Category: War

University of Bologna Student, Fabrizio Parrilli, Defends Master’s Thesis and Graduates

 

University of Bologna Student, Fabrizio Parrilli, Defends Master’s Thesis and Graduates

 

Thesis Excerpt

 

FROM “BROTHEROOD AND UNITY” TO HATRED AND CONFLICT: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE USE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE AS AN “ETHNIC CLEANSING” TOOL DURING THE WARS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA AND IN KOSOVO.

Chapter 2: UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLAINING CONFLICT-RELATED SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Sexual violence against women represents a frightening and horrifying social reality, a global burden, a violation of human rights that cannot be justified under any circumstance and by any political, cultural or religious claim. Unfortunately, it continues to pervade our societies and, in some conflict scenarios, its recurrence heightens and can reach high levels in terms of magnitude, number of victims and scope, to the point of making us feel annihilated.

In both ancient and modern times, the impact of the brutalities of a war environment extends far beyond the number of combatants and civilians who are violently affected. Paradoxically, armed conflicts are fought and won using different methods and techniques: first of all, in battlefields using conventional weapons such as firearms, bombs, grenades, drones and missiles over a protracted period of time; and, in addition, by employing strategic military campaigns as that of sexual violence (in all its nuances and forms). Since military strategies are designed to accomplish some larger objectives, Lisa Sharlach (2000, p.90) asserts that “rape [and other forms of GBV] may even be a shrewder military tactic than murder because rape is difficult to prove, there is no corpse left as evidence, and war crimes tribunals and domestic courts seldom prosecute soldiers for rape”. Susan Brownmiller[1] (1994, p.181) has for long time tried to explain and document the recurrence of sexual violence in wartime, claiming that female bodies have become another battlefield:

“Sexual sadism arises with astonishing rapidity in ground warfare, when the penis becomes justified as a weapon in a logistical reality of unarmed noncombatants, encircled and trapped. Rape of a doubly dehumanized object – as woman, as enemy – carries its own terrible logic. In one act of aggression, the collective spirit of the women and of the nation is broken, leaving a reminder long after the troops depart”.

 

As I am going to discuss and disclose in this chapter, during the wars in Bosnia and in Kosovo, innocent women of all ages belonging in most cases to the Bosnjak and the Kosovo Albanian ethnic groups have been conscientiously and overwhelmingly targeted by “Serbs” (i.e., Bosnian Serbs, Serbian Armed Forces, Yugoslav People’s Army [JNA – Jugoslavenska narodna armija][2], regular and irregular paramilitary groups and militias organisations). It is now well-known and acknowledged that the central aim of Serbian nationalists was to “ethnically cleanse” those territories lost, or on the way to secede, after the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) had collapsed in the beginning of the 1990s. The intent behind the employment of GBV was that of terrorising, weakening, and destroying an entire people because of the value and meaning that women have within certain traditional societies. Since women are believed to represent the centre, the honour and the sanctity of the family and the community, “by destroying the women, attackers are one step closer to wiping out their ethnic enemy”, declare Kristine Hagen and Sophie Yohani (2010, p.17). Here lies the peculiarity of the post-Yugoslav wars: the gross abuses of women’s human rights on a massive scale due primarily to ethnic and gender differences. These two characteristics are precisely what made Bosnjak and Kosovo Albanian women “eligible” for being sexually abused (Skjelsbaek, 2006).

In order to effectively counter the issue of CRSV, it is thus pivotal to understand the reasons behind its occurrence if we want to bring justice for victims, their families and communities, with the hope of helping the international community and national governments to implement further measures and plans on how these crimes are to be prosecuted and how victims are to be recognised as innocent victims of war, and protected thus from further psychological and physical harm, social ostracism and discrimination. However, the issue under scrutiny has only recently become a matter of public discussion among scholars, lawyers, politicians, psychologists, historians, and the whole international community. In fact, victims of CRSV are being ignored by history, despite being an active part of it. Perhaps, one of the reasons why this phenomenon continues to occur depends on the silence of the victims and the taboo for the society that keeps such atrocity hidden and buried.

  • Silence and taboo

“Maybe that’s their [Serbian] way of hurting Muslim women and Croatian women, and the whole female race. Killing them isn’t interesting enough for them anymore. It’s a lot more fun to torture us, especially if they get a woman pregnant. They want to humiliate us… and they’ve done it, too. Not just in my case, either, all the women and girls will feel humiliated, defiled, dirty in some way for the rest of their lives… I feel dirty myself somehow. And I feel as though everybody can see it when they pass me in the street. Even though it isn’t true, no one could know about it. But the humiliation is there”.

  • Sadeta, Bosnian Muslim girl, twenty-year-old at the time of the interview in July 1992 (Stiglmayer, 1994, p.96).

 

The cruelty of CRSV has been largely ignored, understudied, and not acknowledged as being politically and culturally significant until recently; it “has been one of history’s greatest silences” (UN Action, 2011, p.4). According to Ruth Seifert (1993, p. 9), in almost five decades the savagery of CRSV has never been a subject of discussion and understanding: history has usually “placed a cloak of silence over the atrocities committed against women”. Indeed, it took ages to become a priority concern for the whole world.

The callous treatment of women during armed conflicts all over the globe and throughout humankind history reveal the need for the imperative commitment to tackle the problem of GBV once and for all. The paradigm and theoretical shift in the universal understanding of the impact, the documentation, and the conceptualization of CRSV occurred at the beginning of the 1990s[3], exactly when the world came to know about the innumerable atrocities committed during the fratricidal wars in the former Yugoslavia and, to a greater extent, during the genocidal campaign in Rwanda[4]. These events, which occurred just after the collapse of the Cold War system, exposed the entire world to a kind of violence that was considered unimaginable to happen again after World War II’s experience of brutal crimes against civilians and entire communities. But the massive gender-based persecutions that occurred during World War II had been partially obscured.

The discovery of the Nazi concentration camps led the international community to adopt, in 1949, a series of Conventions (i.e., the Four Geneva Conventions[5], which define violations of human rights under three general headings: war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide), and, in 1977, the Additional Protocols[6], which establish international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in wartime:

  • The fourth Geneva Convention is the only one to mention “rape”. In Article 27 (UN, 1949, p.179), it states: “Women shall be especially protected against any attack of their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.”
  • Article 76 (1) – Protection of women – of Protocol I (UN, 1977a, p.282) provides that “Women shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution and any other form of indecent assault.”.
  • Article 4 (2, e) – Fundamental Guarantees – of Protocol II (UN, 1977b, p.2) prohibits acts that are considered “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault.”

However, in all of them, the act of sexual violence as a war crime, crime against humanity and genocide is not explicitly mentioned; it “is not designated as a ‘grave breach’ but only as a lesser abuse”, claims Miranda Alison (2007, p.82). Rhonda Copelon[7] (1994, p.200) argues that the concepts of “honour” and “dignity” of women used by the Convention and the Protocols are a core problem since they somewhat fail to recognise SGBV as a fundamental crime against women, as a “violence against a woman’s body, autonomy, integrity, selfhood, security, and self-esteem as well as her standing in the community”. Furthermore, this conceptualisation seems to give more weight to the chastity and virginity of women, as well as the traditional social view of “invisible” women within societies, rather than acknowledging a specific serious crime: “[w]here rape has been treated as a grave crime, it is because it violates the honour of the man and his exclusive right to sexual possession of his woman as property”, underscores Copelon (1994, p.200).

Indeed, one of the worst crimes documented in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda was exactly the systematic SGBV that achieved startling levels in terms of number of victims and organisation. Something never witnessed before. According to various data gathered by numerous international organisations (Geneva Declaration Secretariat, 2008, p.39):

  • in Bosnia, between 14.000 and 50.000 women of all ages were systematically raped, sexually assaulted, mutilated, tortured, in public spaces or in concentration camps (named “rape camps”) until death occurred; or held in domestic and sexual slavery for extended periods, and even forcefully impregnated and released only when abortion was no longer feasible.
  • In Kosovo, the estimated number of sexual abuses fluctuated from 23.200 to 45.600 between August 1998 and August 1999[8].
  • In Rwanda, the number of women victims of SGBV is estimated to have been ten times higher than in Bosnia – between 250.000 and 500.000 – and it happened in just 100 days from April to July 1994.

 

Despite it is almost impossible to record each case and to rely on such numbers, these estimates reveal the most brutal side of a conflict and how some military operations are so accurately planned and practiced. “Numbers are unprovable”, exemplified Copelon (1994, p.204); while Albana Gërxhi (2017, p.175) highlights that they remain just an estimation rather than real number of victims, on the one hand, because of “the difficult context on which such violence happens”, while, “on the other hand, many of the women victims of violence would not report their experience bearing the shame and most of the times feeling guilty of what experienced”. These feelings are usually accompanied with the possibility of being rejected by the family and the community after admitting the sexual abuse. In its valuable report on the conflict in Kosovo, the Independent International Commission on Kosovo[9] (IICK, 2000, p.91) found out that GBV – in particular rape – “is notoriously difficult to quantify statistically, due to societal inhibitions against reporting”. As underlined by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, “Kosovo: rape as a weapon of ethnic cleansing” (2000), the cultural stigma and women’s reluctance attached to rape further complicated the documentation efforts. In the case of Kosovo, HRW was able to discover “only” ninety-six credible accounts of rape, advancing that this figure represents only a fraction of the actual incidents that occurred. According to Zawati (2010, p.141), the conservative nature of the Muslim society was the reason why the cases of SGBV of Muslim women were under-reported and un-reported:

“In Muslim societies, including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, women are valued for their sexual purity. Sexual intercourse is forbidden outside marriage, and if a woman has engaged in unlawful sexual acts, even against her will, she will be blamed and judged by her family and society for this victimization. Of course, this attitude is due to customary and traditional values, not to Islamic teachings and rules.”

 

Namely, the testimony of forty-eight-year-old Munerva, a traditional Muslim woman who felt victim of the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign in Bosnia, allows us to comprehend the injurious effects on women of blaming themselves for being sexually abused, which cause them to internalise the feelings of shame and guilt and to keep the experience buried. Munerva was repeatedly raped at home while her three sons and a daughter-in-law were in the house:

“Then they [two Serbian soldiers] brought me to the other room. I squeezed my legs tight together. One of them was with me, the other one was waiting in the living room. I begged him and cried, and I crossed my legs. Then he took out his thing, you know, and he did it and it sprayed on me. When he was done the other one came and did the same thing, but I kept my legs crossed the whole time. When they left, my sons came out and found me in a complete mess. They asked me what happened: “What’d they do to you?” I said, “Nothing.” I couldn’t tell them about it, I really couldn’t tell them about it. I’d rather die than have them find out about it.” (Stiglmayer, 1994, p.101).

 

Given the above, in traditional as well as in modern societies the taboo of sexual violence – of sexuality in general – provokes the emergence of the “culture of silence” that maintains the topic hidden, at the margins of public attention and debate. Hence, it becomes more difficult to discuss it openly and loudly, and consequently to effectively counter the phenomenon. Skjelsbaek (2001, p.228) states that one of the main problems with the reliability of data lies precisely in the feelings that stem from the crime: “shame, guilt, fear and taboos keep victims and perpetrators silent and this poses a great challenge to outside analysts and it is precisely the same feelings of shame, guilt, fear and taboo which make sexual violence such an effective weapon”. In addition, it is quite logical that aggressors decide not to speak out about what they have committed with the fear of being accused of a barbaric crime, branded as criminals and then imprisoned. Likewise, government and military authorities never admit to encouraging the use of sexual violence or turning a blind eye to what happens within the territorial borders of their countries (Sharlach, 2000).

Nowadays, the silence and the taboo that have covered for so long the topic of CRSV has finally been broken, although some social stigmas are still present. Over the past few decades, many scholars from different fields of study[10], activists, advocates, lawyers, journalists, politicians, policy-makers, human rights organizations, and the international community, have become increasingly concerned about this dramatic plight. Notwithstanding, all those actors are accused not to give enough importance and priority to the issue and to come out to the surface “only at the emotional moment when the side in danger of annihilation cries out for world attention”, as declared by Brownmiller (1994, p.182). On the same line of reasoning, Howard Clark (2000, p.158) adds: “‘Something must be done’ was one of the dominant feelings of the 1990s when faced with media images from one ethnic conflict after another and victims crying out for international intervention”. In his insightful book “Civil resistance in Kosovo” (2000), Clark criticises the international community and illustrates how the world woke up too late when the war erupted in Yugoslavia and how the war in Kosovo could have been prevented if the international community had included the Kosovo Question into the peaceful stipulation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) in November 1995[11], and if it had listened to the several warnings of the Kosovo Albanian civil society and its non-violent movement[12]. Zawati too (2010, p.197) contends that the international community failed to prevent and rapidly stop the wars in the Balkans and in Rwanda, arguing that the myriad atrocities “were committed in the face of an international conspiracy of silence”.

Indeed, in the case of the post-Yugoslav wars there were initially few reports of what was happening to women. Seifert (1993, p.9) stresses out the fact that “the Red Cross and other humanitarian relief organizations have for a long time been informed about the existence of rape camps without bringing the scandal to public attention”. As a matter of fact, the first instances of massive SGBV were notified in spring 1992 by Independent Zagreb feminists, “but they were not taken seriously because they did not have a ‘clear national approach’” (Morokvasic, 1997, p.79). According to Mirjana Morokvasic (1997, p.79), “it was only when the nationalists of the warring parties grasped the propaganda value of women’s suffering that rape stories spread all over the media, both local and international”. On the same line of reasoning, Skjelsbaek (2010) suggests that it is highly likely that stories of sexual violence in Bosnia received more attention by the international media because it took place in Europe among white Western peoples. Instead, what appeared to be a systematic attempt at destroying a community[13] through the establishment of concentration and rape camps was publicly reported only as early as August 1992 by Roy Gutman[14], at the time journalist for the American newspaper Newsday. However, unlike in Bosnia where the occurrence of SGBV was strongly condemned, the situation in Kosovo did not receive the expected scrutiny it needed and revealed the lack of attention to women’s and girls’ needs (Kosova Women’s Network, 2011). Also, the IICK (2000) advocated greater emphasis on the gender dimension of humanitarian intervention, denouncing the insufficient attention paid to the use and impact of rape as a weapon of war during the war in Kosovo.

Thence, once the atrocities committed in Bosnia and in Rwanda were reported and revealed to the entire world, they achieved an unprecedented resonance which brought the issue to the global human rights agenda and into the consciousness of the people, leading to profound transformations in legal, cultural, political, and social understandings of the problem. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the culprits could no more be left unpunished. As a result, two “ad hoc” international tribunals[15] were officially set up in the 1990s with the aim of criminalising, for the first time in history, sexual violence in the context of an armed conflict under international law: the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) and the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda). The former represents the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. It was established precisely to prosecute perpetrators for serious violations of international humanitarian law (including mass killings, torture, methodical detention of civilians, rape, enslavement, forced pregnancy, and the practice of “ethnic cleansing”) committed within the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991 (UNSC, 1993c). On the other hand, the ICTR signalled a turning point into the international jurisprudence with the sentence of the “Akayesu” case, in which rape and sexual violence were defined as acts of genocide for the first time in history (ICTR, 2001).

Thus, the tribunals established a legal international precedent by indicting individuals solely for the crime of SGBV. Jefferson (2004) highlights that the great commitment and will of the international community to provide accountability for CRSV crimes indicate the substantial aim to deter similar future episodes. However, both international criminal tribunals received several critiques on account of the failure to meet expectations for establishing accountability and responsibility for the brutalities in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. Accordingly, Jefferson (2004, p.337) claims that “in terms of sexual violence prosecutions each criminal tribunal risks being remembered for what it missed doing, rather than for what it achieved”. There should be no safe haven for all the wrongdoers but, according to the number of individuals accused by the ICTY from 1996 to 2017 (ICTY, 2016), only 78 individuals on a total of 161 had charges of SGBV included in their indictments. Out of the 78 defendants, 32 have been convicted for their responsibility for crimes of SGBV, as defined under Article 7 (1) of the ICTY Statute[16]; and 4 of them were additionally convicted for failing to prevent or punish the actual perpetrators of the crimes, under Article 7 (3)[17] of the Statute. As one may discern, these numbers are shockingly low considering the hundreds of thousands of women sexually abused. “[T]he number of successful prosecutions has been paltry compared to the scale of the crimes”, reckons Jefferson (2004, p.326). Moreover, the tribunals have not given the appropriate support and protection to victims: “[d]uring trials, survivors of sexual violence are reported to have received inadequate witness preparation, and experienced aggressive cross-examination, which left them feeling re-victimised and humiliated” (Bastick, Grimm and Kunz, 2007, p.156). This caused disappointment among victims, women’s rights activists and other actors involved in the prosecution of SGBV.

The ICTY’s jurisdiction was also extended to Kosovo, despite the idea of establishing an international-led Kosovo War and Ethnic Crimes Court (KWECC) as the local arm of the ICTY was soon abandoned due to resistance from Kosovo Albanian lawyers and judges who feared lack of ownership in the future court as well as complications of an additional layer between the domestic judicial system and the ICTY (Amnesty International, 2008). With regard to the conflict in Kosovo, “of the hundreds, potentially thousands, of cases of alleged sexual violence, not a single perpetrator” has been convicted by the ICTY (Kosova Women’s Network, 2011, p.84). The very first conviction for CRSV in Kosovo has been issued by the Basic Court in Pristina in July 2021, against a former Serbian policeman, Zoran Vukotić, sentenced to ten years in prison for the acts of rape and his participation in the expulsions of ethnic Albanian civilians back in 1999 (Gashi and Bami, 2021). In addition, Adam Jones[18] (2006, p.366) points out to the controversy of the ICTY in ruling out war crimes prosecutions of North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) leaders “accused of attacks on civilian targets and other breaches of international law” during the Kosovo war.

The lack of provisions for the protection of women or their unequal application has led to the increasing report of allegations of GBV in wartime and to the adoption of numerous international humanitarian and human rights reports, documents, conventions, and resolutions. Nowadays, CRSV is explicitly and categorically prohibited by international law, and perpetrators are held responsible for committing such crimes. In 1998, amid trials of the ICTY and ICTR, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was created to try war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. For the first time in history, the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, elevated the acts of SGBV (committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population) to one of the most heinous war crimes ever:

  • in Article 7 (1) (g), it is stated that “rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity” are to be considered as crimes against humanity;
  • in Article 8 (2) (b) (xxii), the same forms of sexual violence as war crimes are labelled “grave breach of the Geneva Conventions” (ICC, 2011, pp.3-6).

 

However, it was not until 2008 with the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1820 (UNSC, 2008, p.3) that forms of GBV can also be recognised as “a constitutive act with respect to genocide”. Furthermore, the UNSCR 1820 (2008, p.3) calls forth States “to comply with their obligations for prosecuting persons responsible for such acts, to ensure that all victims of sexual violence, particularly women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice, and stresses the importance of ending impunity for such acts”. The adoption of all these resolutions represents a significant step towards the complete integration of gender concerns within international law and the recognition that CRSV is an abominable crime that challenge, on the one hand, the maintenance and promotion of peace and security and, on the other hand, the protection and safeguard of women.

Although the occurrence of CRSV has not been stopped and continues to be a commonplace, the establishment of the ICTY and ICTR “has subsequently led to a number of symbolic, procedural and substantive victories for both victims and gender justice” (Henry, 2014, p.95), and they “have paved the way for more refined understandings of sexual violence abuses in conflict” (Gërxhi, 2017, p.180). The phenomenon has since then become “a much-discussed subject in personal memoirs, journalistic accounts, films with Hollywood stars and human rights and activist campaigns” (Henry, 2014, p.94). In fact, a variety of movies, books, reports and documentaries on this phenomenon have been released in the past three decades. Recently, on 19th June 2015, the UNGA (2015, p.2) adopted the Resolution A/RES/69/293 which proclaimed the 19th June of each year as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict[19], “in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world and to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.” Furthermore, many CRSV-focused organisations[20] mushroomed over time and started to work together, share knowledge and expertise, provide support and help to victims of CRSV and their families, improve women’s livelihoods and restore their agency, gather precious documentation, to the extent that we have much more information about where these acts happen and who are the wrongdoers. It is worthwhile to mention that the documentation of CRSV (and other gross human rights violations and war crimes) would have never been reported by local and transnational NGOs, the UN, international organizations and the media, if the victims were not able to speak out about what they have gone through. It is only thanks to strong women that we have come to know what happens in certain contexts and situations. As a matter of fact, many international and regional reports draw “their conclusions from the most literal of sources: persons who have survived the atrocities and those who, perhaps not having been raped or tortured themselves, have witnessed the perpetration of atrocities on others”, in addition to women’s visible “scars” on their bodies, emphasises Beverly Allen[21] (1996, p.313-314).

The phenomenon will never be deterred unless and until victims’ stories are spread and heard. “People must hear the horrifying, think the unthinkable and speak the unspeakable”, emphasises Tompkins (1995, p.852). For many, testifying before a court requires great boldness, especially if they know that war criminals and their devotees are still out there somewhere and could still do great harm. Allegedly, when victims of sexual abuse decide to testify at war crimes trials the aim is that of brining justice to them, their relatives, and to all the dead victims. Nicola Henry (2014, p.104) advances the idea that many victims and witnesses do it simply because they perceive to have the moral and civic obligation towards their community and their fellow female peers: “the choice to defy the stigma and shame and confront perpetrators in court may likewise represent a desire to speak on behalf of those who do not have the courage to testify”. Some empirical facts may help us understanding this instance. In his intense study on the ICTY witnesses, Eric Stover[22] (2005) found out that 90% of respondents indicated a moral and civic duty to speak for the dead as the main motivation for testifying.

With the massive occurrence of GBV in the 1990s, there was a conceptual shift of regarding the language of human rights (and therefore women’s rights) that spread more widely and entered into the official vocabulary of major international agencies. The extreme cases of SGBV witnessed in the Bosnian war marked a historical watershed between how the phenomenon was conceived before (or rather neglected) and how it became a pillar of human rights. Henry (2014, p.95) points out that, in the past, “wartime rape has been viewed and treated, at least historically, as abhorrent, incomprehensible and unspeakable, yet at the same time as inevitable, excusable or even laudable”. Instead, since the war in Bosnia, academic, political, legal, cultural and diplomatic circles have moved from perceiving CRSV as an unfortunate but inevitable “by-product of war” resulting from the chaos and violence of war, to seeing it as a military strategy, a weapon of war, of psychological mass destruction, a tool of genocide and ethnic cleansing (Allen, 1996; Clark, 2000; Di Lellio, Kraja, 2020; Gottschall, 2004; Kirby, 2012; Littlewood, 1997; MacKinnon, 1994; Salzman, 1998; Seifert, 1994; Sharlach, 2000; Skjelsbaek, 2001; Stiglmayer, 1994; Tompkins, 1999; Wood, 2006, Zarkov, 2003; Zawati, 2010). At the international level, UNSCR 1820 (2008, p.1) explicitly indicates that in some conflicts “women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group”. Also, the 2015 UNSC’s report on CRSV states that:

“Sexual violence is not incidental, but integrally linked with the strategic objectives, ideology and funding of extremist groups. It is used to advance such tactical imperatives as recruitment; terrorizing populations into compliance; displacing communities from strategic areas; generating revenue through sex trafficking, the slave trade, ransoms, looting and the control of natural resources; torture to elicit intelligence; conversion and indoctrination through forced marriage; and to establish, alter or dissolve kinship ties that bind communities” (UNSC, 2015, p.24).

 

Moreover, Zawati (2010, p.169) asserts that the high number of rape reports in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda demonstrate that systematic mass rape was employed “as a weapon of war for different purposes, including humiliation, extracting information, political terror, intimidation, ethnic cleansing, and breaking down the morale of the opponent’s civilian population by inflicting physical and psychological injuries on the victims and stigmatizing them and their families”. As I am going to analyse in depth in the course of the thesis, the cases of Bosnia and Kosovo make an exception for the methodical and organised way to deliberately detain, rape and impregnate Bosnjak and Kosovo Albanian women. According to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women report (CEDAW, 1994, p.1), the brutalities carried out in Bosnia “were premeditated, carefully organized and meant as acts to humiliate, shame and degrade the entire ethnic group. They were not just products of the ‘war environment’”. It was not an unfortunate by-product of the conflict, claimed Roy Gutman (1994), but rather the “aim of the campaign” pursued by ethnic Serbs, central to the conquest of the Bosnian territory.

In a follow-up report, the UNGA (1994) further stated that “this heinous practice [abuse of women] constitutes a deliberate weapon of war in fulfilling the policy of ethnic cleansing carried out by Serbian forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and […] that the abhorrent policy of ethnic cleansing was a form of genocide.” With regard to the Kosovo conflict, HRW (2001, p.130) established that:

“Rape and other forms of sexual violence were used in Kosovo in 1999 as weapons of war and instruments of systematic “ethnic cleansing.” Rapes were not rare and isolated acts committed by individual Serbian or Yugoslav forces, but rather were used deliberately as an instrument to terrorize the civilian population, extort money from families, and push people to flee their homes. Rape also furthered the goal of forcing ethnic Albanians from Kosovo”.

 

To conclude, as claimed by Skjelsbaek (2001), the best “coping strategy” to break the silence related to GBV is to speak up about the issue. But in view of the persistent stigma and ostracism faced by victims, many women prefer in fact not to come forward to seek help or to speak out. However, another conceptual shift at the social and cultural level is the fact that women today are less marginalised and discriminated against by their families and communities in comparison with decades ago. The growing awareness and sensitivity towards victims of GBV smashes decisively the sense of embarrassment and shame that has characterised the humankind history. This generates a common awareness of women’s experiences.

Currently, Cockburn (2013, p.435) observes how the technological innovations, the development of social media and the internet make it easier and faster to spread worldwide the news and stories of sexual abuses: these new instruments “bring the news of war immediately to audiences both near to and far from conflict”. A recent powerful event that further changed the conception of victims of GBV is represented by the social media campaign #MeToo[23] against sexual harassment and abuse that, since 2017, has reached every corner of the globe (Seales, 2018). However, Seales (2018) shows that its resonance has inevitably gained greater traction in those countries where the freedom of press and the media is rightly exercised and guaranteed. Skjelsbaek (2018, p.2) praises the widespread share of experiences of GBV and the use of the hashtag #MeToo that “opened up a language, recognition, and an outlet for talking about experiences that had far too often remained inarticulate to those affected as well as their surroundings”. She also finds a similarity between the #MeToo campaign and CRSV by claiming that, in both cases, GBV has been overlooked until silence breakers started to speak up and tell their experiences. Fortunately, survivors like Nadia Murad who are relentlessly speaking out, are changing the narrative and bringing hope for all those who continue to suffer. When silence breakers and their dramatic stories develop on a massive scale the result becomes extraordinary: policymakers and academics cannot ignore any longer the impact of the phenomenon. In fact, as acknowledged by Skjelsbaek (2001, p.228), “it is only by making policy-makers, journalists and lawyers and other analysts aware of the issue that one can stop the tradition of impunity and silence” that has for so long characterised our history.

 

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Zawati, H. M. (2010). “The Triumph of Ethnic Hatred and the Failure of International Political Will: Gendered Violence and Genocide in the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda”. Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press.

 

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[1] For further information, see Brownmiller’s ground-breaking book “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape” (1975).

[2] The JNA was formed predominantly by Serbs and Montenegrins.

[3] Prior to the 1990s, the only occasion where rape crimes committed during a conflict were prosecuted by an international war crimes court was at the Tokyo Trial in 1946.

[4] In 1994, nearly 1 million people (mainly belonging to the minority Tutsi group) were killed in ethnic conflict by the majority Hutu group during a 3-months period, the most rapid genocide in recorded history. For a complete account of the mass rape reports occurred in Rwanda see: Human Rights Watch, (1996). “Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence During the Rwanda Genocide and Its Aftermath”. New York: Human Rights Watch; available at: http://hrw.org/reports/1996/Rwanda.htm. For a comparative discussion of the roots of ethnic conflict, the mechanisms and motivations that led to genocidal rape, ethnic cleansing and mass killings in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, see Zawati, H. M. (2010). “The Triumph of Ethnic Hatred and the Failure of International Political Will: Gendered Violence and Genocide in the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda”. Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press.

[5] The Four Geneva Conventions are referred to: the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field; the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea; the Treatment of Prisoners of War; the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

[6] The Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions were developed and adopted by States to make international humanitarian law more complete and more universal, and to adapt it to new types of warfare and political contexts which had not previously been considered. Protocol I is related to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, while Protocol II concerns the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts.

[7] Copelon (1944-2010) filed countless amicus briefs in cases heard by the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

[8] Although estimates of the numbers of Kosovo Albanian war-related sexual violence survivors range from 23,000 to 45,600, research mounted by international organizations such as HRW (Federal Republic Of Yugoslavia: Kosovo – Rape As A Weapon Of “Ethnic Cleansing” (hrw.org)), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ((12) (PDF) Sexual Violence Against Refugee Women (researchgate.net)), the UNFPA (Assessment Report on Sexual Violence in Kosovo. UNFPA (phdn.org)) and OSCE (Kosovo/Kosova As Seen, As Told (osce.org)) has been unsuccessful in identifying the real numbers of victims.

[9] The IICK was a commission established in 1999 by the government of Sweden  to examine the events in Kosovo.

[10] Many scholars who addressed the issue of sexual violence in wartime come from the fields of politics, international relations, sociology, psychology, history, anthropology, women’s studies, gender studies, law, human rights.

[11] The DPA signalled the end to the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

[12] During the 1980s and early 1990s a nonviolent resistance movement led by Ibrahim Rugova sought to find a peaceful solution to the Kosovo dire situation and avoid war. More details are found in the next chapter.

[13] Primarily: Bosnjaks, Bosnian Croats, Bosnian Serbs, Serbs, Croatians and Kosovo Albanians.

[14] See: Gutman, Roy, (August 23rd, 1992). “Mass Rape — Muslims Recall Serb Attacks,” New York City: Newsday. Gutman was the first journalist to report on the use of sexual violence in the “ethnic cleansing” campaigns carried out by Serbian military and paramilitary troops against Muslim and Croatian populations. For his courageous and persistent reporting, he won the 1993 Pulitzer Prizes.

[15] The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established in May 1993 by the UNSCR 827 and it began its proceedings at the Hague in 1996; and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), established in November 1994. These tribunals were followed by the establishment of “hybrid“ courts in Cambodia, Sierra Leone and East Timor, based on a different model, which are part of the national judicial system but supported by the international community.

[16] ICTY Statute: Part V) INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY, Article 7(1): A person who planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of a crime referred to in articles 2 to 5 of the present Statute, shall be individually responsible for the crime.” Available at: Case Law of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: V) INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY (Article 7(1)) (hrw.org).

[17] ICTY Statute: Part VI) COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY, Article 7(3): The fact that any of the acts referred to in articles 2 to 5 of the present Statute was committed by a subordinate does not relieve his superior of criminal responsibility if he knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such acts or had done so and the superior failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof.” Available at: Case Law of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: VI) COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY (Article 7(3)) (hrw.org).

[18] For further information, see: Jones, A. “Gender Inclusive: Essays on Violence, Men, and Feminist International Relations” (Routledge, 2009).

[19] The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption on 19th June 2008 of the UNSCR 1820, in which the Council condemned sexual violence as a tactic of war and an impediment to peacebuilding.

[20] Some organisations are: Centre for African Justice, Peace and Human rights; Civitas Maxima; Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation; Equator Foundation; IFHHRO | Medical Human Rights Network; IMPACT: Center Against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict; Mukomeze Foundation; REDRESS; Sterk Huis; Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.

[21] Allen served as consultant to the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

[22] For further information on the opinions and attitudes of individuals who have appeared before the ICTY, see: Stover, E. (2005) “The Witnesses: War Crimes and the Promise of Justice in The Hague”.

[23] The movement began in October 2017 when The New York Times printed the first allegations of sexual harassment, abuse and rape committed by the famous film executive Harvey Weinstein. He was accused by dozens of women and was fired from his own company inside a week. Some days after that, actress Alyssa Milano suggested on Twitter that anyone who had been “sexually harassed or assaulted” should reply to her Tweet with “Me Too”, to demonstrate the scale of the problem. Half a million people responded in the first 24 hours.

 

 

About Fabrizio Parrilli

Fabrizio Parrilli25, Master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna, Italy. My areas of interest are mainly focused on international issues, contemporary history, protection of human rights, political and cultural dynamics. I love travelling, discovering new cultures and having fun. My motto is live, love, laugh.

E-mail: parrillifabrizio@gmail.com

Ant by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, an Anthology Collected and Edited by the Author’s Great-Great Niece, Jean Findlay, revi...

C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Translator, Poet, Critic, WWI War Hero 

Best known for bringing Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (also known as In Search of Lost Time) into English for the first time.

 

Ant by C.K. Scott Moncrieff

An anthology of Moncrieff’s work, compiled and edited by Jean Findlay (the author’s great-great niece) written in his youth, during the war, and afterwards.

Reviewed by David Garyan

 

Price Beyond Rubies: On Writing “The Hat Jewel,” an article by Jean Findlay, published by Interlitq
Read Jean Findlay’s Interview with David Garyan, published by Interlitq
Read David Garyan’s review of Jean Findlay’s biography on C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Chasing Lost Time
Read David Garyan’s review of Jean Findlay’s novel The Queen’s Lender

 

The Review

It has become an indisputable maxim, at least in the Western literary tradition, to separate the author from the work he or she has written. Unlike Chinese culture, which views the writer as inextricably linked to the literature he has produced, our own academies treat the text as the sole “living” entity—in that sense, the single credible source from which readers should derive literary meaning. “The author is dead,” remarked the French literary critic, Roland Barthes, a man only born into this world when C.K. Scott Moncrieff was already twenty-six years old, and had, by that time, seen action in France as a commissioned officer. Moncrieff, however, though severely injured, died neither as a person nor as an author, and along with the work he managed to publish during his military service, he later went on to have a flourishing literary career as a translator of French and Italian literature, along with establishing himself as a trusted critic.

The poems and short stories, collected and edited in Ant by Jean Findlay (the great-great niece of Moncrieff) are a testament, firstly, not just to the author’s vitality, life, and perseverance, but secondly, and more importantly, the assembled literature also proves a more general point: It’s futile and perhaps also impossible to separate the author from his own creation. C.K. Scott Moncrieff was a man both of his time and likewise a man out of time, an individual of paradoxes and contradictions—a devout Catholic and unrepentant homosexual, a steadfast war hero and also the most tender love poet, an open individual unafraid to show emotion but also a spy who both preferred and also had to keep many secrets to himself. Suffice it to say, there was no one else better equipped to write the philosophical insights, vivid descriptions of humanity, and observations about the natural world we find in Ant than C.K. Scott Moncrieff.

While the majority of the work collected here has been published in various prestigious literary magazines of Moncrieff’s time, including T.S. Eliot’s New Criterion, it’s ultimately the job of the editor to assemble them in such a way that does justice to Moncrieff’s artistic vision, and this is something Jean Findlay has certainly done. It’s a great relief to know that the collection isn’t organized chronologically, but rather thematically. We enter the author’s literary world through his short stories, and the first one, in this respect, is “Evensonge and Morwesong,” a piece Moncrieff wrote while studying at Winchester, the most prestigious boarding school in the UK. In this work, he decries the hypocrisy of the master, deals with homosexual themes, and exposes the snobbery of such institutions. Moncrieff writes: “As he was transcribing the address this most consummate of headmasters received an unpleasant shock … a picture of two boys in a thicket; of the one’s charming nonchalance; of terror sickening the other, a child that had just lost its soul.” Here, Carruthers, the school master, has punished two boys for essentially the same act he himself committed; he’s reminded of this by a photo he’d long forgotten, and we find out that one of the pupils being punished is, in fact, the son of the boy he himself seduced.

As we reach the end, Jean Findlay reminds us that Moncrieff published this story in 1908, and the fact that the book opens with one of the first things Moncrieff ever wrote is only a coincidence. It’s a larger testament to the courage and openness that would make the author in question not only an excellent solider, but also a sharp, observant translator and critic. The story, in a sense, both defines the man known as C.K. Scott Moncrieff, as it reveals to readers his uncompromising, brave search for truth, and yet it also doesn’t define him, precisely because his failure to get into Oxford as a result of the story’s publication doesn’t go on to stop him from becoming one of the foremost literary figures of not only his generation, but also ours.

We subsequently jump fourteen years in time to the story “Mortmain,” published by G.K. Chesterton’s The New Witness in 1922. The main character, a soldier named Farleigh Bennett, has been seriously wounded and is preparing to undergo surgery. The injuries are so bad “as to make amputation the one possible remedy,” and it’s further unfortunate that he “had not been wounded in any glorious encounter; a bomb badly thrown by a man of his own Company had fallen back at his feet from the parapet and, while he groped for it in the dark trench, had exploded actually under his right hand.” This work is a prime example of how the author is so intimately connected to his work. Moncrieff himself, according to Jean Findlay’s biography, Chasing Lost Time, was wounded by a “British shell aimed at the German trench [which] fell short and exploded in front of him.” The brave officer was nominated for a medal, but as Findlay writes: “Charles initially refused the award because he was injured by his own barrage, and because he did not think himself more deserving than anyone else.” We hence see—and this very clearly—how the author’s life and experiences are at once present in “Mortmain.” While Moncrieff, unlike his character Bennett, never lost his own limb, his own injuries were nevertheless permanently disfiguring, and it’s not difficult to imagine how he, similarly to Bennett, may have perceived his own leg to be a separate, independent entity from the rest of his body, unable to find coordination with the whole. Thus, the story’s supernatural element of the limb having its own life serves as a parallel for the author’s private struggle to “start” a new life after the war, while simultaneously having to bear the burden of the old one as well.

After “Mortmain,” we jump four more years ahead in time to “Cousin Fanny and Cousin Annie.” Published in 1926 by T.S. Eliot’s New Criterion, this story is perhaps the most touching, yet bittersweet in the entire collection. Crafted with Proustian-like memories of childhood that influence the future, we follow Alec, who spends many of his days with Cousin Fanny and Cousin Annie, mainly because his parents travel to India. Recollections of Cousin Annie’s generosity towards him, and Cousin Fanny’s mother dying on the Queen’s birthday, along with memories of his own birthday, serve to emphasize the borders between life and death.

Alec grows up and joins the war effort, and except for one visit during this period, he gradually loses touch with both Fanny and Annie. Memories, however, of the generosity they had shown before his leave for school—how Cousin Fanny had given him “a pound, which he didn’t quite like to take if she was so poor, except that he needed it, really, more than she did,” and how Annie had given him “a huge cake which she had baked for him”—trigger a desire to visit them once more. When he does, however, it’s already too late, as Annie has died, and this leaves Alec feeling incredibly upset: “Every single day since her childhood Annie had had to prepare all her own meals, and, until extreme old age, other people’s as well. He thought of all the services that had been rendered him every day of his life, at school and in the army, and how easily he had taken it. What had he ever given Annie? Kisses, when he was little; and a china dog—and she had spent every moment when she was not in her kitchen by his bedside when he was ill. Why this was the bed he had been ill in.” When he meets Fanny and tells her that Annie has passed away, he’s surprised at her heartlessness: “Well, we must all die some time, I suppose.” The story is fascinating because while it does closely resemble the sentiments and nature which formed the author’s own character, the resemblance is exactly the opposite. In other words, the author, during his own life, was completely devoted to taking care of his family, relatives, and friends.

In her biography, Findlay recalls a time when Moncrieff’s brother, John, accidentally killed himself while cleaning a gun; upon receiving the news, the grief-stricken man promised to do everything in his power to support his family, and he wrote the following to his brother’s widow, Anna: “I swear to you that as long as I live I will do all I possibly can to be a father to them [the children] and a helper to you.” Indeed, we would never expect these words or actions to emanate from a character like Alec, who, in the author’s words, accepts services of support easily and without second thought, but it’s precisely this reversal which shows us the traits that Moncrieff himself admired—honor, commitment, and sacrifice for the family.

From the section “Short Stories,” the collection moves to “War Serials,” and while war does also feature in works like the aforementioned “Mortmain” and “Cousin Fanny and Cousin Annie,” the pieces in this section are assembled in a way that brings forth the potent descriptive powers Moncrieff had as a writer. We begin with “Halloween,” which is, as Findlay writes in the anthology’s introduction, “a weekly story for the New Witness,” that Moncrieff wrote “while in the trenches and on sick leave with trench foot in 1916.” The story revolves around the main character, Allison, a soldier moving with his Company through Belgium towards the city of Ypres, in preparation for battle there.

The scene is both tranquil and chaotic, which mirrored Moncrieff’s own experiences in war. He was known to raise the spirits of soldiers by reading literature to them, but was at the same time calm under fire, always demonstrating the highest level of courage in dangerous situations. As he once wrote to his mother in an October 27th, 1914, letter: “There is something rather stimulating in being under fire.” As the war dragged on, however, this “stimulation” naturally turned into contempt, and finally into weariness; through it all, however, courageous Moncrieff remained, and, in fact, so does his main character, Allison, who states how he’d “grown savage now after a whack on the head from some passing projective, drove the scattered troopers—they were calmly sitting here and there among his own Jocks—like sheep before him on to the road—where they fell in and duly disappeared.” With the same courage our author demonstrated during the war, Alison goes on to describe his situation: “And now we ourselves were neatly sandwiched: for our guns had begun to shell an outlying row of houses just behind us while the enemy plastered the town and the fields in front. But we got out somehow, and by midday were spread out in front of the Steenebeek, and digging ourselves in for dear life with our entrenching tools.” Indeed, Moncrieff himself would’ve been no stranger to such experiences, and neither would the men under his command; the story, thus, brings to life not only the individual who was C.K. Scott Moncrieff, but also paints—and that precisely—a vivid account of the war; this is another instance where the author can be said to be inextricably linked to the work he has produced.

Moncrieff’s insights about people and his understanding of human nature are further highlighted in the war serial, “On Being Wounded,” which starts this way: “It is extremely interesting to have seen the business of being wounded from the point of view of a casualty. For those who only know the wounded soldier as a carefully washed individual ministered to by efficient nurses and seen against the staged background of a ward filled with sunlight and bright flowers, the reality of the thing cannot exist.” Many subtle things are happening here, and perhaps there are also aspects of his personality that Moncrieff himself would become aware of only later. It’s important to understand that our author, especially in his later years—but not only then—lived a life which was incredibly transparent and emotionally open, yet at the same time that life was also one of secrecy and necessary evasion: He was a poet, comfortable enough to reveal his own thoughts and feelings—to publish them as well; yet, he had to keep his homosexuality private. Later, he slowly began to be more comfortable with his own identity, revealing also that aspect of himself, but there was now something even more compromising than his sexual orientation—he’d become a spy, and truly, no one could know about that.

Moncrieff became aware of the difference between appearance and reality quite early—indeed much earlier than anyone else his age. Hence, reading “On Being Wounded,” the reader will by no means be surprised to see him ponder the difference between the world we see on the surface and what exists underneath it, all at the young age of twenty-eight. Already then, Moncrieff understood there’s a distinction between how the wounded man “presents” himself to others and how he “exists” by himself; the former implies happiness while the latter embodies the suffering only victims themselves can understand.

In addition, Moncrieff speculates about the relative nature of time, in the sense that we can’t pinpoint exactly when something happens—more specifically when a man has recovered from his wound: “But it is doubtful whether the man himself can make any more accurate an estimation of his condition. There is a continuous, insensible shifting of the perspective from the moment that he feels the thud made by the arrival of the bullet to that when he realizes one day at the end of his convalescence, that he is well again. The gradual changes are so subtle, the inability to reproduce any one state of consciousness when in the next is so complete that the most introspective must hope for nothing better than confused reminiscence.” Moncrieff, here, as an intellectual, is utterly ahead of any contemporary and even those who came after him: He’s realized something psychologists are only now starting to understand about human memory—that it’s malleable, open to suggestion, and rarely ever fixed. What we remember not only changes with time, it’s also influenced by the future—what we hear and see around us, what we’re told, and most of all our recollections, change by listening to what others want us to believe.

From the section “War Serials,” we move right back to Moncrieff’s earliest days, to the final part of the collection, which is the author’s poetry, divided into “Early Poems,” “War Poems,” “Love and Dedicatory Poems,” and “Satirical Verse.” One curious thing that may jolt readers is having to move from the early verse directly into the war poetry, and then finding themselves among stanzas of love. Upon closer inspection, however, the editorial decision seems sound: Even if Moncrieff, at a young age, did find out what it’s like to feel strongly about someone, it was ultimately war that made him see the fragility of human life, allowing him to gaze, truly, into the limitless depths of love. While his romantic poems before the war, such as “The Beechwood,” and even the earliest poem handwritten in pencil at university are certainly strong, it’s ultimately his poems written in the most terrifying states of despair which really capture love in its most naked, unforgiving forms—it’s in those works written after the deaths of his closest companions, Wilfred Owen and Philip Bainbridge, where Moncrieff’s creative power is at its highest. And would the reader expect anything else? I will quote the poem written after Owen’s death in full:

When in the centuries of time to come,
Men shall be happy and rehearse thy fame,
Shall I be spoken of then, or they grow dumb,
Recall these numbers and forget this name?
Part of thy praise, shall my dull verse live
In thee, themselves—as life without thee—vain?
So should I halt, oblivion’s fugitive,
Turn, stand, smile know myself a man again.
I care not: not the glorious boasts of men
Could wake my pride, were I in Heaven with thee;
Nor any breath of envy touch me, when,
Swept from the embrace of mortal memory
Beyond the stars’ light, in the eternal day,
Our contended ghosts stay together.

It’s truly unfortunate that life had to drag men like C.K. Scott Moncrieff to the deepest depths of despair in order to lead them up their creative mountains, but that’s often the burden geniuses must bear. This collection, skillfully edited by Jean Findlay, proves, finally and conclusively, what we’ve probably suspected but have yet to express—had Marcel Proust not written À la recherche du temps perdu and brought it to life for Moncrieff to discover and translate, the latter would’ve become an accomplished poet in his own right.

 

About C.K. Scott Moncrieff

Charles Scott Moncrieff was born in Scotland in 1889 and died in Rome in 1930. He published poetry in literary journals from the age of sixteen and after studying at Edinburgh University, went into the First World War as a Captain in the KOSB. From the trenches he wrote trenchant literary criticism, war poetry and war serials. Wounded out, working at the War Office he contributed short stories for T.S. Eliot’s New Criterion, G.K. Chesterton’s New Witness and J.C. Squire’s London Mercury. Later as an editor at The Times he translated The Song of Roland and Beowulf and started on Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, a work that was to make him famous. Leaving London in 1923 to work as an undercover agent in Mussolini’s Italy, he settled there. As well as continuing work on Proust’s lengthy novel, he translated much of Stendhal, Eloise and Abelard and some of Pirandello.

In the Midst of War: Family, Friendship, and Death, an article by Armen Palyan

14/11/2020
Yerevan, Armenia

 

In the Midst of War: Family, Friendship, and Death

In his book, Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana said the following: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” With the countless wars humanity has fought and the countless ones that will have to be fought still, it really isn’t difficult to accept the reality captured in Santayana’s sentiment—those possessing the privilege of being able to read what’s written here will at some point or other be exposed to war, if they haven’t been already. The extent of this exposure will vary greatly for each individual and depend on factors that are both completely outside of a person’s control but also very much within: For one, we can’t all choose to be born in Switzerland; at the same time, however, people can exercise agency; they can try building closer relationships with the people who hate them and thereby attempt to prevent an attack, but this has rarely produced results, especially if you reside in a country situated between two nations with whom both borders are closed—the land to the west is the one who committed genocide against you one hundred years ago and the one to the east is hell-bent on “recapturing” the lands on which your people have lived on for thousands of years; to make the situation even more absurd, the land to the west has now decided to help the land in the east achieve their vain ambitions.

That’s precisely the fate my friend, Garik Arevikyan, inherited when he was born on November 7th, 1997, in a little Armenian village called Panik, with a population of just over 2,000 residents. Indeed, it was both Garik’s great fortune and also misfortune to be born on this ancient land, which has seen conquerors of every complexion and temperament; from the raging Mongol to the blond-bearded Russian, back to the stately Roman, all the way down to the mystical Arab. That the Turk—who had almost once conquered all of Europe—likewise, at some point, also made his presence felt in Armenia is, therefore, not a surprise; what’s surprising is that he has come back, attempting to exercise his dominion over this tiny nation yet again. It’s not all bad, however; in the same vein, Garik was born in a country with an incredibly rich history, one which goes back far longer than anything the Turks or Azeris can claim. A quick look at this map showing territories held by Armenia roughly 2000 years ago reveals no trace of either Turkey or Azerbaijan—for the mere fact that the Turks entered Europe a mere 600 years ago, more or less.

I’ve always believed in free will—at the same time, I’ve never questioned the power of fate, of destiny’s cold expression that never changes, even when it’s confronted by the most desperate pleas for mercy on the part of humanity; that’s the world Garik was born into and not just because his birthplace was Armenia but because in the end we’re all, as individuals, bound by this oath—this is especially true for Armenians, however. Looking in from the outside, very few understand our existential struggle. As the great Armenian-American writer, William Saroyan, once wrote: “our wars have all been fought and lost,” (so much for the present) and though we’ve laughed in the face of every enemy, something which allowed us—until this very day—to preserve our ancient traditions and Christianity in an environment very much hostile to them, I’m not sure how much longer we can continue to do it. I think forever sounds reasonable enough and I’ll continue to believe that just to honor my friend, Garik, who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I met Garik in 2017, when I decided to attend my first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu course in Yerevan. The head trainer (sensei) paired me up with him; at the time, I thought he would be an easy challenger—just a skinny, innocent-looking kid. Before I knew it, he had forced me into submission three or four times in what must’ve been less than five minutes. I was dumbfounded, but it was precisely Garik’s talent that made me fall in love with the sport, which I continue practicing to this day.

Garik’s talent, work-ethic, and determination was infectious—it made a great impression on me. As a white belt, he was already having great success in various competitions, winning the AJP Tour in 2018, previously known as UAJJF Russia National Pro when Garik won it; below is the picture of him with his medal.

It seemed like my best friend never suffered fatigue during training; he was absolutely committed to achieving greatness. His energy was my fuel and when he was called up for military service, I began spending less time at the dojo. I dearly missed my friend and his competitiveness; challenging him was like playing chess with human bodies.

Garik didn’t abandon the principles of hard work, integrity, and honesty when he was sent to serve. In the military, he utilized the grit he had developed during his martial arts training to help him get through the dangers and difficulties of war. He saw his closest friends die around him and said that he was heading into a dark place, stating he had become martaspan—literally translated as mankiller or people-killer. Even strong individuals like Garik, however—built to endure every physical and psychological difficulty—are just people in the end; they’re searching for what we all want, which is love, compassion, and understanding, as this picture shows so well.

After enduring horrors in Jabrail, where he was first stationed, Garik was transferred to Martuni, where he died under rocket fire, supposedly when he was asleep. During his thirty-three days of combat, he described sleeping no more than one or two hours, as the enemy was shelling them uninterruptedly.

My fondest memory of him occurred in December of last year. During a short period of leave from the military, he called me and I invited him to dinner at one of the best restaurants in Yerevan to celebrate our reunion; it was also the last time I saw him. After our meal, I hugged him, not knowing there would never be another chance. Shortly after, he returned to his military duties and I to my civilian ones. I thought of him often, eagerly awaiting his return; I think of him now, knowing it’s not to be.

Garik passed away some time between October 31st and November 1st; it’s not exactly clear. What can’t be doubted, however, is that he died just about a week before his 23rd birthday and less than two weeks before the ceasefire. His birthday on November 7th will now be the most difficult day of my life, not simply because Garik is gone, that his funeral had to be conducted in a closed casket manner, that he leaves behind a sister, his father and mother, but because my own brother, Tigran, passed away on the very same day one year ago. What else can I do but post their pictures here?

What other choice do I have but to live for their memories? I can do nothing else but live for the memories of family and friends. I must do this. Defeat is no longer an option.

 

About Armen Palyan

Armen Palyan was born in the United States but returned to his homeland in order to study dentistry. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Yerevan. This is his first publication.

 

“Quarantine Diaries,” by David Garyan (Day 42)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 42
April 25th, 2020

Trento, Italy

 

Liberation Day

And just like that, we’ve arrived to the day of Italian liberation, but it looks like it’ll be a while before we ourselves will be liberated from this virus.

Things are taking a turn for the better, however; although The Local says that “Italy’s national lockdown is the longest one currently in force anywhere in the world,” some shops and also construction sites can slowly start opening on May 4th, followed by the most important industries that everyone cares about—bars and restaurants, which, for now, have been given the green light on May 18th; that day, I guarantee you, will be no less significant than April 25th. Sixty million Italians will be liberated and subsequently allowed to consume their alcohol in the confines of different spaces—confines in which they’ll have to pay much more for a glass of beer than if they had just bought a six pack at Eurospin.

Yes, someone has to bail out the economy, and, until now, it was never clearer how much, in fact, alcoholics and gluttons contributed to the well-being of society. I, myself, came to Italy for the eating and drinking; it was either that or go to the Samoa, where “Overeating and inactivity are intrinsic to traditional Samoan customs,” at least according to the American Samoa Department of Health.

For the love of God, how do I always go off track? We were talking about the liberation of Italy—I’m completely sure that the American Samoans (hold the Samoans) contributed greatly to that effort; even though the US was late to the party (like they always are).

Indeed, we love to enter wars fought on the European continent behind schedule and then take all the credit. In WWI, we only arrived in 1917, when the war had already been raging for three years; in this entire conflict, we lost approximately 116,000 soldiers; while that was the total number for the greatest country in the world, at the Battle of the Somme alone, the British suffered more than three times as much and the French almost twice the amount. The French and British each regularly lost more than 100,000 men in several battles. At the Battle of Verdun, the French incurred over 300,000 casualties, but who cares about that? The US entered the conflict in 1917—when everyone was already on their last leg (no pun intended)—fought for about one year, and then won the Great War, as the narrative goes—the only thing is that everything except the last part is left out when the narrative is actually presented on the home front, so to say.

Ah, yes, you have to love this land—they win wars on the backs of other soldiers, but I’ll speak at greater length about that on May 2nd, when German forces surrendered to General Vasily Chuikov of the Red Army. The greatest country in the world opened the second front so late (once again only a year before the end of the war) that they didn’t even make it to the German capital—seeing as how global politics are developing, however, I’m sure the US will soon get a third chance to make up for their constant tardiness to World War University.

I don’t know why I’m so bitter lately; this always happens when I talk about history. Indeed, neither Italy, nor the USSR, nor even the US are perfect countries. They all have dark histories, which they try their best to hide through the good deeds they’ve done. Italy, I believe, has enough greatness in not only its past but also the future to call itself a glorious nation. In WWI, it made the right choice and ended up on the winning side; however, they weren’t given all the territories promised to them by the British and French; thus, Italian glory was referred to as a mutilated victory by nationalists; thus, Mussolini heavily relied on the term to create his Fascist propaganda.

When walking in Trento today, I was surprised to see il Duce’s quote plastered right on a building. As you can see, his name has been carved out of the concrete; however, the quote is most definitely his, as confirmed by il Giornale, and it reads: “The Italian people created the empire with their blood, will fertilize it with their work and defend it against anyone with their weapons.” To some extent, I’m of the opinion that a country must come to terms with its history; erasing the name of a guy who said something isn’t really the way to do that, however. In fact, it’s more dangerous than simply leaving it there; before I get into that, I’d like to compare this dilemma to what the US has been doing.

In the aftermath of racially inspired shootings and violence, the greatest country in the world decided to remove statues of Pierre Beauregard, and Robert E. Lee, although the latter, according to NPR, was kept through judicial intervention; the argument was that historical preservation isn’t based on racist foundations. I’m very much torn on this issue. On one hand, it’s important for the younger generation to know these figures—to be aware of their failures and shortcomings so that they’ll have the historical awareness not to go down the same road; on the other hand, exposing people whose ancestors had a connection to such events may cause them psychological trauma. Given that yesterday was the observance of the Armenian Genocide, I don’t know how I would feel seeing a statue of Talaat Pasha, the main orchestrator behind the whole thing, in a main square, or perhaps his words on a plaque—even if his name had been removed, as was done with Mussolini’s statement in Trento. Yes, we should remember history, but perhaps, also, we should remember it in a way that’s less “invasive,” so to say.

Given my love for Italy, I’m not sure about this fascist plaque. The middle road—removing the dictator’s name but keeping the sentiment—is the most extreme, to some extent, because, instead of communicating the danger behind such ideology, white-washing the attribution not only takes the “learning from history” part out of the equation, but even worse, it gives the statement a positive framework. In other words, since many won’t realize who actually said it, the imperialist ideology inherent to the quote is lost—all that remains is the very purported Italian glory that Mussolini used for his propaganda purposes to begin with. Indeed, the whole thing should’ve either been removed or kept just like it was in the first place. No, the removal of his name is the most extreme position in this case because it takes away the context from the message on the wall and thus gives it an “eminence” it shouldn’t have to start with.

I was a bit surprised because the city pays plenty of tribute to its fallen soldiers in WWI and the WWII resistance; among the most notable examples of the latter is Piazza Mario Pasi. Born on the 21st of July, 1913 in Ravenna, Pasi obtained a degree in medicine and surgery from the University of Bologna in 1936. He was captured in 1944 by the Germans and hanged on the 10th of March, 1945 with nine other partisans in what has become known as La strage di Bosco delle Castagne (The massacre of Bosco delle Castagne). The site was turned into a historical park. For his valor, the city of Trento, where Pasi worked as a doctor, commemorated him with this square.

Another area of commemoration is the Piazzetta 2 Settembre 1943; it pays homage to the bombing of Trento by Allied forces on that day. The San Lorenzo bridge was completely destroyed, along with Piazza Dante; about 200 people died and the Italians refer to it as la strage della Portela (Massacre of the Portela); the aforementioned link will also give you pictures of the bombing. I’ve chosen to include a photo of the square which commemorates the event.

Italians are a very proud people and the memories of WWII linger deep in the minds of everyone. Even the young generation strives to capture the maximum amount of glory they can from the country’s heroic resistance. Women played a big part in the effort as well, both in combatant and non-combatant roles. In his article, “Italian Women in the Resistance, World War II,” Dan A. D’Amelio writes: “Although the majority of women partisans functioned in non-combat roles, a significant number had already been in action. Some 300 women had fought alongside of men in the street fighting in Florence when the city was liberated a few weeks earlier. Women had also fought in one of the greatest pitched battles of the resistance.” Women like Clarice Buni Burini even became officers; in this case a lieutenant, she was captured and subjected to the most horrible tortures, receiving a medal for her heroism.

In every major city, such as Bologna and Rome, you’ll find many plaques and memorials honoring the fallen partisans. Sometimes, for me personally, it even comes across as too much, too overbearing—an act of compensation for being on the wrong side the second time around. Seeing the huge monuments in Bologna, for example, I really felt the degree to which Italians take pride in their country and how difficult it really is for them to deal with the past. For almost every WWI memorial, the WWII resistance is commemorated alongside with it; below is an example of such a plaque in Trento.

Walking by the Cattedrale di San Vigilio today, I stopped by the scale model of the city; I felt incredibly small looking at it. Everything is about perspective. Glancing down at the thing, I did wonder: Does the world itself have the same size to someone else out there?

Approximately 75,000,000 people died in WWII; that number is hard to comprehend, but let me try it this way: Take everyone living in New York City—they would all have to perish nine times before the war could be over and I doubt that New Yorkers have the power of cats.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.

 

 

“Quarantine Diaries,” by David Garyan (Day 9)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 9
March 23rd, 2020

Trento, Italy

 

American Flu

“Be careful.” That’s what Spaniard José Ameal Peña—the last survivor of the 1918 flu—said about the coronavirus. In the same vein, a witness from the US, Joe Newman, said the following about our times: “There are those of us who say, well, this too shall go away. And it will. But at what cost, at what expense?” When someone is 105 and 107 years old, respectively—you listen to what they’re saying.

I’ve always downplayed the seriousness of this virus for the sake of my sanity and perhaps also insanity, but deep down, I know it’s serious. Maybe the quarantine is messing with my head but it’s all becoming much too comfortable. Sitting at home and doing nothing isn’t really so bad, and that’s what I’m afraid of. As Dostoevsky said in Crime and Punishment: “Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!” People can get used to all types of adversities and ecstasies, which is good if the changes you must adapt to are permanent; however, getting used to something that’s bound to end relatively soon presents many challenges—the obvious one being: How do I shed this new skin of laziness and get back to my old state—a mobile, energetic individual?

What’s the famous quote that neither Bertrand Russell nor John Lennon uttered? “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” According to Quote Investigator, the saying comes from a 1911 novel which no one’s ever heard of, written by an author no one’s ever heard of; the novel is called Phrynette Married and the author is named Marthe Troly-Curtin—see, told you.

What does this all mean? It means that neither Bertrand Russell nor John Lennon thought that wasting time was a good idea; only some character in Marthe Troly-Curtin’s novel thought so and whoever that character was, they were wrong.

Suffice it to say—I’ve enjoyed wasting a lot of time during this quarantine and it just came to bite me in the ass. That Geography of the Mediterranean Region exam I had today was harder than expected and my lack of serious preparation might’ve cost me a chance at a good grade; then again, even if I hadn’t enjoyed wasting my time and actually studied for it, I’m not really sure that my proactive attitude would’ve made a significant difference because the exam presented a rather curveball topic, which I really don’t want to bore you with.

Let’s come back to something more interesting, like the Spanish flu, or perhaps even German measles. Over the past few days, I’ve encountered many Facebook posts—by people who can only be Trump supporters, I assume—justifying our president’s actions in referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus,” based on the fact that other pandemics like the Spanish flu and German measles also refer to a people.

White House officials have staunchly defended their use of the term, despite warnings by the World Health Organization that stigmatizing people in such a way is not only hurtful, but can also lead to violence—something I’ve discussed in a previous entry; the crimes have gone up to such an extent that Asian American groups are starting to compile hate crime reports.

Let’s take the stupidity of our president for granted and leave him be for a second. It’s really the Facebook posts that are driving me mad, especially when they’re made by people from the US. It’s called the Spanish flu not because it originated there, but because the country reported the outbreak, which led to the belief that it did originate there, and this isn’t the case (no pun intended). The Spanish flu, in fact, originated in Fort Riley, Kansas—a fact that’s also corroborated on the official site of the US Army. I say, President Trump, it’s very tempting to call it the American flu, but I won’t stoop to your level, or will I?

I still don’t understand why the Spanish didn’t jump on the chance to insult the US, instead choosing to call it the “French flu,” according to a Time article. It really is surprising, given the brilliant propaganda manufacturing campaigns of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer (yes, the prize guy), which reported fake atrocities and crimes committed by the Spanish to sway US public opinion in favor of war. This was the birth of yellow journalism, which a hundred years ago was targeted at Spain and has now found a new recipient in Russia. As Allen Ginsberg wrote in his poem, “America,” satirizing such hysteria:

It’s probably irrelevant to mention that the newspaper campaign run by Randolph and Hearst did manage to manufacture the war and that a 1974 Rickover investigation concluded that contrary to Randolph’s and Heart’s claims, Spain was actually not responsible for sinking the USS Maine. But what else is new? The US loves war and has only been at peace for seventeen years of its 239 year history—that’s 93 percent of the time, by the way.

And how about German measles? They didn’t originate in Germany either. The name comes from the fact that in 1814 German doctors correctly identified Rubella (the more common label for the virus) as being something separate from measles or scarlet fever.

Ah, information, knowledge, facts—but who has time for any of that on Facebook? In a quarantine it’s best to sit on your ass and get drunk; indeed, it took a while, but here’s the first picture of the day. Beer or wine? What will I have tonight? To be completely frank, although I look like a 1970’s alcoholic in the photo below, I haven’t touched a single drop since this quarantine dropped on March 9th. It just feels too depressing for any kind of alcohol. Although I rarely drank in the US, Italy did make it hard to resist a glass of Sangiovese or a bottle of Ichnusa in the company of friends. Now, however, there are no friends and all the bars are closed. Good times.

Nevertheless, I keep one bottle of beer (not Ichnusa) for sanity and one bottle of wine (not Sangiovese) for insanity. In Ancient Greece, beer was considered the drink of barbarians, which is something we shall become if this quarantine doesn’t end soon. Despite the general consensus of the Ancient Greeks, it’s always nice to see the same Nelson who wrote the aforementioned book stating that: “Xenophon of Athens is remarkably complimentary about the beer he tasted in Armenia.” Then there’s the strange story of Lycurgus of Thrace, who killed the followers of Dionysus because he either thought them to be effeminate or was himself “temporarily driven mad (or made intoxicated) by Dionysus,” according to Nelson.

If to drink wine is to share in the Dionysian mysteries of madness and revelry, then what does it mean to consume beer and hence become a barbarian? Isn’t it kind of the same thing? All I know is that I don’t want to drink wine alone and I don’t want to consume beer in the presence of Lycurgus, but I’ll gladly drink beer with Xenophon and attend a symposium with Socrates. In a quarantine, however, I neither want to speed up the process of becoming a barbarian nor do I want to have a symposium by myself. I do apologize for the scant amount of pictures today, but last time I checked this was a diary, not a scrapbook.

All the way from quarantined Italy: I may seem crazy now, but in a month everyone here will be no different.

Until next time.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.