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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Abused Women of War

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Mayelinne De Lara
Mayelinne De Lara
DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions.

Interview with Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman: “For Me That Was My Day of Apocalypse – the Day That Felt like the Last of My Life”. In the picture Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman.

Mrs. Krasniqi Goodman, thank you for taking the time for this interview. As a new “face” in the Faces of Peace initiative, we would first like to ask you what “peace” means for you personally?

To begin with, I want to say thank you for taking the initiative and reaching out. I think peace is directly affected by two factors, those being the inner and outer factors.

Even though the outer factors are the ones with the bigger impact here, in terms of starting the process of building peace itself, in my opinion it all starts with inner peace. When an individual achieves peace within, this will ultimately lead to them resonating or transforming that into a general outer peace.

This, in turn, is a start to building world peace, a goal that seems too far away at the moment.

You were raped by two Serbs during the Kosovo War in 1999 – one of them was a police officer. What can you tell us about April 14, 1999? How did your life change in the days and weeks that followed?

For me, and surely many others, that was our “day of apocalypse”, the day that felt like the last of my life. As a 16-year-old child at the time, the fear I felt was terrifying and the lack of information about what was happening around me made it even worse. Sometimes we would watch BBC or CNN, and we would see the horrifying stories of massacres perpetrated by Serbian forces or the killings of infants. But I had little to no information about the rape cases that were occurring.

I remember when the officer took me by force while threatening me with a firearm. I was taken into his car and raped, I felt hopeless and devastated. After that he took me to a village, where a big group of people had gathered. They were laughing at me and threatening me, all while I was uncontrollably crying.

After that, another older man took me to a nearby house and I was raped there as well. He looked like a civilian but was carrying a handgun. Me and my family had already gone through a lot, and being raped only added to my emotional and physical wounds. That day broke my spirit and it felt like my life had lost meaning. For a long time I lived only because I had to!

You said in a TV interview two years ago: “I repeatedly begged the policeman to kill me, but he told me my suffering would be greater if he let me live”. Why would you have preferred to have died at the time?

It is true, after I was taken, I really believed they were going to kill me at first – they were doing that to a lot of people. I was already petrified; I knew bad things were going to happen, and they did. Begging to be killed was the best option I could think of. That option was better for me than all of the things and feelings I experienced. I just wanted it to end.

All the disgusting things they did to me that completely changed and broke my spirit. My virginity was taken away by a criminal; I just did not want to be alive in a reality where all this happened. But he had already made up his mind and, with truly evil purposefulness, he let me live knowing I would suffer more if I wasn’t dead. And I did!

Girls and women are being subjected to gender-based violence in armed conflicts worldwide. Why is it so important for courageous women, such as yourself, to speak out about it? Can you tell us what happened to the perpetrators?

Women in Kosovo were subjected to numerous crimes throughout the years. They were tortured by the Serbian forces, not because they were seen as the weaker sex, but because women are directly linked with the continuation of life and its prosperity.

The Serbian state apparatus targeted women repeatedly with the goal of affecting the population and causing them to flee the territories permanently. I believe this strategy is being employed in other parts of the world as well. In some places women are even taken as war prisoners by these terrifying “armies” and used to exercise their animalistic lusts.

In my case, I have repeatedly fought to bring those criminals to justice, but they still walk free, while I still seek justice.

While the physical scars heal at some point, the psychological ones linger for a much longer time. How have you processed the events of April 1999 – and are there moments when your past catches up with you?

My body wounds have healed. I did escape death, but my mind and spirit will never be able to fully rehabilitate, even though I always had support from my family and now from all over the world. Not a single morning goes by without me waking up and remembering that terrible event which happened to me – and over 20,000 other victims.

It is a heavy feeling to carry around and I can feel the tiredness of my soul. Being raped is something that imprisons you and it continues to hit you more and more every day. I can’t possibly imagine a more terrible comparable experience. Sometimes it feels that the life I lived was worthless because of it.

Now I have devoted my life to other men and women that have been through similar experiences to me, and me and my team will try as hard as we can to prevent such terrible crimes from ever happening again.

Hashim Thaçi announced his resignation as president of Kosovo in November 2020 following his indictment for war crimes by a Kosovo special court. In your opinion, are war criminals being pursued consistently enough?

Since the day after being raped, me and my family have been dealing with my case, we put a lot of faith in justice and actively pursued it. I would have never thought that an international organization such as UNMIK would not consider it their responsibility to bring justice for the crimes that happened in Kosovo.

They never even looked at our case, or any other cases for that matter. Even during EULEX’s mission in Kosovo later on, when we took my case to court in 2013, UNMIK stated they had lost my files. This resulted in EULEX finding the rapists not guilty, which was devastating for me and my family. I just want to say that during the UNMIK-EULEX period in Kosovo, we were not treated justly by these organizations.

The victims were further disappointed by “The Hague”, where not a single case was brought to justice. This is absurd! On the other hand, Kosovo has expressed a feeling of determination to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. We, the victims of the war in Kosovo, will still wait for our justice to come, even though it looks as if it is not coming our way. It is sad to see this happen, while those criminals now hold state positions in Serbia.

Mrs. Krasniqi Goodman, in an interview Dr. Mukwege also criticized international politics and declared violence against women to be something that “shames our common humanity”. What are your expectations of politics?

In our case the Serbian forces used rape as a “systematic weapon” to achieve their goals in many ways. What they did brings shame to Europe. How could Europe have allowed another European country to commit such crimes against other defenseless populations under its jurisdiction? These crimes provide ample evidence of some countries’ desire to destroy other populations.

I stand here despite their attempts to do so, while never letting myself get filled with hate or allowing my soul to give up because of the suffering. And I will continue to take steps towards – and advocating for – justice. The world needs to take these steps with me and serve proper punishment for these crimes in order to prevent future war rapes.

Source: Faces of Peace initiative | Faces of Democracy

About the Faces of Democracy and Faces of Peace initiatives

With almost 100 prominent figures from politics, business, the media and society – including the former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway Erna Solberg, the President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger – the Faces of Democracy initiative is now in its fourth year of existence.

The first “faces” of the 2019 founded Faces of Peace initiative are SIPRI Director Dan Smith, the Chairman of the Atlantic Brücke e.V. Sigmar Gabriel, the OSCE CiO 2019 and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Miroslav Lajčák and the Chief of Staff of the 69th Submarine Brigade of the Northern Fleet Vasili A. Arkhipov.

The Faces of Democracy and Peace in alphabetical order

Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Annalena Baerbock, Chairwoman of the Green Party of Germany
Bishop Dr. Georg Bätzing, Chairman of the German Bishops‘ Conference
Dr. Katarina Barley, Lead candidate for Germany’s Social Democrats
Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)
Hubert Barth, Country Managing Partner EY Germany
Dominik Bartsch, Representative of UNHCR in Germany
Holger Beeck, Chief Executive Officer McDonald’s Germany
Jörg Biallas, Editor-in-chief of „Das Parlament“
Stef Blok, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Wolfgang Bosbach, CDU expert on internal security
Prof. Dr. Peter Brandt, German historian and the first son of former chancellor Willy Brandt
Michael Bröcker, Editor-in-Chief of „Media Pioneer“
Rolf Buch, Chief Executive Officer of Vonovia SE
Tom Buhrow, Chairman of the ARD network
Giovanni Buttarelli, European Data Protection Supervisor
Stephan-Andreas Casdorff, Publisher of the leading Berlin newspaper “Der Tagesspiegel”
Piotr Cywinski, Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial
Shirin David, YouTube star and “Germany’s Got Talent” jury member
Detlef Dzembritzki, Chairman of the United Nations Association of Germany (UNA)
Saskia Esken, Leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD)
Georg Fahrenschon, President of the German Savings Banks Association (DSGV)
Peter Frank, Federal Public Prosecutor General at the Federal Court of Justice
Leonard Freier, Former RTL Bachelor
Fabrice Fries, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AFP
Dr. Clemens Fuest, President of the ifo Institute
Sigmar Gabriel, Chairman of the Atlantic Brücke e.V.
Yvonne Gebauer, Minister of School and Education in North Rhine Westphalia
Thomas Geisel, Mayor of Düsseldorf – the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia
Tom Gerhard, Actor and comedian
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, President of the Republic of Croatia
Alice Greenwald, President and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum
Thomas Greminger, OSCE Secretary General
Maria Großbauer, Organizer of the Vienna Opera Ball
Christiane Grün, Managing Director 3M DACH countries
Dr. John Hamre, President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies
John Harris, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of POLITICO
Dr. Reiner Haseloff, Prime Minister of Saxony-Anhalt
LTG Ben Hodges, Retired Commander of the U.S. Army in Europe
Reiner Hoffmann, President of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB)
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland
Dr. Gunnar Jeremias, Head of the Interdisciplinary Research Group for the Analysis of Biological Risks
Hans-Ulrich Jörges, Editor-in-chief of „Stern“
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
Bruno Kahl, President of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND)
Kersti Kaljulaid, President of the Republic of Estonia
Anja Karliczek, German Federal Minister of Education and Research
Daniela Katzenberger, Soap opera star
Fritz Keller, President of the German Football Association (DFB)
Dr. Hubertus Kolster, Managing Partner of CMS Germany
Ingo Kramer, President of the Confederation of German Employers‘ Associations (BDA)
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU)
Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman, Survivor of the Kosovo War and Activist
Miroslav Lajčák, OSCE CiO 2019 and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic
Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert, Chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and Former President of the German Bundestag
Martina Larkin, Head of Europe and Member of the Executive Committee of the World Economic Forum Davos
Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of North-Rhine-Westphalia
Dr. Jürgen Linden, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Charlemagne Prize
Christian Lindner, Leader of the Free Democratic Party in Germany (FDP)
Dr. Christian Lutz, Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Bahn AG
Heiko Maas, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dr. David Magerman, Managing Partner at Differential Ventures
Sandra Maischberger, Television journalist and talk show host
Aiman Mazyek, Secretary-General of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany
Ralf Martin Meyer, Police President of Hamburg
Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney
Benigna Munsi, Nuremberg Christkind 2019/2020
Namika, Singer-Songwriter
Dr. Irfan Ortac, Secretary-General of the Central Council of Yazidis in Germany
Boris Palmer, Lord Mayor of Tübingen
Prof. Dr. Volker Perthes, Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs
Ulf Poschardt, Editor-in-Chief WELT
Dr. Heribert Prantl, Member of the Chief Editorial Team of „Süddeutsche Zeitung“
Ernst Primosch, CEO of Edelman Germany
Q2/Grade 12 – Albert Einstein High School Kaarst
Alfred Theodor Ritter, Owner and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG
Dr. Daniel Röder, Founder of Pulse of Europe initiative
Annika Savill, Executive Head of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF)
Prof. Dr. Conrad Schetter, Director for Research at Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC)
Thomas Schnalke, CEO Düsseldorf Airport (DUS)
Olaf Schubert, Comedian and cabaret artist
Martin Schulz, German Social Democratic Party chancellor candidate 2017
Dr. Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany
Dan Smith, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway
Prof. Dr. Anja Steinbeck, President of Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Gabor Steingart, Founder and Publisher of the Media Pioneer Publishing GmbH
Dr. Johannes Teyssen, Chairman of the Board of Management of E.ON SE
Pia Tillmann, Actor and Influencer
Dr. Andreas Voßkuhle, President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
Dagmar Wöhrl, Investor at „The Cave of the Lions“
Joshua Wong, the Face of Hong Kong’s Democracy Movement
Brigitte Zypries, Former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy
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