Bosnian born of wartime rape seeks his parents
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.
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.