Muslim women 'gang-raped by Serbs'

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - Four Muslim women arriving in Sarajevo spoke yesterday of gang rapes, beatings, looting and arson by Serbs, many of whom were their friends and neighbours before war engulfed Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Three of the women, aged between 15 and 20, said they were among more than 100 women repeatedly gang-raped over seven days, after they were rounded up at a school in their home town of Rogatica.

They said they were victims of a Serbian 'ethnic cleansing' campaign to drive non-Serbs out of the town, where 12,000 Muslims once lived. 'I know the people who burned my house and stole my things and took me prisoner . . . They were my friends and neighbours,' one victim said.

The Serbs sent her and her 20-year-old daughter by bus to Sarajevo four days ago with about 300 other people held for a week at the school. Samira said she was taken from the school by armed men on the night of 1 August, driven around with a knife at her throat for three hours and then taken to the flat of a Serbian neighbour she named.

'First he raped me and then the others came - two men I didn't know - and they raped me too,' she said. 'He is married, he has two children, but he did this terrible thing to me.' She said she was raped four nights out of the seven she was held at the school, always at gunpoint around midnight.

'The first night they came to the school I tried to protect her and the other girls,' her mother said. 'But the men beat me and kicked me with their boots . . . there was nothing I could do.'

Two of Samira's friends who arrived with her in Sarajevo also said they were gang-raped. One girl, 15, said she was taken by armed men from the school on 30 July and hauled to the headquarters of a local Serbian military commander.

'He asked me questions about where Bosnian units were around the town and wanted to know if I would take a Serbian name,' she said. 'Then he took me to a flat and raped me . . . He said I was only for him and he wouldn't let another man touch me.' But she said she was raped on two other nights during the week at the school, once by three Serbian men she knew.

Her 17-year-old sister, said she was gang-raped on three occasions, twice on the floor of the school and once in a flat where five Serbian men assaulted her.

'They took me from the school on the night of 30 July and drove me to a building called Tejika where there are flats, and they took me inside and told me to take off my clothes,' she said. 'When I said no, they beat me until I made myself naked.'

The woman said the men then took her to a bedroom and queued to rape her. 'I know three of the men very well . . . They were my friends before the war, we spent time together in the cafe,' she said. She went on to name the men and said they were in their early twenties.

She also said she was made drunk on wine and then forced to sit on a mine. 'Now that we think about it we know there was no danger because the Chetniks (Serbian fighters) stayed in the room too. But at the time I was terrified,' she said.

Saida Ajanovic, a widow whose husband was killed in the fighting, said all the young women detained at the school, more than 100 in all, were raped, including mothers with children. 'My cousin, Dzananovic Safa, died at the school,' she said.

'She was a diabetic but the Serbs would not let her take her medicine.'