Bosnia War Crimes: Doctor describes nightmare of victims: Robert Fisk, in Mostar, gathers detailed evidence of the systematic sexual assaults on Muslim women by Serbian 'White Eagle' gunmen

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The Independent Online
SENAD SARIC believes that the rape victims of Kalinovik were lucky. 'They (the women) were supposed to be held for much longer, until many of them were pregnant and too late for their pregnancies to be terminated,' the doctor said as he sat by the operating theatre of Mostar's 'War Hospital'.

'Fortunately, they were freed after two months, in time for us to carry out abortions. I carried out seven of these, my colleagues in Jablanica a number of others. What else could we do? It was our duty as doctors to look after our patients.'

Dr Saric, himself a Muslim, was the local doctor for many of the rape victims long before they were forced to endure the horrors of Kalinovik; a native of Gacko, he was thus able to visit both the women and their husbands after they were reunited.

'The husbands understand what happened and they have accepted the facts,' Dr Saric continued. 'Most of them are soldiers. Their duty is to fight. They do not know the men who raped their wives. There is nothing they can do now. It is worse for the unmarried girls. They come from very patriarchal families. Some of them cannot tell their parents what happened and have no one to discuss it with, but we try to help them in every way.'

Along with four other doctors, including a psychologist, a specialist in internal diseases and a paediatrician, Dr Saric, who is a gynaecologist, is trying to form a 'post-rape' team in Mostar to help the victims of the camp and wants to open a local bank account to raise funds for them.

'Some of the women still have nightmares and we have to go on seeing all of them to help them through this period. It is important that they know how much sympathy there is for them. It is also important that the world knows what happened to them.'

In his office the doctor has amassed documents on all the women held at Kalinovik, their dates of birth, the number of times they were raped, details of missing women and the names of Serbs who carried out the assaults. He believes that the rapes were a war crime carried out with the specific purpose of inseminating the women.

'This was done systematically,' he said. 'It is a plan. Firstly, the rapes are to keep the women out of their villages, to prevent them ever going back. These are Muslim women and the rapists were trying to kill their personality by forcing them to have children. It is not just a physical crime against a woman. It is also a psychological crime.'

The survivors of Kalinovik are brave women. They are anxious that their suffering should be recorded and draw strength from the courage they showed in captivity. Emira and Ziba - they are their real names although they asked that their families should not be identified - recalled their experiences with a remarkable vein of humour, able to laugh at their own survival and at Emira's courage in keeping a hidden diary. Ziba's husband, an intelligent young man with an open smile who is on a short leave from the Bosnian Muslim army, played with their two children as his wife described her ordeal.

'The husbands were very upset, but only for a short period,' said Dr Saric. 'As gynaecologists we did our job and as doctors we now have to help 'resuscitate' the women within their families. It will take a long time.'