Mental trauma of Kosovo rape victims difficult to treat
April 17, 1999
From Correspondent Eileen O'Connor
TIRANA, Albania (CNN) -- She is a Kosovar medical student who can only be identified by a nickname -- Mer. Her family remains behind as she goes from refugee to refugee, undertaking one of the most difficult missions of war.
Mer is gathering evidence of war crimes committed against the people of Kosovo -- particularly rape.
"I take their names and their ages and the dates," she explained.
The stories she hears are horrifying.
Vassar, for example, was not a victim of rape, but an eyewitness. Told by Serb police to leave her home, she gathered her young boys and left the small town of Drina on the family tractor. They joined a column of other families that was approached by Serb militiamen outside of Djakovica.
Soldiers in uniforms, with red and gray kerchiefs on their heads, rounded up the young women, Vasser said. Later, Vasser and the others left the column to try to find the young women. She said she saw the girls lying in a field where the soldiers were raping them.
Vassar and her neighbors were forced to return to the line. The girls came back later, she said, with their clothes in shreds.
These kinds of accounts from witnesses, Mer said, are too common to ignore. But accounts from actual victims are nearly impossible to find. The shame that keeps rape victims silent even in the West is especially acute among these Muslim families. Often victims who do come forward will describe incidents stopping just short of rape.
Vilora Gegar said she was taken at gunpoint by Serb police several weeks ago, before fleeing her country.
"They told me to take my clothes off," she said. "I refused."
The Serb police held her by her hair and beat her, Gegar said, taunting her by saying she should get the Americans to protect her. She said she still has back pain from the blows of rifle butts.
Gegar's cousin said she witnessed four young girls taken away by Serb militiamen wearing masks.
"They were sisters between 19 and 25 years old," she said. "Only their father was left. We came here and I never saw them again."
International doctors seeing refugees at makeshift clinics or hospitals in the Albanian border town of Kukes said they have seen girls so traumatized that the doctors suspect they were raped -- but they cannot ask.
As Dr. Jeff Colyer explained, it is simply not appropriate for a Western male to bring up the subject with the ethnic Albanian women.
Many refugees who make it across the border enter the hospital suffering from severe dehydration and exposure. Their psychological needs become secondary.
But international investigators and doctors in the Kosovo refugee camps said it is difficult to have any doubt that the violation and rape of women has become a weapon of choice in Kosovo, as it was during the Bosnian conflict.
U.S. holding Yugoslav officer as POW
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
LATEST HEALTH STORIES:
Affordable drug reduces mother-to-child HIV transmission, study says
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.