Serbia's 'Muslim whore' will fight on: Torture has strengthened Danica Draskovic's opposition to President Milosevic, writes Marcus Tanner in Belgrade

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The Independent Online
HER face was ravaged by five weeks of prison beatings, and she is almost bent double by spinal injuries inflicted by Slobodan Milosevic's thugs. But now that she is out of jail, Danica Draskovic, wife of the Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, has promised to carry on leading street demonstrations until Serbia's nationalist leadership has fallen.

'I feel stronger than ever,' she said. 'Vuk may forgive them for what they did to us, but I never will.'

She wept as she recalled her prison ordeal at the hands of President Milosevic's bully-boys, after arrest on charges of instigating a riot outside parliament.

'I was dragged around the floor by the hair, punched in the face, kicked in the spine and kidneys and spat at by a gang of 30 policeman, who screamed, 'Muslim whore, we will drink your blood]' ' she said.

But even worse than the daily truncheon blows that sent her spinning across the floor of her windowless cell, she says, was the psychological torture of life in President Milosevic's dungeons. 'I had to watch them drag my husband into another room and listen to the sound of them beating him,' she said. 'I had to sit there and watch the police come out of that room one by one and wipe the sweat from their brows, exhausted from what they did to my husband. When I screamed 'Vuk', he called back, 'Oh Dana, I am good for nothing'. Then they took him away, and for a month I never saw him.'

It has been a strange odyssey for the 48-year-old Mrs Draskovic, from a childhood spent in a Serbian nationalist 'Chetnik' household in Montenegro, to a comfortable life as wife of a highly successful novelist, to solitary confinement inside Belgrade's fortress-like prison.

She cheerfully admits she once enjoyed la dolce vita, holidaying in the couple's luxury villa on the Montenegrin riviera and dressing in Italian designer clothes. But life as a social butterfly was not enough. 'I cannot stand injustice, I want to correct it and I am not afraid to do so,' she said. 'I must fight for a democratic Serbia, with a truly free opposition. In prison the guards called me a psychopath, because I was so rebellious.'

Many people in Serbia revile Danica Draskovic, not as a psychopath but as a traitor. She gained national notoriety for stridently denouncing the mass murder of tens of thousands of Muslims in Bosnia, lashing the Serbian forces who perpetrated such crimes and ridiculing mealy-mouthed Western politicians who have allowed it to continue.

It was then that this daughter of a long line of Serbian fighters was dubbed 'the Muslim whore'. But she regrets nothing. 'Those who have gone to war in Bosnia have betrayed Serbia's national interest and not I,' she said. 'It was never in Serbia's nationalist interest to go from house to house butchering Muslim women and children like General Mladic (the Serbian commander in Bosnia)'. She has her private reasons for fighting this injustice. Serbian Communists massacred her Serbian royalist relatives at the end of the Second World War.

The Draskovics were released last week under a pardon signed by Mr Milosevic. The apparent gesture of mercy followed diplomatic protests and a visit to Belgrade by Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the French President. But Mr Draskovic's pardon is only partial, and he could spend up to 10 years in prison for assaulting a policeman. The couple will need weeks in hospitals to recuperate.

If Serbia's leader thought he had terrified his most turbulent critics into silence, he miscalculated. Whatever her husband decides, Mrs Draskovic promised she will carry on marching against the man she calls Serbia's Ceausescu. 'I gained strength from seeing what a terrible dictatorship we have in Serbia. Before I would never have believed what I endured was possible. In Uganda yes, but in the middle of Europe - never.'

(Photograph omitted)

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