Bos­nian born of wartime rape seeks his par­ents

The China Post - - FEATURE - BY RUSMIR SMAJILHODZIC

Alen Muhic, aban­doned at birth by his Mus­lim mother who was raped by a Serb sol­dier dur­ing the Bos­nian war of the 1990s, went on a quest two decades later to find his bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents.

His painful and dra­matic search was cap­tured in a pow­er­ful doc­u­men­tary that has made him the first “in­vis­i­ble child,” as those born of rape in wartime Bos­nia are called, to pub­licly re­veal his story.

“I sim­ply needed to learn the truth, dis­cover who they are, why she aban­doned me and why he did what he did. He com­mit­ted a war crime,” Muhic told AFP af­ter the re­cent pre­miere of the film, “An In­vis­i­ble Child’s Trap.”

Muhic’s bi­o­log­i­cal mother fled to the United States af­ter his birth, while his fa­ther was first tried and con­victed of the rape, but a year later was ac­quit­ted of the crime.

Th­ese days the stocky, greeneyed Muhic, 22, works in the eastern Bos­nian town of Go­razde as a nurse in the same hos­pi­tal where he was born and adopted in 1993.

The doc­u­men­tary, which also in­cludes dra­ma­tized se­quences, deals with Muhic’s “dou­ble iden­tity — ge­netic and adop­tive,” its Bos­nian direc­tor Sem­sudin Gegic told AFP.

“In­ter­na­tional hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions la­bel chil­dren born of wartime rapes ‘in­vis­i­ble,’” he said. “I de­cided to make a movie in which Alen be­comes vis­i­ble.”

Gegic stressed that Muhic was only “one of thou­sands of chil­dren con­ceived by sex­ual vi­o­lence in con­flicts through­out the world.”

Weapon of War

Muhic’s mother was living in the vil­lage of Mil­jev­ina in east Bos­nia when she was as­saulted by a mem­ber of Bos­nian Serb forces who had seized the area.

She gave birth in Fe­bru­ary 1993 and re­fused to even look at the baby boy. By then she and other Mus­lims had been forced out of their vil­lage as part of the Serbs’ “eth­nic cleans­ing” op­er­a­tion.

The woman, in her 30s at the time, later fled to the United States, where she got mar­ried and is now the mother of two boys, Gegic said.

Her name is not re­vealed in the film be­cause she was a pro­tected wit­ness in the war crimes trial against the sol­dier, whose iden­tity is un­veiled in the movie.

The 1992-1995 war in multiethnic Bos­nia be­tween Mus­lims, Croats and Serbs claimed around 100,000 lives, the blood­i­est con­flict in the break-up of the for­mer Yu­goslavia.

The mass rape in Bos­nia of mostly Mus­lim women, es­ti­mated at over 20,000, fur­ther height­ened global con­cerns of rape as a weapon of war or geno­cide, fol­low­ing the dev­as­tat­ing vi­o­lence against women in Rwanda’s 1994 massacre.

Only 61 chil­dren have been doc­u­mented as be­ing born of wartime rape in Bos­nia and aban­doned, ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted by a lo­cal non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion, “Women Vic­tims of War.” The true num­ber is be­lieved to be much higher.

Adop­tion and For­give­ness

When Muhic was seven months old he was adopted by a jan­i­tor who worked at the hos­pi­tal where he was born. Muharem Muhic and his wife Ad­vija, now in their 60s, also have two daugh­ters.

“To­day I’m a happy man be- cause I was adopted by a great fam­ily. They raised me as if I was their own child and gave me all their love,” Alen Muhic said.

He first learned of his painful past dur­ing a fight at school when a child taunted him, say­ing Muharem and Ad­vija were not his real par­ents.

“My par­ents then told me the truth. I was an­gry, but now I know that they wanted to pro­tect me,” he said.

In a so­ci­ety still torn apart by ha­tred among its three main eth­nic groups — Croats, Mus­lim and Serbs — many did not ap­prove of adopt­ing such a child.

“They told my par­ents that Serb blood was flow­ing in my veins, and that when I grew up I would slaugh­ter them. I made this movie also to prove them wrong,” said Muhic.

Dur­ing the mak­ing of the film a meet­ing be­tween Muhic and his bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents would prove elu­sive.

“The fa­ther avoided the meet­ing, but the mother came for­ward af­ter the movie was shown and told me that she wanted to meet Alen,” said Gegic.

The mother and son have yet to sit down to­gether, but when they do it will be filmed and added to the doc­u­men­tary.

Ini­tially fu­ri­ous at his mother for aban­don­ing him, Muhic’s feel­ings have changed with age.

“It’s not her fault that she was raped, that she aban­doned me. Maybe she could not bear the pain. It was a ma­jor trauma for her, a shock,” he said.

“I for­gave her,” said Muhic, but not the fa­ther.

His fa­ther was sen­tenced in 2007 by a Sara­jevo war crimes court to five and a half years in pri­son for rape. But the next year he was ac­quit­ted on ap­peal due to wit­nesses’ “con­tra­dic­tory state­ments.”

DNA tests car­ried out dur­ing the trial proved that he was Muhic’s bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther.

“I blame him be­cause no one pushed him to do that and he can­not be for­given,” Muhic said.

AFP

This photo taken on March 20, shows 22-year-old Bos­nian Alen Muhic look­ing on dur­ing a press con­fer­ence to an­nounce the pre­miere of the doc­u­men­tary film “An In­vis­i­ble Child’s Trap” in Go­razde.

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