Introductory remarks by former Bosnian teacher and peacemaker Jasminka Drino Kirlić at the conference ‘From war to sustainable peace: solidarity dialogue between Ukranian and Bosnian women activists’ on 8 June.
My dear colleagues, I hope this country and the city of Sarajevo, that have neither lost their humour nor their spirituality, become a chance for us to exchange experiences and by learning from each other inspire one another with ideas on how to work and promote peace.
I want you to keep in mind that not all women have the privilege to be with us, and that many of them are suffering in this very moment.
My name is Jasminka, and I come from a small community that is ethnically divided. Sometimes it feels like I live in a virtual reality, just like on Facebook. I meet people, we say hi, it is like pressing the “like” button, but we never engaging in a dialogue. We never have coffee, we simply say hi and pass each other.
I have been given a task to talk about peace and peace building. Let me tell you one thing, the word reconciliation agitates me. To me it feels like you die, or you lay down silently and do nothing, like going to Paradise where everything is peaceful and quite. You have everything, but you do not have yourself. You have eternity but at the same time you are a human being. I do not understand that. Somebody hoaxed us into it. I rather choose “peace building”.
But I do not want to make it too simple, so I ask questions all the time.
How do we reconcile after such difficult wounds? Who is to reconcile? Me upon who the harm has been inflicted or me that inflicted the harm?
Is it enough to work individually? Or should we all work together, groups, civil society organizations, politicians, the business world?
Do we share a common ground when we say that we all want peace?
Do they take us peace builders seriously when we say that we work on building a sustainable peace, do they understand what we mean when we say that we are not asking but demanding to participate?
I want a peace in which I can realise all my rights. I want to participate in building the peace in my country, and in the region, and I want to be responsible for that peace, in all segments of the society. I do not want to be outside, because if I am outside then I do not have any responsibilities either.
The world is absurd. While building peace we negotiate and engage in dialogues with people that are deeply involved in wars and unrests, but we have to include everybody capable to contribute to ending the violence, we have to take them seriously as well if we want to achieve our goals. No enemy must remain an enemy, because I deeply believe that it is in everybody’s interest to live a better life, no matter how naïve that sounds.
So how do we avoid looking at each other across trenches?
How willing are we women to avoid labelling in the process of building peace? How ready are we to build our future on things that connect us… and many things connect us, if nothing else then the right to life.
We the women, we loose and suffer so terribly in wars.
I am a peacemaker. And they have asked me “what is that”?
Let me tell you what that is – that is when I do not accept things that are forced upon us, that is when I am nobly radical.
Being nobly radical means that I will tell you every time I disagree with you and at the same time I will not see you as my enemy.
I am a radical peacemaker because peace, for me, has no alternative. I want to share responsibility, I want to participate, I want to be asked, and I will not turn the other cheek around so that you can slap me in the face – just because I am a peacemaker. Do not underestimate my strength!
Women of Bosnia and Herzegovina were caught by the war, they were scared, but they recovered fast and accepted to be a helping hand, to nurture the wounded, to cross the lines, to connect people and while doing that we did not see that the peace was “built” in front of our eyes, by the hand of former warriors. Dayton came as a slap in the face. We said “as long as they are not shooting”. I said it as well.
We missed out on the peace talks!
But how can you build a country without women? Oh, it is possible; we in Bosnia know it all to well.
So we did not participate in peace negotiations. Where are we now, we must ask ourselves? What are we doing about that? It is up to us to answer that question and to try to share some of our experiences with the women of Ukraine.
The antifascist resistance is our heritage, our heritage is participation in partisan unites, our heritage are also academic and political carriers, as well as suffering and working against the patriarchal matrix!
I cannot decide which period in my life was more difficult – the war or now. The warriors have become the stable pillars of our society “in peace”. So they try to trick us with reconciliation while they shoot at us from all available arms – educational, religious, political, parliamentarian, sexist.
To them we are “ladies” on the 8 March, and bitches when we demand they respect others and ours rights.
“Do not talk to me about love and reconciliation” said a friend of mine.
Peace is not a hoax; peace is not “as long as it is not shooting”. Peace demands strategies, ideas, thinking – with whom, against who and what?
Peace will not wait. Somebody else will take it if we wait. Peace is not “please”; peace is “I demand”.
Have women in Bosnia and Herzegovina developed a joint platform for action, have we risen against all forms of rights violations, have our female politicians in whose capacities we have invested, responded to our demands?
As much as you may think that everything in Bosnia is politicized, I will disagree. Our political life to me looks like reconciliation.
My experience teaches me that politics is not “being part of a political party”. I tried that, I tried to act within the domain of a political party, but I could not accept the political fundamentalism through which party ideology are not questioned but instead accepted as a given.
So I left, because I believe in a peace form below. In a peace built with ordinary people, with neighbours.
Let’s politicise peace!
In this country we have not seen a convergence of our interests and goals when it comes to the peace and what kind of peace we want for this country. Have we, through our civil societies and as individuals raised our voices against the segregation in schools, against the “historical facts” about the war, against the religious teachings in schools that divide our children, against the so called “left wing” parties that keep silent about social problems, poverty?
Have we raised our voice and said no to the neo-fascist groups and individuals, against my hero and your villain? Have we spoken about that? Have we spoken about the fact that peace building here has become a project with life duration of only couple of months?
Building peace is a struggle and there are so many different choices of action.
Let us politicise this, let us introduce political action in the local communities. For me, political consciousness is the same as my consciousness about belonging to a local community, to the community where I live and where the everyday problems are also my problems. That is what I want to share and discuss.
To me it is perfectly clear that I cannot accept the things that are delivered to us as unquestionable. To me it is unacceptable to accept the politics of actively creating principles upon which this society lives, a politics in which women and men must act within a predefined matrix – which are never questioned.
We must take responsibility before they start putting the blame on us.
If we were part of the war, and we were through different activities, and if we could after the war engage, talk, act, learn, take to the streets, then we can also agree on a common feminist platform for action.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina we have both women and men that work on building the peace. We have achieved a lot, our actions have had an affect on those responsible.
Many young women have published their work and research.
What I noticed during all these years is that it was easier to work immediately after the war, at least with younger generations. What did we oversee?
We need new strategies, new ideas. How to take it from here?
There are no recipes for peace activism; peace activism is not cooking with already defined measures. Each country is specific, the activism and its forms are sought in each countries culture, tied to the specific needs of the people in that country, and everything we do must be done with peace in mind. We must set an example trough our work, and try to transfer our knowledge.
We cannot satisfy ourselves with just talking about peace, peace is a learning process, it has its theory, and it is brought forward by the immense experience of women and men that are peacemakers.
Peace is about building up a country after war, peace is about minimizing violence – the one we see and the one that is structural. Peace is deconstruction of a matrix within which we build relationships with one another, in all spheres of life.
Peace is non-violent action, it is action against injustice, and peace is to open up the discussion about the most difficult parts of our lives and point to problems. Peace is prudence; peace is creativity in finding solutions. Peace is about building trust and restoring the sense of solidarity amongst us. Peace is when we constantly, and I mean constantly, ask ourselves “do I live peace”, “am I in peace with myself”, “what can I do”, “what are my fears and dilemmas”, “with whom will I build peace and how”?
Working on peace can be done through different modalities. As one of my friends said “we travel by different trains in one direction, we do not all have to take the same train, it is not even desirable, but at least once we should waive to each other”.
And just to make sure I do not forget it – even when the peace agreement is signed, the war did not go anyway. It is in the heads, in the threats, in the fears, in the weapon, in voting ballots…
What do I think is lacking with peace building in Bosnia?
I work locally. I am disobedient. I take risks. A lot of times I feel alone and depressed, I loose air. I need support, I need a dialogue with others, I need them to encourage me and make me stronger.
So I struggle with the question how to connect, how to connect with you?
This is the best audience I will ever have, so I want to say that I see a better future with these young women. And they need a “house” to go to. So I think that we need an institute, and institute for peace. BiH deserves it. We deserve it because of our experience. We have plenty of young women and men that are highly educated, those among us that belong to older generations have hands on experience, we can share that, we can share our work, and together we can search for new and improved forms of peace building. And put it in writing.
Until then “do not talk to me about love and peace”.