectuals
      who say: "Serbs have historic excuse to shoot first in defense" (D. Cosic)?
      What is a line between shooting first and shooting second? Are feminists
      supposed to be pacifists? How shall we be brave feminists if we let them
      shoot us? How do we redefine braveness not to include killing and violence?
      How do we deal with fear of violence if we do not shoot?

      If I sum up, then probably about 80% of women in women's and peace groups
      have, in this period of 8 years of wars, said at least once YES to
      shooting. Being one of those few who have consistently said No to
      shooting, whatever that implied, I think that this percentage of 80% is
      very high. With new dilemmas of Yes or No to NATO bombing this percentage
      is still alive. It shows how deep the patriarchy and war is dwelling
      inside ourselves, and how much militarism and global capitalism is part of
      our daily lives. Feminist and peace movements have still long way to go.

      WHAT IS THE LINE BETWEEN NATIONAL FEELINGS AND NATIONALISM?

      Where is a line between nationalism and national feelings that always put
      one's own nation little bit higher/better/more right/ justified?

      In the middle of war when nationalism is used for fascist production of
      hatred and death, nationalism is more than a right to think different.
      Everyone in the women's network is extremely sensitive to this issue. Not
      one activist names herself a nationalist. But many have national feelings
      and defend Her Nation in every possible situation. Others do not defend,
      but rarely can hear this particular difference of the Other. Where is the
      line between not hearing someone of different nationality and excluding
      her? How do our nationalist feelings distort what we hear from the Other?
      How do we listen if our nationalist feelings are already part of the
      listening process?

      After one of the workshops on the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in '99, one
      woman of Serbian nationality approached Albanian woman from Kosovo and
      told her that she is the first Albanian woman she sees in her life, asking
      her if this is true what they say about cleansing. The Albanian woman told
      her that they can sit down and she will tell what she knows about the
      ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The woman of Serbian name looked at Albanian
      woman in the eyes and said: 'How shall I believe you?'

      In the women's network in Belgrade nationalism is the least-discussed
      issue. It is years that conflicts between activists are left to private
      telephone talks, and few workshops. I believe some of us were lacking the
      courage or knowledge to face all the pain behind it. Nationalism is the
      issue why some feminists have problems relating to each other, it is an
      issue that has also separated some feminists across the line
      Belgrade-Zagreb. On the other hand it is also an issue that has attracted
      those who think similarly, bonding in waves of emotions among feminists
      across all the region: Belgrade-Zagreb-Sarajevo-Zenica-Pristina...

      Nationalism is a huge construction machine that produces feelings in
      connection to blood, soil and skin as if they are coming exactly from
      blood, soil and skin and therefore are natural to all. I believe that the
      feminist politics of constructionism is not enough used to work on
      deconstructing this issue, certainly not among feminists in Belgrade.

      "When I saw her dressed in the shirt that has names of Serbian kings across
      her chest... I felt bad. I felt that she was excluding others, that she is
      excluding me, her body was speaking. I am working in the same project with
      her, how shall I let her be different?", said one activist in Belgrade in 94.

      "When I gave interview to the independent daily paper GLAS there was a
      sentence that said that our Center communicated daily with 'our Albanian
      friends in Pristina' during the war. The editor changed the word
      'Albanian' to "Shiptar" which is a degrading word for Albanians in our
      language, and changed the word 'friends' to 'colleagues'. I ask myself how
      the fascist policy of eliminating possibility to have friends among Kosovo
      Albanians and forbidding to call them Albanians enters into everyone of us?
      And are we aware of that?". These are words of a feminist from the
      Autonomous Women's Center in Belgrade, September '99.

      These examples are here first of all to say that the line between national
      feelings and nationalism are slippery and that national feelings in the
      context of fascism that uses nationalism for its aim can be dangerous. In
      Serbia, fascist system is using the national feelings as its food. The
      system produces the national feelings and then uses them for fear, control
      and hatred of Others. If that is true, it means that it is difficult to
      have any national feelings at the moment and not be part of the nationalist
      discourse. Second, the examples show that fascism that uses nationalism
      in Serbia is permanent and persistent and unavoidable, it is almost
      impossible to not be nationalist in a state like this. It is almost
      impossible to have national identity and not be nationalist. The force of
      fascism is so strong that the question here is what are feminist counter
      forces that enable us to survive free of fascism? How do we use feminist
      politics in order to construct the reality we live in, which is already
      destroyed by fascist manufacture of falsification, in order to construct
      our feelings and identities?

      COLLECTIVE GUILT - INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY?

      If we belong to a state or nation that produces terror, where is our
      collective responsibility? Do guilt feelings push us to act and move if we
      identify them as a process and as a continuum that has different emotions
      behind them?

      I told once in '96 to a friend from Belgrade who was going to Sarajevo:
      'Before you talk to women tell them who are you, what were you doing during
      the war in Bosnia and how do you feel about the fact that Serbian soldiers
      kept three and half years this city in siege.' She was so furious and said
      ' I haven't done any of that shooting! Why should I excuse myself for the
      criminals who are oppressing me here in Belgrade as well?'

      This example is a most frequent answer in Belgrade to the issue of
      collective responsibility. Usually there is a liberal attitude behind this
      answer, we are all equal, I treat them equal and I want the others to treat
      me so. Unfortunately we miss part of the truth in this attitude.
      Therefore we can always end up in the circle of misunderstandings and the
      circuit of culpabilization, the circle of making each other guilty: I
      will defend myself and then the other will accuse me, then I will accuse
      someone else, or them.... One way of not taking responsibility is to
      enter in this circuit.

      Second way to not take responsibility is to draw oneself into guilt
      feelings. Guilt feelings are on the other side of making each other
      guilty, and apart from fear, are most widespread feelings among women in
      and around the war zones.

      "I would stand in front of the window and watch the planes and the bombs
      falling and think 'It must be that I am guilty for this horror, these
      bombs have to kill me.'" These are words of a woman who was living in
      Bosnia during the war, told in '95.

      " During the war in Bosnia some of us from the peace groups thought that we
      are so guilty by sitting here in Belgrade and not being bombed, that the
      only way to finish with our guilt would be to go to Sarajevo under the
      grenades, and be killed". Words of a peace activist in Belgrade, told in
      '96. There are books written about the guilt feelings of people in the
      concentration camps and prisons, there are stories told of White
      feminists feeling guilty about the Black women... but I will now only
      touch few dilemmas about the guilt feelings encountered among some
      activists in the peace movement in Belgrade.

      The history of experience of guilt feelings for some of us in Belgrade says
      that we started with a decision that the guilt feelings will not exhaust
      the notion of our responsibility, individual and collective, and will not
      freeze our possibilities. Some of us around Women in Black group announced
      in '92: Let's transform the guilt feelings into language and action. This
      somehow implied that we should get rid of guilt feelings and do something
      about them. It was a very productive attitude and feminists from
      different groups were working on many projects all during the war in Bosnia
      and Croatia: with refugees, with sending packages to women in Sarajevo,
      with survivors of war, with humanitarian aid, with women raped in war, with
      founding new women's groups, etc. Probably after this first phase of being
      active, many women went through different other phases, because some of the
      guilt feelings did not go, of course. Many worked on their guilt feelings
      in the way that they have decreased them, others worked so that they let
      their guilt feelings float around while they are searching other emotions
      behind the guilt, third got tired of so much guilt feelings and are taking
      the opposite side, they are angry... etc.
      The question here is: how do we connect guilt feelings with collective
      responsibility?

      I want to introduce the idea of the politics of knowledge of difference. I
      believe that feminists who want to know and know about the crimes done to
      the Other and to Us, can decide. That the knowledge about ourselves and
      the others can on one side help us deal with our guilt and on the other
      side help us understand what is a collective responsibility. This
      knowledge implies wanting to know the crimes done by one's own regime, or
      by any government or military formation. This knowledge implies that out
      politics is to ask, to listen, to hear, to search the news, to listen long
      into the nights different radio news... and in it's essence it is already
      an anti-fascist act, because fascism does not want us to know. Fascism is
      rising on falsification, lies, oblivion, erasures. Therefore it is not
      easy to know what are the crimes done, and what are the feelings like,
      because fascism means manufacturing falsifications of reality permanently.

      For example, in my building of 6 floors and 32 flats I believe that not
      more than four or five people know that there were concentration camps in
      Bosnia in '92. which were organized by Serbian militaries. It is true
      that all activists from Women in Black do know this fact, but it is not
      necessarily true that all feminists or activists of women's network know
      this. In fact many do not.

      If we know about the crime against the Other, and crimes against Us, if
      we know about the pain of the Other and our pain - these facts lead to
      ethics of our decisions, of our language, of our acts, of our emotions.
      By knowing all - that is one way how we can come to collective
      responsibility. What I want to say is that the politics of knowledge of
      difference can inspire ten thousand acts, small and symbolic, and empathic,
      and linguistic, and passionate that will show the collective responsibility
      that one has a decision of. And collective responsibility is important for
      communicating between each other, for projecting lives where we shall meet,
      the different with the different.

      RELATING TO WOMEN IN DEPRIVILEGED POSITIONS

      How do you approach a woman who belongs to a national group that at the
      moment, or from ever, is in a diprivileged position? Do you put her in
      victim position, do you treat her as equals, or we find the third way of
      relating to her as equal with the knowledge of difference?

      In relating to women in depriviliged position we have at least three types
      of approaches. One is so called liberal approach which says: We are all
      equal, therefore women from Pristina and Sarajevo as well with those from
      Belgrade and Paris. There is nothing more or nothing less to this fact.
      This attitude excludes the whole dimension of painful difference between
      them. For example, a woman in Pristina, if she was closed down in her
      flat and was put in a position of a victim, forced to go through trauma,
      is not equal with those who do not have these political facts behind them.
      The difference is in her experience, in the history behind her name and
      her body and her nation and this difference changes the meaning of the
      truth of equality. She is equal but different in a way that this
      difference has to be part of this equality.

      On the other hand there is a charity approach which sees others who have
      suffered as those who are victims to be helped. This attitude implies the
      difference in power between the two sides, and leaves victims to be always
      in the position of victims to be soothed. For some moments, and in very
      difficult situations of war and poverty, this attitude can lead to
      immediate help which is the most needed in that moment. But this does
      not lead to feminist attitude to women, since the equality is never reached.

      So, how do we create approach which is neither of these two. How do we
      approach the Other who is different with a knowledge of her difference,
      with open spaces for her experience and history, and vulnerability, with
      open spaces for our experience and listening, and still keep equality as
      basis of our encounter?

      Again and again I ask, if we know that a woman we face is back from a
      traumatic experience of war of killers who came from the same town as
      yours, how do you approach her? You know her trauma is a political fact
      and is connected to the nationalists in your town. She is sensitive to
      your language, to your name to your recent history. You are not part of
      the killers gang, but? What collective responsibility you take? Are we
      two equals? The one in Kosovo hidden 77 days from Serbian policemen, or
      the other in Bosnia hiding 1033 days from Serbian snipers. How shall I be
      equal with her and not erase her history of discrimination and
      vulnerability? How shall I act with understanding but not with
      victimization? How do I give her the space to talk and space for myself
      to hear her? Because she is equal and she is injured at the same time, and
      I might be injured somewhere else as well, I have my 77 days of NATO
      bombing, but I must not let my injury erase the possibility to hear her
      injury. What I am saying now is that we need to give space for our and her
      pain and not enter ourselves in the victim position even though we do have
      experience of victims, and not put her in the victim position even though
      her experience was of a victim. It is all possible. So the knowledge of
      difference, of mine and hers at the same time with my position of equality
      is one of the ways for us feminists to approach women of different
      nationalities, of different discrimination histories or war traumas.

      These spaces we give to each other are important on all levels. There is
      never a criminal who will come to the victim and say, Yes I have done a
      crime, I apologize. That is one of the reasons why the War Crime Tribunal
      is set up for wars in Ex Yugoslavia, why the International Criminal Court.
      So that international institution will give recognition of the crimes done
      to people. But feminists do small tribunals - workshops for women.
      Workshops enables recognition process, some women are talking, others are
      listening. Hearing other is not only a process which gives me knowledge,
      but also a process which gives recognition of the Other. The politics of
      the knowledge of difference is based on listening, hearing and recognizing.
      This is one part of feminist politics that is important in the wartime.

      This politics of the knowledge of difference, on the other hand, is made of
      the common grounds between us, of what is similar between the different, of
      what is similar that we have in our stories, histories, in our feelings,
      and there always are common points.

      The politics of knowledge of difference means that we should give value to
      the right to be equal on one side and to emotions of Others on the other
      side. This also applies to us in the same way we apply it to others: we
      are giving to ourselves the right to be equal whatever is the context, the
      one of pain or the one of no pain in our history. We are giving ourselves
      the spaces to hear ourselves as much as to hear the others, as much as to
      be heard. Remembering the fact of common grounds.

      What does this politics of knowledge of difference mean in the context of
      Belgrade activists in the spring of '99 when the NATO bombing was the fact
      of Belgrade and ethnic cleansing the fact of Kosovo?

      Some feminists started from the fact of the crimes. There were two
      different situations at the same time, the knowledge of two different
      crimes. One over Us, other over Others. The ethics of responsibility
      which is part of our politics lead us to take care of ourselves as much as
      the others in the same time. If we have a political decision that we are
      equal in Belgrade and Pristina, and we also have a decision to know the
      hierarchy of crimes, then we had a political starting point for acting:
      Not to exclude the others and not to exclude ourselves, and to act upon
      that. In the Autonomous Women's Center, where I work, activists were
      giving support to women in Serbia and women in Kosovo all during the 77
      days of war.

      During the NATO bombing the Serbian fascist ideology erased the fact that
      the cleansing in Kosovo is done, therefore every act of taking care of
      Albanians of Kosovo was an anti-fascist act. If we also know that the
      fascism of Serbian regime brought the NATO in the region on the first
      place, then every act of taking care of ourselves can be interpreted as an
      anti-fascist act as well.

      at the end

      At the end I want to say that after eight years of wars and nationalism
      and fascism it is clear that fascism lies on producing oblivion,
      forgetfulness and erasing of the Other, as well as on hatred and mistrust
      of the Other. Fascism lies on falsification of reality I live in, on
      falsification of my needs and my desires, on making obstacle to almost
      every beauty I want. This is why I think it lies on us feminists to know
      better, to enter the process of responsibility, to have knowledge of
      fascist system and knowledge of ourselves, who are we, what do we ask, who
      are the women behind the Other, what do they do, how do they feel, what
      they expect from us, what did they feel about us during the war, what did
      we feel about them during the war. I believe in the politics of getting
      to know the difference between us, between each woman individually and
      collectively, I believe that this politics of knowledge of difference is
      one way out of clearing fascism from ourselves and approaching ourselves
      and others with joy of hearing each other.

      Belgrade, October '99
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