A United Nations report issued yesterday contends that sexual violence against ethnic Albanian women has increased significantly since NATO began bombing Yugoslavia on March 24.
Dominique Serrano-Fitamant, a woman who interviewed many of the rape survivors for the U.N. Population Fund report, said the incidence of violence has shown “a significant upsurge.”
According to reports, Serbian soldiers are targeting young, pretty women and pregnant women for rape. The young women are usually kidnapped in small groups and driven to houses where the soldiers live. They are then locked up for several days or more and repeatedly raped and beaten. “Any resistance is met with threats of being burned alive,” said Serrano-Fitamant.
According to her interviewees, young women have not been the sole targets of Serbian soldiers. Kosovar men who tried to stop the rapists were killed and at least one woman who tried to stop the soldiers from torturing her daughters was beaten to death. Another woman was shot in the street as she tried to escape from the house in which she was tortured.
Serrano-Fitamant’s interviewees reported that in the border town of Berlenitz, Serbian soldiers had slit the throats of young boys, cut open the stomachs of pregnant women, and skewered the women’s fetuses on their knives. Some women said that the trauma they suffered as a result of the soldier’s violent acts had rendered them “dead” to their families. Many feared that their families or communities would reject them because they had been raped.
U.N. Population Fund Executive Director Dr. Nafis Sadik said that his and other U.N. agencies will provide counseling training to health workers and Albanian women’s groups in order to help survivors “regain their dignity as human beings.”