Category: War

American Pandemic, a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq

“American Pandemic” was first published in Volume 12 of The American Journal of Poetry (January 1st, 2022). Volume 12 was the final issue of The AJP before it ceased publication. The archive remained available for some months, until early 2023, after which the website disappeared completely.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work.


American Pandemic (The President’s Prayer)

For although you may have absolutely no choice in some matters, this does not mean the things you must do in these moments are absolutely right.
—Wilde 3:16

Dear Lord, today we give
thanks for no longer
having to fear the rapists
living next door to us—
at least those who,
out of their own volition,
did trust in the miracles
of science and go down
to the nearest vaccination center,
where shots
of AstraZeneca are done—
approved, of course, by the CDC and EU,
for its benefits
lie precisely in the fact
that it has killed
a trivial amount
of people,
and was made
by a British-Swedish company,
unlike Sputnik,
which, regrettably,
also, did ice
a similarly trivial amount,
but was, of course,
made by the Russians—
a dilemma, indeed,
for if the rapist
had simply chosen
Slavic vaccination,
it would’ve prevented
him from entering indoor
venues like movie theaters and schools,
much less having access to Europe,
where this vaccine,
along with the Chinese Sinovac,
are still under rolling review,
all for your own safety, of course.
Dear Lord, though we must keep walking
through the valley of the shadow of death,
we will fear no evil;
for Thy Protestant and Catholic
vaccines will protect us,
while the heathens of the East—
Orthodox Slavs and Chinese communists, that is,
will be barred from entering
the Schengen Area
for having disobeyed Thy command,
and taken jabs
from the forbidden list of vaccines.
For we know that your only
begotten Son, Jesus,
cares not whatsoever about all Christians,
nor even those recognized
by the United Nations,
but only those G-7 (formerly G-8) Christians,
who by their burden of upholding
democracy, human rights,
and women’s rights,
(two different things altogether,
as women aren’t humans),
did follow the true path of Thy Son
when they expelled Russia
from this hallowed community
after its illegal annexation of Crimea.
Lord, we ask that you give us
patience and strength
in this time of uncertainty—
for our other neighbor, Bill,
living with his lovely family
just four houses down,
are followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses;
despite having frequently made generous
donations to charities fighting poverty
in Sub-Saharan Africa,
they remain unvaccinated due to their beliefs—
thus posing bigger threats
than the very rapist living next door,
who, in fact, holds a bachelor’s degree
in pharmacology,
and this he received from Tufts,
meaning he has rightly
been ordained as a monk of science,
with fervent faith in all the hottest biology.
Indeed, our dear Lord,
it helps neither Bill,
who once rescued two children
from a burning building,
nor his pleasant family
that often volunteers
to pick up trash in their neighborhood,
to be good, yet unvaccinated Christians.
For the Lord so commanded:
Thou must let all vaccinated
fornicators into heaven,
for if they present
the Green Pass,
and it is valid,
every sin and transgression henceforth
shall be forgiven by the glory of God.
Let us rejoice, sweet Jesus,
and let the miscreants inside!
For it is at once righteous to do so,
but, alas, also legally necessary,
for Lord Fauci,
in all his infinite
scientific glory
and wisdom,
hath ordained that full
vaccination bestows
full immunity
against any sexual misdemeanor,
and perhaps even felony,
but only so long as blood
tests can show
the presence of antibodies;
heathen Bill, however,
can neither be allowed
to keep his job,
nor attend any community functions,
and his satanic family
shall have to wear medieval
masks of shame wherever they go.
Let us pray, dear Lord,
that blasphemous Bill
and his infernal ménage
continue being good Christians,
for their donations
and community service are important,
but let us, nevertheless,
wholly distance ourselves socially,
for they cannot be spoken
to until they receive the sacrament of vaccine.
But let us all the while, dear Lord,
invite the rapist—
provided he agrees to wear a mask
and continues, like before, observing
social distancing rules,
because, indeed, the sacrament of vaccine
works not miracles every time,
something the pharmacologist offender,
or more aptly, offender pharmacologist,
knows very well;
and so, in the name of Jesus, our Savior,
let us pray for that gentle predator,
for he has become
the epitome
of responsibility,
and a shining example
of good fellowship
towards Woman (and also Man,
but only in rare homosexual cases—
for let us not, dear God, tolerate
those who discriminate
against a misfit
that prefers chasing men),
for he knows not only
all the hip sciences,
but also totally trusts
every hip doctor and science,
even when they say
opposite things.
Let us hence rejoice
and place our faith
in that rapist,
for he truly cares
about the safety of others,
even when he’s raping them,
for he will not lay hands
on any unvaccinated souls—
no matter how strong
his urge to do so may be,
and in this way, our heavenly Father,
we didst finally see
a prominent drop
in not only COVID infections,
but also cases of sexual assault;
these latter numbers, howbeit,
are neither relevant nor crucial,
for we’re not so concerned
with them these days,
mostly because developing
vaccines against battery,
even the sexual type,
is scientifically impossible.
And so Lord, we ask that you bless
and watch over
the sexual deviants,
(but only the inoculated)
for before Johnson and Johnson
they were blind,
but now they can see,
and protect also those who took
Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca,
and especially young women
who took AstraZeneca,
since they are most at risk
of dying from it,
but let us, oh Lord, have faith
and renounce our fright—
for these fair maidens
are now vaccinated
and no longer need Thou;
truly, they hath nothing
left to fear,
for we know
that all the world’s problems
disappear after full vaccination,
two weeks after the second dose, that is.
Have no mercy, howbeit, on those who took Sputnik,
for pride, tyranny, and wickedness cannot last,
but the righteous shall live by Western-approved
jabs and that holy democracy worthy of us all—
the one which accidentally bombs
civilian targets in Afghanistan,
but only under a Democratic administration;
a Republican democracy where civilian
targets are accidentally hit,
can, absolutely, not be tolerated.
Our Father who art in heaven,
we need good, honest democratic
leaders who blow up churches and schools
in the name of Saint Schumer,
of whom the public does approve
no matter what he commands,
and if there be doubt,
it shall excuse his failures
as honest blunders;
the same mistakes
just across the aisle, however,
must properly and justly incur the wrath
of all left-leaning news networks out there,
because that is what it means to be fair,
balanced, and objective, in the name of Christ Almighty.
We ask, also, in this time of uncertainty, dear Lord,
that you promptly hear the grievances aired
by the community—
for on numerous occasions
they’ve demanded that bombs
dropped on civilian targets
proudly display Pride flags on them,
otherwise protests will erupt
across the whole country.
We pray, as well, that all who deny
the scientific thrust behind
these rockets be labeled
provocateurs and Republicans—
meaning anyone from Afghanistan
must display proof of bombing,
preferably with QR codes,
before we can consider them refugees,
much less admit them to this country,
which, supposedly, isn’t a Christian one,
but whose presidents have all been Christian.
And so, in the name of all that’s holy, dear Lord,
please forgive us for putting
sanitizer dispensers
inside your churches,
and wearing masks,
for it’s nothing personal
against you or the miracles
you’ve worked on this earth;
it’s just that washing your hands
frequently absolves us of all sins—
for if Pontius Pilate only had some Purrell
that day he was to condemn
your only begotten Son,
there would be nothing
he would need to answer for today.
Dear Jesus, please know
that if and when you decide
to have your Second Coming,
all the vaccinated rapists,
murderers, and pillagers
will be free to attend the event,
which is scheduled to be held
at the LA Convention Center,
or perhaps Madison Square Garden,
depending on parking—
strictly observing, of course,
all the social distancing
protocols recommended by the CDC.
And if the people
ever decide to crucify
you once more,
something they are bound
to do sooner or later,
proof of vaccination
will no longer suffice;
given the more exciting nature
of this particular spectacle,
negative PCR tests (valid for 48 hours)
and cavity searches will be required
to access the crucifixion site,
for when it comes to safety,
no right or freedom
is sacred enough to uphold.
Oh, hallelujah, dear Lord,
we pray that the planet
and every hallowed
thing you created,
in the name of the Father,
the Son, and Holy Spirit,
simply go to shit
while our chosen leaders
sit there and figure out
how to save us from COVID;
for there are maps, statistics,
and analysis, sweet Jesus—
so much scientific scripture
capable of showing us all,
and very precisely at that,
how fucked up things have become.
Do you not see, my brethren,
that the US registered
148,202 new cases today,
which, on a fourteen day spectrum,
represents a twenty-nine percent increase?
Have the numbers and colorful graphs
not made an impression, my dear brothers?
For if we can’t quantify something,
the problem isn’t worth solving.
And is it not such a tragedy
that we have more vaccines
than anyone knows what to do with?
For in Pelosi 2:3-4 it is so written:
When Moderna ran out,
Fauci’s mother turned and said to him—
“They have no more Western vaccines.”
But that Son of Science so replied:
“Woman, why do you involve me?
My hour has not come yet.”
And after having ordered the syringes
to be filled with Sputnik,
the patients were given those injections
and all were then amazed
they had turned into Pfizer.
The Son of Science did this—
the first of his many signs,
in Cana of America,
and it revealed his glory,
and his disciples believed in him.
So now we must jab them all,
starting with dead people
and unborn fetuses
that can no longer be aborted,
for if daily quotas are not met,
the UN will come raining down
on our asses like a goddamn fucking
firestorm with their resolutions
that have never been legally binding
anyways, hence why be afraid?
And so, feel free to keep committing
your war crimes, my fellow African dictators,
for though they might say
and even shout a lot at the UN,
fear not, I command, fear not—
for everyone sitting
in those plush chairs
will be much content
to have heard the pretty sounds
of their own voices,
only to have done nothing at all
about the problems
they so enjoyed discussing;
at most, they shall show
“deep concern about the rising
tensions in the Middle East and Africa,”
but this too shall pass,
and with some persistence,
you’ll be free to plunder again,
without those pesky
colonizers (Europeans, that is)
scolding you for being colonizers.
And so, my brothers,
forget the rising levels of racism,
greed, and unhappiness,
for there’s no science
behind them anyways—
no graphs, maps, or tables
to show us the daily increase
in anti-Semitism, apartheid,
or even xenophobia,
for all the lab rats
working in democratic countries
have yet to develop vaccines
against these pandemics,
but if there’s no jab
to solve the problem,
then there’s no problem
to begin with—
nothing worth inspecting
any longer.
Just to be safe, howbeit,
keep distancing yourself
from Blacks, Asians,
Latinos, and anyone who isn’t White,
including Arabs and Persians
with American passports,
some of whom may look
and act “Caucasian,”
but don’t be deceived, my brothers,
and remember the famous Bible passage,
Shakespeare 3:16, Act I, Scene III:
Libyans and Iranians
can cite US passports
for their own purpose.
Also never forget
the Civil Rights Movement,
and which color of skin
was then barred
from entering buildings
and using facilities,
even before the Green Pass;
but let us, dear Lord,
remain vigilant as ever,
for unvaccinated Whites,
especially the poor ones,
now pose the same threat
as vaccinated Iraqis
and Afghans with US passports;
alas, should the unjabbed
Whitey, however,
happen to be quite wealthy,
then we must consider
this proof of vaccination,
because gaining COVID
from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
then dying from it
bestows both status
and upward mobility
upon the dead one,
while catching COVID
from a homeless drunk
then dying from that
is simply a tragedy—
upward mobility
without any fame.
Oh, dear Lord, we pray to heaven
that you get with the program at last
and allow just fully vaccinated
souls into your kingdom;
it would also be nice, sweet Jesus,
if you could demand
that the certificates be shown
in digital form,
with QR codes and cavity checks
and the whole nine yards, really,
for so many have already
been tempted by Satan,
and bought fake certificates
on Telegram and WhatsApp—
a clever business model
with great revenue streams,
something deeply upsetting
for the bureaucrats of Big Pharma.
On the other hand, dear Lord,
Big Tobacco may have cause
for celebration, as some studies
have shown that smoking
may help prevent COVID—
indeed, it doth appear as if nicotine
interferes with ACE2 receptors,
thereby preventing the virus
from entering cells.
Hallelujah, our Father in heaven!
We pray in the name
of your only begotten Son
that all the smokers in Kentucky
will now rise up and initiate
protests demanding mandatory puffing
measures at work, schools,
and hospitals,
but especially hospitals,
for no freedom,
and this we swear,
is sacred enough
to give up in the name of safety,
even the freedom to breathe.
Starting next week,
mandatory proof
of smoking shall
be presented
at the entrance
of every gym, restaurant,
and nursing home.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, fellow brethren!
And as with vaccines,
connoisseurs of Russian cigarettes
will absolutely
be prohibited from entering
any indoor venues,
until the proper clinical trials
can be carried out;
the CDC has already
scheduled rolling reviews
to see if cancer sticks
made by former communist heathens
pose the same health risks
as those made in the free world,
because only the cancerous kinds—
the ones with arsenic,
liberty, and lead inside them
have been known to interfere
with the aforementioned ACE2 receptors.
So far, the CDC has only approved
the democratic cigarettes of Marlboro,
Newport, and Camel against the coronavirus—
in clinical trials, they’ve shown
a smashing 99 percent effectiveness
in killing people before they contract COVID,
much lower than the despotic
brands of Russia,
which have far less additives
and kill only 89 percent of subjects,
but these are just the results
of one medical study funded by Republicans;
the very same study funded by Democrats
showed that Russian cigarettes
kill people on contact,
with vaccinated Americans
from ages 0 to 100 being most at risk;
the State Department hence recommends
that anyone holding a US passport
avoid traveling to places
where this tobacco is sold—
if you absolutely must travel,
buy forty packs of Marlboro
and smoke two a day while wearing
a mask fully covering nose and mouth.
Our dear Lord, we ask in the name of Jesus
that you please forgive
all the fornicators,
thieves, and lawyers,
but especially lawyers,
for any wrongs
they may have committed,
be they sleeping with monkeys,
stealing relics from your churches,
and, naturally, defending
those who slept with monkeys
and stole relics from churches,
but solely if said miscreants
who’ve lived total lives of sin
agree to accept Science
as their only true Savior,
and receive the holy
communion of antibiotics,
and when, with glory, those sins
have been thoroughly cleansed,
shall they proceed, at last,
with the deathbed vaccination,
for the Church of Democratic Science
teaches that only sincere deathbed inoculations
can prevent the spread of COVID at funerals,
while the Church of Republican Science
asserts that COVID was manufactured in a Chinese lab
and hence can threaten only Chinese funerals—
ever since the Great Schism of Science in 2020,
questions surrounding the afterlife
remain a disputed issue in both disciplines,
all because the Church of Democratic Science
and the Church of Republican Science
couldn’t agree on the issue
of whether it was acceptable
to use unleavened jabs
for the sacrament of full vaccination;
other disputes revolved around the fact
of whether scientists could marry
or had to remain celibate,
devoting their whole lives
to the study of reproduction,
rather than reproducing themselves.
And so, it looks as though the teachings
of Democratic Science
and Republican Science
will remain at odds forever.
Dear Lord, we ask that you punish
those scholars who sell indulgences—
fake vaccination certificates, that is,
for it will take a Reformation of Science,
initiated by the one and only
Martin Luther, MD, PhD, PsyD,
with no relation to the former
Augustinian monk,
to create yet another split,
and this time in the Church of Republican Science—
it shall come to pass that doctors
will have no right
to exercise power over people
in jab purgatory,
that is those who may qualify
for vaccination exemptions,
but must show extra proof
of valid medical contraindications
to receive that holy Green Pass.
The Church of Democratic Science
sees all this as heresy,
arguing that patients
must prostrate themselves
before doctors and ask
for vaccination penance—
only this way can they be
admitted to the Stanley Cup Finals,
and also Super Bowl LVI.
The World Series, however,
is a totally different ballgame—
being America’s Pastime,
it does, unfortunately,
require not only prescribed
vaccination penance,
but also a full baptism
with either Olay or L’Oréal—
also known as a “shower”
in scientific literature;
any rituals conducted
with Russian water
and their heathen
communist products
will not be recognized as democratic,
and may result in excommunication,
but also being burnt at the stake.
For we know, dear Lord,
that Psalm 51:7
tells us to purify our sins
strictly with Purell, but perhaps also Lysol—
only, however, if there’s a shortage of Purrell,
for that is surely the superior product,
and then we will be clean;
wash us, our heavenly Father,
but just with brands
approved by American
board-certified dermatologists,
and we shall be whiter
than Russian snow.
Let us pray, dear brothers,
that neither the ACLU,
nor the Woke Apparatus
of Twitter bring
charges of racism
against the Old Testament,
and perhaps even the whole Bible,
for, certainly, African-Americans,
along with darker skinned Latinos
and Asians, have no way of cleansing
themselves to the level
of Scripture-approved
shades of White—
at most, they shall be known
as “Two or More Races,”
or “Some Other Race,”
with the US Census Bureau
very much highlighting “Other,”
for that is how powerful
and prestigious
American body washes
remain on the world stage,
so help us God.
And let us remember,
today and for all times,
Fauci 3:5, where it is so written:
Trust in the Science
with all thy heart,
and do not depend
on your own understanding—
something, dear Lord,
which is good and true,
but certainly contradicted
by Biden and Harris 14:15,
which doth proclaim:
“The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought
to their steps.”
For it is the spiritually unvaccinated
who remain separated from Science,
and thus tempted by Satan himself—
for, today, that devil
is not really the Devil,
but rather the embodiment
of the Christian religion,
for in Buttigieg 16:23
it is so written:
Fauci turned and said to Jesus,
“Get behind me, Satan!”
You are a stumbling block
to my Science;
you do not have in mind
the concerns of vaccination,
but merely human concerns.
And so, from this day on,
Christianity became the Devil,
for it was not concerned
with just biology and the body,
but merely human concerns.
For yes, we all know, dear brothers,
that only the communion of vaccination
can absolve us from our sins.
And as the disciples
gathered for the Last Supper
at the White House,
Fauci said: “Take these masks
and wear them, for they are my body—
made in China, of course,
and though America
is on the brink of total collapse,
we can be sure these masks
will protect us from every economic,
social, and natural danger.
He then gave thanks to China
and offered his disciples
the syringes, saying:
“Each of you inject,
for this is my blood,
which seals the covenant
between the President
and his people,”
thus it was written
in Biden and Harris 26:27-8.
And so Washington
did truly rise again
from death,
and took its vaccinated
body—with PCR tests and everything—
that which appertained
to the perfection
of Man’s American nature,
wherewith it ascended into Heaven,
and there will sitteth, until the government
returns to judge all unvaccinated Men
(and also Women, of course,
for we must certainly discriminate
against unvaccinated Women as well)
on the last day.
In the name of the Father,
Uncle Sam, and American Spirit.


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 received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

Dear Russia, a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq


This poem consists of three “acts,” of which the first two were published in Volume 6 (January 1st, 2019) of The American Journal of Poetry. The entire poem subsequently appeared in (DISSINFORMATION), published by Main Street Rag.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


(ACT I: Red)

A Metaphor is Fake News

A simile is like fake news.

Humans are torn pages from books—
arranged by gods who can’t read.
Humans are metaphors:
figures of speech that assert people
are other people to enhance
writing or gossip.
Black people are white people.
White people are black people.
Humans are like similes:
figures of speech that compare
unlike people to make descriptions more colorful.
White people are like black people.
Black people are like white people.
Metaphors are humans:
philosophers who say one thing is another thing;
madmen who say one thing is another thing.
Similes are like humans:
they compare two unlike things
and say they’re similar, like madmen;
they compare two unlike things
and say they’re similar, like philosophers.


Humans who drop bombs
are the ushers of democracy.
Humans who drop bombs
are like the ushers of democracy.
The bombs will always fall
because we weren’t guilty
of inventing gravity.
Even the cosmos was born
from an explosion—
we’re only to blame for the literature.
Human nature is an old violin
strung with saints’ hair
and played in a chamber of skeptics.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is acute, like an insight,
yet hope is also acute, like an illness.
Hope is obtuse, as in narrow minded;
hope is also obtuse—more than 90 degrees.
But how many different triangles
do you need to prove that three angles
always add up to the same despair?
Hope is the freedom to draw three sided squares.
Hope is like the freedom to draw four sided triangles.
Dear humanity, our philosophy is a million
blank papers inside red
envelopes falling on Damascus.
Our crisis is an Inuk
who sees palm trees in his dreams.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
We have walked a long way
on the treadmill of reason
to avoid making pilgrimages.
Please, America, don’t invent
missile-proof houses and deploy
humanitarian forces to build them
in war zones so everyone can live
happy lives under your air strikes—
just stop dropping bombs.


Humans can’t tear away from screens.
The “like” button is a simile for danger,
but the real world is danger.
Danger is a person who thinks
he’s safe at home.
The person who thinks
he’s safe at home
is a public library that doesn’t lend books.
If you never leave the house—
a bookshelf holding lots of knowledge
can still fall and cause problems.
A bomb is a book.
A bomb is like a book.
A book is like a bomb.
A book is a bomb.
Our crisis is an Inuk who sees
palm trees on the screen;
scholars say this can’t be a crisis
because it all depends on how we define
crisis. Is it good? Is it bad?
It’s all relative and they urge
people to think with extreme caution:
When the Inuit see palm trees on the screen,
they aren’t really seeing palm trees
because you can’t, in fact, claim to have seen
things when you’ve only seen them on a screen.
Have you truly seen the horrors of Vietnam
after watching them on TV?
Would you claim you saw the Mona Lisa
after looking at pictures on the internet?
Seeing isn’t seeing.
Seeing isn’t like seeing.
Yes, the Inuit can’t be terrified
of palm trees on the screen
because they have no right
to claim they ever saw them.
Hence, Alaskan Natives
shouldn’t be afraid of giving up their land
because we need more space to build
bombs, planes, and factories.
We need more global warming because
the population is growing and Antarctica
is still too cold for palm trees; Denmark
is making good progress,
but Arctic Norway is still frozen.


Our crisis is an Inuk
who sees palm trees in real life.
The scholars are now confused,
but lawmakers aren’t afraid yet.
The Russians sold Alaska for pennies on the dollar,
and Alaskan Natives will give up winter,
just like they gave up their land—
from palm tree to shining palm tree.
Winter is simply bad for business.
Winter is a job-killing regulation.
Winter is a ski resort,
and ski resorts are like the arts in public schools.
We must cut the arts to make sure
kids get more math and science.
Statistics and science show that our kids
are behind in statistics and science.
Math and science are nuclear bombs and, therefore, important.
Ski resorts aren’t nuclear bombs and, therefore, of no use.
We must cut winter or America’s assets will freeze.
1) The greenhouse effect should be outsourced
to all Arctic spots on the planet.
2) Still, we can produce
good global warming right here in the States—
Americans are tired of overpaying for heating.
More jobs, more nukes, more take-home pay.
3) We must sign the North American Global Warming Agreement (NAGWA);
global warming should freely move
across the borders, but the Inuit must be restricted.
We all know the price of global warming
only depends on the free market.
We all know fossil fuels aren’t the problem.
Black Tuesday didn’t affect the USSR
because they had no free market,
yet fossil fuels burned and burned.
Russians without warm clothes
confirmed that communist Siberia was the coldest
place without capitalism.
If fossil fuels caused global warming,
the Cold War could’ve never happened—
gas, coal, and oil powered the arms race
but the political climate only got colder and colder.
So, to sustain global warming, we must remove
all Arctic tribes;
then, we must establish free markets in Siberia
that retain warm relations with other markets.
If Russia hacks global warming again,
communism will rise and flood the market.
Everything will be free,
except the freedom to leave—or travel abroad.
Remember how good it was? The food was free
because there was no food to buy;
you could always travel abroad—
if you never wanted to come back.
When the jig was up and the walls fell,
a curtain of global warming descended across the continent.
“Don’t be coldhearted,” they said. “Put food on the shelves,
then make sure no one can afford it. Give them freedom
to apply for visas, then reject all applications.”
A good capitalist knows that poverty
is more humane than hunger.
A good capitalist knows that actual walls
tear people apart, not lines on a map.
Lines on a map are good metaphors for walls.
Lines on a map are like good similes for walls.
Borders are abstract and walls are concrete;
together they form great poetic devices
that keep people apart.
A wall is a dam that restricts the flood of migrants.
A wall is like a dam that restricts the flow of migrants.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is a white wall with a white door
to which you don’t have the key,
but if you find the door and pick the lock,
armed guards are waiting on the other side;
they’re paid well to watch the border.
Your only hope is to bribe them.


Our crisis is an Inuk
who can’t say “snow” in his language.
A palm tree is a Christmas tree.
A palm tree is like a Christmas tree.
Rich people buy palm trees on Christmas;
the poor must settle for cacti.
If a Christmas tree fell in the USSR,
where no one could celebrate Christmas,
did it make the sound of “Jingle Bells?”
Gravity says yes, because gravity never dies.
Gravity never sees the gravity
of the situation.
Gravity doesn’t call for help
when there’s no one to hear it.
Gravity is a person who falls
off buildings without a parachute
and doesn’t make a sound.
Gravity refuses to slow down with age;
it’s wise—like an old professor.
Bombs still fall according to gravity’s laws,
but now they’re bigger and stronger.
Never fear—gravity knows what to do with bombs;
if such physics don’t suit you, take your pacifism
to the moon and let’s see how long you’ll last—
no one dies because no one’s there,
and bombs don’t fall because lunar gravity is lazy.
Gravity is the cruelest thing on earth.
Everyone who jumps off a building
gets treated exactly the same.
Gravity must be controlled by the Communists.
The Russians have hacked into America’s gravity.
For some reason, the rich no longer fall
slower when they jump off a building.
Nyet, tovarish polkovnik! Everyone gets the same ration!
America will solve the world’s gravity problem
with her entrepreneurial spirit—
luxury parachutes for the rich.
The ACLU is outraged.
Everyone should have the right
to fall off a building without dying—
life, liberty, and the pursuit
of falling off a building without dying.
America will help Africa end its gravity problem.
We’ll drop ten million emergency
parachute kits over the land
using our state-of-the-art parachutes,
which must be returned ASAP.
Gravity doesn’t cost America a thing.
Gravity is like global warming; we can use
as much as we want and it will never run out.
A good capitalist knows that gravity
isn’t responsible for falling wages
or rising temperatures.
A good capitalist knows that gravity
is only responsible for the fall of the USSR.
The gravity in Antarctica is the same
as the gravity in Syria, but Antarctica
needs air strikes
to become a summer resort,
while Syria is already too hot.
Gravity knows that every city must fall.
Gravity doesn’t care that New Orleans
will be the second Atlantis.
Gravity is a foreign threat to America.
America must invade the Democratic People’s Republic of Gravity
to make the world safer,
but New Orleans must sink—
we’ll never forget! Semper Fi!
We’re not savages like the Ancient Greeks—
we’re ushers of democracy.
We’ll let New Orleans fall,
but our history books will know where it sank.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is a dead metaphor.
A dead metaphor is melted snow.
Melted snow is water.
Water is profit.
Profit is about staying above water.
Dear members of the United States Congressional Capitalist Party (USCCP):
California will soon be Atlantis 3,
except the Sierras and Cascades.
Dump your underwater homes
before the market literally floods.
People in Nevada are partying like its 2999.
Let’s take full advantage and stimulate the economy.
Let’s sell ocean-front houses to Nevada and Arizona.
Californians have enjoyed
this luxury far too long.
Idaho has bought rain checks
from the feds
to get property rights.
By nature, the flooding
should’ve surged to Utah,
but Idaho lobbied Congress
to divert the water at taxpayer expense.
The other states get free
potatoes in exchange.
Europe thinks 49 states struck a great deal—
Idaho taxpayers won’t live to see
the coast, but the other states
get their potatoes now.


Our crisis is an Inuk
who stops hoping for snow.
Hope is an extended metaphor
in an unfinished book.
An unfinished book
is a quiet volcano covered with snow.
Snow is a boomerang that doesn’t return.
A boomerang that doesn’t return is an avalanche.
An avalanche must follow gravity’s laws.
Gravity says real snow falls from the sky.
Real snow is an artist who draws
perfect circles by hand.
Frozen water that doesn’t fall from the sky
is a flawless circle drawn by a compass.
Real snow isn’t a copy of the Mona Lisa,
even if the copy looks better.
Real snow isn’t like a copy of the Mona Lisa,
even if the copy looks better.
Real snow doesn’t fall
from snow machines.
Real snow is the blank canvas
under the Mona Lisa.
Real snow is like the blank canvas
under the Mona Lisa.
Not every blank canvas is real snow.
Not every blank canvas is like real snow.
Our crisis is an Inuk
who knows all of this.


Our crisis is an Inuk
who has forgotten how snow feels.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope was the last snow on earth
melting in the hand of an Inuk
who couldn’t forget the word “hope.”
The last snow on earth
melting in the hand of an Inuk
was a sign of bad luck—like 13 black cats crossing
the path of 13 people who just broke 13 mirrors.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
What is it?
What is it like?
Hope is an unfurnished mansion given
to someone who can’t afford furniture.
Hope feels like anthropologists do in a war zone.
Hope is a physicist who jumps off
a building and prays for gravity to fail.
Hope feels like unrequited love
from a person you’ll never meet.
Hope is a metaphor for things you shouldn’t expect.
Hope is like a simile for things you shouldn’t expect.
Hope is a plate full of freewill seasoned
with foregone conclusions.
Freewill is like a person at a buffet,
who’s free to eat past his limit,
and still has the freedom to make his body feel hungry.
Hope. Hope. Hope.


(ACT II: White)

Dear Russia

We found the word “hangover”
in your dictionary
and it was awkward.
How dare you have such a word
in this cold language?
What were you thinking?
Who gave you permission
to feel any pain at all?
Who allowed you to be human?
How dare you stray
from CNN’s stereotypes?
Our neutral stations worked
so hard to air them for you:
Russian aggression, corruption,
no soul, KGB, communist, alcoholic;
this is what you are, Russia,
because our networks said so
and they’re not run by the state.
Your children aren’t children.
Your suffering isn’t suffering.
Your diseases aren’t diseases.
Your disasters aren’t disasters,
because you’re drunk all the time
and you don’t really feel a thing.
Russia, you did what only America
is allowed to do in Guatemala,
Chile, Iran, and the Congo.
Russia, nothing you do
will ever be good enough—
nothing you say
will ever be believed,
because Russian promises
are like history books
written about tomorrow.
Your twenty million Russkies
didn’t die to win the war.
You didn’t take Berlin.
You didn’t even put the Soviet flag
on the Reichstag.
You didn’t liberate Auschwitz.
You didn’t suffer the Leningrad Blockade.
You didn’t send the first
person to space.
How dare you invade Afghanistan first?
Russia, stop meddling in America’s greatness.
Your blood type is American Negative
and we can’t use it.
You’re a threat to our imperialism.
Please, leave the bombing of hospitals to us;
we’ll show you how it’s done in Syria.
Russia, Vietnam was a tie and you know it.
Russia, all your women are whores;
they slept with countless foreigners
at the World Cup—
mostly gullible Americans.
All your women are desperate
for Green Cards and they were taught
to seduce Americans in preschool.
Russia, you’re so dirty no one
wants to live with you—
they don’t even want to visit
for a week or so.
Your birth rate is declining
and we’re happy about that—
less little Russians to grow up
and hack our elections that are bought
and sold by the rich.
Russia, you must know that Al Gore
lost in 2000 because you hacked
the Supreme Court.
Russia, a Harvard study has shown
that more Russkies drown
at the end of Vodka bottles
than all the people who go swimming.
Russia, why are you so barbaric?
Why do you insist on frowning in subways?
Why do you keep bears in the living room?
Why do you treat your women too much like women?
We think you should let your women
carry logs across the forest
and fix tractor engines
so we can discuss this cruelty on the news.
Why are your men so damn masculine?
Why do they insist on providing for the family
and raising their kids in traditional ways?
We want something more exciting
to talk about on MSNBC.
Russia, we want you to be
what we think you are.
Russia, you must start seeing
your own culture through our eyes.
A recent Yale study has shown
that all your citizens are direct
descendants of Ivan the Terrible.
No, Russia, Tolstoy couldn’t have inspired
Gandhi’s nonviolent movement.
Dostoyevsky was simply insane
and Chekhov died in Germany,
so, in our opinion, he wasn’t even Russian.
My fellow Americans,
let’s unite and do our best
to forget the electoral college
until it favors us to remember,
because Russia gave us Trump,
even though he lost the popular vote.
Russia, you made us use
the nuclear bomb.
Russia, we blame you for McCarthyism—
Philip Loeb’s suicide was all your fault.
Dalton Trumbo should’ve never
worked in this town again,
but we’re so glad he didn’t kill himself
because the blacklist really posed no threat.
Oops—sorry, Philip.
Don’t get mad, Russia.
We’re never responsible for anything
because we’re a democracy
and communists can’t do anything right.
Russia, all your grandmothers are spies;
all your children are future spies;
all your IT majors are hackers;
all your athletes are drug-addicts;
all your teachers are party hacks;
and Trump has way more soul than Putin.
Russia, we won the Cold War,
but this isn’t enough for us.
We want to cripple you—
leave you with nothing.
We won’t let you build pipelines to Europe—
your economy must suffer.
How dare you try to invent anything?
How dare you try to fix
the lives of your citizens?
We love seeing your starving children
and victims of alcohol poisoning.
Russia, we enjoyed watching you in the 90’s.
Why can’t you have another Yeltsin?
We miss it when you urinated
on airport runways and got so drunk
that you couldn’t even meet
the Irish delegation.
Why can’t you be more childlike and innocent?
Relations were so easy for us then.
Don’t you remember?
Russia, NASA is doing just fine;
we haven’t gone to the Red Planet first
only because we fear that our astronauts
will defect to the communists
and never come back.
Our experts think you need
a capitalist revolution.
Russia, the CIA can fly Trump to Zurich,
and we can also pay for the train to Petrograd.
Paul Manafort wants to come as well.
Russia, trust us when we say
that we’ve never spied on you
or interfered in your affairs.
Don’t you believe us?
Russia, sorry for promising
not to expand NATO past East Germany—
we’ll never lie to you again.
Watch out, Russia!
We’ll use whatever means are necessary
to bring democracy—
even if people must die.
Russia, unlike you, we’re good
at apologizing for every crime,
and we apologize in advance
for all the crimes we still must commit.
Russia, we never apologized
for shooting down Iran Air Flight 655
because America is too democratic
for Iran’s forgiveness.
Our corruption is better
than your corruption.
How dare you let police officers take bribes
when ours can shoot unarmed black men?
How dare you have state news
when we have Sean Hannity?
Russia, we shot down Flight 655
for the freedom of others.
We gave black people syphilis
because it was good for science.
Project MKUltra was a huge success.
Russia, we fought the Nazis,
but we needed Wernher von Braun
to land on the moon first.
Russia, you must understand this:
We simply wanted to be better than you
but we enjoyed the Cold War far too much.
Russia, we honestly do miss Yeltsin a lot.
Remember the time he got so drunk
at the White House and tried
to hail a cab in his underwear
so he could get a pizza?
Russia, you were so little then
and we loved playing with you,
but we haven’t enjoyed seeing
you grow up at all.
You’re to blame for Edward Snowden.
We could’ve continued spying
on our people and lying about it,
but you had to go and ruin it all—
now we can’t even prosecute him
to feel better about ourselves.
Russia, for the sake of convenience,
we’ll forget that you favored
the colonies during our Revolution
and supported the Union during our Civil War—
not to mention WWII,
which according to our historians
started in 1944 with D-Day,
and ended with the Allies taking Berlin.
Russia, we want you to know that history
is all about interpretation
and we believe Hitler would’ve used
Operation Barbarossa against the US,
but he was too lazy to cross an ocean;
we have plenty of peer-reviewed sources
that confirm this theory, so there.
Russia, you don’t want to go to war
with Harvard and Yale.
Our professors will soon be able
to carry guns—
what can your professors do?
Russia, don’t try it!
You’ll never find the word “aggression”
in our dictionary, even though we
love our military and guns to death.
Russia, Curtis LeMay was a fine American
who could’ve been a war criminal
if Japan hadn’t lost.
Russia, we would’ve loved
to see you and the Nazis kill
more of each other,
but we never wanted Hitler to win.
We now regret Truman’s words,
but only because we won the Cold War.
Russia, we had to kill the noble Patrice Lumumba
because he asked for your help.
We just want people to know
that we’ll support any tyrant,
so long as he’s not a Red.
Mobutu Sese Seko, Luis Posada Carriles,
Manuel Noriega, and Suharto
are just some of our closest buddies.
We backed the Mujahideen
because they hated the communists,
but now we’re fighting them ourselves
because they’ve turned against us—
honestly, what the fuck are we doing?
Russia, we got bored of fighting Saddam,
so we killed him to make space for ISIS,
because our military is just that awesome.
What have you done recently?
Russia, we’re sorry,
but we’d rather have ISIS win
than let you take some credit in Syria.
We don’t need any help
defending the world from the terrorism
we started in the 70’s and 80’s.
Russia, we pull ourselves up
by our own combat boot straps.
Russia, we blame you for Hurricane Katrina
because Bush was too busy
looking into Putin’s soul.
The financial crisis of 2008
was all your fault because we wanted
to show the power of capitalism,
but we overachieved.
Frankly, Russia, your president
should stop taking his shirt off
to seduce our women.
Don’t you know we have puritanical
values that say you can grab
her by the pussy?
Russia, we would appreciate
a McDonald’s inside the Kremlin.
You won’t understand American Exceptionalism,
but if we had to explain it logically,
it’s like a Russian nesting doll
that keeps getting bigger
each time you open it.
No, Russia! Nothing is impossible
if you believe in the American Dream
and work very hard to bury yourself
in $200,000 student debt while working
sixteen hours a day and taking care
of three kids all alone.
Russia, we just had our first black president,
so all black people can now be presidents.
We’re still working on white women,
then Latinos, then Latino women,
then maybe white people who weren’t born here.
Russia, there’s a logic behind all this.
Russia, you poison journalists,
but we prefer to scare and ridicule them
until they simply kill themselves.
Gary Webb, Steven Kangas, Danny Casolaro.
Russia, you’ve been a capitalist
for less than thirty years—
we understand and forgive you,
but, for God’s sake, when you take bribes,
please call them donations—
you’re embarrassing us.
Russia, we feel ambivalent about Bobby Fischer,
but we want you to know
that Ronald Reagan was a good president
because he brought down the Berlin Wall
and reluctantly gave the Contras
cocaine to stop communism,
and he also brought down the Berlin Wall.
Russia, you still haven’t learned
that nothing we do can be wrong
if we simply call it the right thing.
Torture and poverty are fair game
if people are economically disadvantaged
and we’re using enhanced interrogation;
if you add these words to your dictionary,
maybe we can reset relations.
Russia, don’t waste your time;
you’ll never find “Native American Genocide”
in our dictionaries and textbooks—
Natives must stay on reservations,
but you’re more than welcome
to peruse the DNC servers
because we want to sanction you badly.
Russia, you got no brand,
and you got no style.
Even Obama said you don’t make
anything that people want to buy.
We got Special K terrorism—
you just have the generic brand.
Our schools and nightclubs
get shot up each week,
but our free press covers the mess
by respecting the Constitution—
your state news gives
the criminals no fame.
Russia, we tell people they can freely
practice their religion,
then we discriminate against them—
you simply discriminate
without telling people a thing.
Russia, stop trying to be a knock-off America.
You’re a false Adidas.
You’re a fake Gucci handbag.
All your kids want to be American.
Russia, give us your kids;
we want to adopt them
and improve the life of every child
so we can blame you for neglecting minors,
or turning them into hackers.
Russia, we’ll parachute your children
all over America and call it the “American Airlift.”
Russia, we’re not bothered by the fact
that most American literature
actually worth reading
has been about resistance,
protest, and the empowerment
of oppressed individuals.
Russia, we’re more than comfortable
with our Langston Hugheses,
Amiri Barakas, and James Baldwins.
Russia, your dissidents go straight to Gulags;
we simply ignore them for as long as we can.
Dear Russia, unfortunately we’re
running out of time. We must go now.
It hasn’t been a pleasure hearing from you.
Please write as soon as something bad
happens—Mueller’s investigation
is getting real boring and the next election
is still two years away.
We’re looking forward to hearing
about the next poisoned journalist real soon.

Yours truly,

The United States of America


(ACT III: Blue)


Capitalism is like a priceless coin given to a pauper who must throw it into a well and wish for two priceless coins instead; we call this the American Dream.

—Oscar Wilde

Bankers like to call it capital, funds, currency, and liquid assets, but they never talk about money because money is dirty, and dirt must be laundered. Money is a person who falls into pools of gasoline and still runs inside burning buildings to save children. Those with a lot of money never touch money, but they often marry for more money; this is called an alliance. Alliances are wealth, riches, and affluence—no traces of cocaine here. Alliances are born when privileged seeds successfully penetrate the nest egg and create fortunes. Money is to happiness as chemo is to cancer. Money is a Buddhist monk without patience. Money is a beggar who knows that money has no inbred value—only alcohol makes you tipsy. When the grocery stores are empty, money is a prostitute with syphilis. When the grocery stores are full, men sleep with money under their pillows. When the state runs out of baby milk, women hide money in their bras. When the market is full of baby milk, men hide money in their underwear. Money calls itself bread and dough, but even money knows that metaphors don’t rise in the oven and similes have no nutritional value. Money is a donation in a democracy and a bribe in an autocracy. Money is a strong defense in constitutional courts and a strong favor in the hands of corrupt judges. Americans say your money is taxed in capitalist countries and stolen in socialist countries; Europeans believe that Americans will sell their soul to the highest bidder. Money is the promise of cold cash to a thief and a pledge in the church. Money is a trust fund to grandchildren and Gs to a drug dealer. Money is bacon to a family and gold to the government. Money is the chameleon who stands out at the party. Money is a magnet for magnates. Money is a fat cat on a cheeseparing diet. Money stabs you in the back because it’s always greener on the other side. In a world full of lies, the phony claims of genuine money can always be taken at face value. Money is a woman who never lies about her age, because money is a woman who never gets old—even when she gets wrinkles. A long in the tooth 100 is better than a fresh 20. A fresh 20 is just as experienced as the cosmopolitan one. Money is the sign language for economists who are deaf to the corruption of capitalism. With the right money, Russian or Mexican brides can be mailed to your door. Money is the glue holding abusive marriages together. Money may not buy happiness, but a gun can buy you plenty of fear. God created people, but Sam Colt made them equal; then capitalism made people unequal, but the AR-15 made them equal again; then Walmart made people unequal once more, but Walmart started selling AR-15s and everything was fine—for now—until Walmart stopped selling AR-15s and we have problems once more. Money is racist towards other money. 18 Mexican pesos only get you 1 US dollar even though Mexicans work harder than Americans—pesos have more color and dollars are still mostly green. Emmett Till was beaten and shot in a town called Money; after the killers were found innocent by a jury of their racist peers, they sold their story to Look so they could brag about the murder. Look, America—look what we did; the transaction is now complete. In the US, you can make money on Jeopardy! Double Jeopardy! and even double jeopardy. In the US, there is such a thing as a free lunch, but only if you’re not hungry—also known as a tax break for the rich. There is Purchase in New York; Sellers in South Carolina; Cashiers in North Carolina; Cash in Arkansas; Coupon in Pennsylvania; Dollar Settlement in Michigan; Country Club in Florida; City of Industry in California; Enterprise in Alabama; Prosperity in West Virginia; Jackpot in Nevada, and Rich in Tennessee. There is, however, no Poverty anywhere in the US, except, for some reason, in Poor, Tennessee.


Every morning gives people the chance
to live one more day—
no, every morning gives people the chance
to buy one more thing.
To buy is to live;
to buy things you don’t need
is to live well.
Buying Ferraris when no one’s
looking takes all the fun out of capitalism.
Driving Ferraris when no one’s
looking takes all the fun out of driving Ferraris.
It’s about higher standards of living;
it’s about buying things you don’t need;
it’s about selling stuff no one wants to buy—
the more you buy,
the more money others can spend;
the more money others can spend,
the more useless stuff they’ll buy.
If you can’t join the party,
happiness levels go down
because someone isn’t selling their stuff,
and they must sell to be rich,
or, at least, to be happy.
You must pay for a better quality of life.
Bananas are a good source of potassium,
but organic bananas are better sources of potassium
only because they cost more.
The US needs more millionaires;
millionaires prefer to buy organic bananas
that have the same potassium content as normal bananas.
Millionaires don’t send their kids to public schools—
private schools cost $15,000 a year
and they’re almost better than
the free public schools in Finland.
The basis of our happiness is unhappiness—
the root of the word “unhappiness” comes
from the Americanese word “competition,”
which means “happiness” in English,
because we must always be richer
than our neighbor on the right,
but if we’re richer than our neighbor on the right,
our neighbor on the left might be richer than us
because his house is a meter taller
and we can’t have that—
to be happy, we must sell our house
and buy a larger one,
even though we can’t afford
this bigger happiness.
A wise man once said: “You reap what you sow.”
A wise American once said: “Take out a loan,
because what you can’t have today,
you’ll pay for tomorrow.”
Watch out, world.
America is a Christian nation.
We pardon the turkey and Turkey
because we must celebrate Thanksgiving
and drop bombs on Syria from strategic air bases.
The day after Thanksgiving, we celebrate
Corporate Thanksgiving, which comes
from the Americanese word “Black Friday.”
We give alms to the poor so they can
afford 120 inch HD TVs.
The word “alms” comes from the Americanese word
“discounts” or “promotions.” The poor
must arrive very early after endless
eating, football, and maybe prayer,
to beat the literal and metaphorical shit
out of each other and take
what’s rightfully theirs.
“Beating the literal and metaphorical shit out of others”
comes from the Americanese word “capitalism,”
which means “growth and prosperity” in English.
If logic could be mass-produced and sold,
it would be designed by Apple in California
and assembled in China.
America is the biggest exporter
of American logic to foreign countries.
American logic is cut-throat capitalism
coupled with affirmative action.
American logic is telling Native Americans
to go back to their country.
American logic is “all men are created equal”
when slavery was still legal.
American logic is a democracy
in which the majority can still lose.
“Hypocrisy” comes from the Americanese word “logic,”
and “logic” comes from the Americanese word “exceptionalism,”
which means “better than your sorry ass” in English.
Yeehaw, partner!
In America, there’s no inequality—
our economy remains strong,
and we still have far-right scholars
on our payroll who’ll gladly define
“inequality” on our terms.
“Inequality” comes from the Americanese word
“opportunity,” meaning a white person
and a black person can work hard,
but the white person is still better.
America, it’s all Americanese to me;
we used to have “separate but equal,”
but unequal opportunity is now given to everyone,
and if everyone gets equal unequal opportunity,
then all people invariably become equal.
According to Americanese philosopher, Confusion:
“I think I have more money than my neighbor—
therefore, I’m probably rich.”
America, is there anything you’re not willing to sell?
Your stores are full of stuff I don’t want,
and void of anything I’m looking for.
Why must everything be sold with fear?
I don’t want to buy toothpaste
because my mouth stinks—
I want to buy toothpaste
because the toothpaste itself smells good.
Why can’t you let me decide
whether I’ll kiss the girl, or not?
If I showed you pictures of naked European socialism
and sold you weight loss pills for capitalist fat,
would you like my marketing strategy?
I know, America. I know.
No one likes to see how much they weigh
on the scales of injustice,
but it’s time you had a look.
Does your invasion of the Middle East
smell like shit to European neighbors?
No problem—install long-lasting Febreze
air fresheners on all your tanks
and those righteous Europeans won’t smell a thing.
Do you have trouble picking up French women these days?
We’ve got you covered, America.
For a limited time, buy the complete works
of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre
and we’ll throw in a French dictionary.
Cure yourself of American stupidity—
date not one, but two French women at the same time,
and maybe learn a second language along the way.
No, America; if you haven’t been
with more than one French woman at the same time,
you haven’t done the “ménage à trois.”
France forgives your stupidity and your puritanical roots.
We’re sorry, America, “ménage à trois”
doesn’t come from the Americanese phrase,
“two’s company, three’s a crowd,”
and, honestly, we think this phrase is stupid.
America, we gave New York the Statue of Liberty
to symbolize your independence,
and New York gave the Statue of Liberty
to Las Vegas, which symbolizes America’s free
and depraved economy.
If everyone in Vegas went home a winner,
the city would be one dreary place.
Vegas: What money you win here, stays here.
Las Vegas comes from the Americanese phrase
“to drown one’s sorrow in a desert where the closest
body of water is Lake Mead, about 30 miles away,
but you’re more than welcome to use one of our pools—
The Management.”
America, if you or someone you know
is struggling with a capitalism addiction,
please call the 24/7 Bernie Sanders Hotline—
don’t wait until your economy can’t even afford a phone call.
We speak democratic socialism, progressivism,
communism, and even welfare capitalism.
It’s like Mao said: “This is a people’s campaign.”
Mao. Mao. Mao.
The great Americanese philosopher, Confusion, once said:
“The Mao money we come across,
the Mao problems we see.”
Money is a deck of cards full of jokers
who never laugh in their portraits.


American Money:

The dollar’s deadliest sin
is renouncing the 7 deadliest sins.

“Pride” comes from the Americanese word “humility,”
which means in English: Make a ton of money
by screwing people over, but be very grateful
for the opportunity to do so.

“Greed” comes from the Americanese word “charity,”
which means in English: Make insane amounts of money
as honestly as you can and donate about 1 percent
of all you have to save on taxes.

“Lust” comes from the Americanese word “chastity,”
which means in English: If you’re going to marry for money,
try to make it a sexless marriage so no feelings are hurt.

“Envy” comes from the Americanese word “kindness,”
which means in English: The US is the most competitive
country in the world and also the friendliest country in the world.

“Gluttony” comes from the Americanese word “temperance,”
which means in English: Put as much food as you can on the table,
then buy gym memberships for your family
so they can work off the extra fat.

“Wrath” comes from the Americanese word “patience,”
which means in English: Tell your kids they’re free to follow
their dreams, then get very mad if they don’t follow your dreams.

“Sloth” comes from the Americanese word “diligence,”
which means in English: You better buy that gym membership soon
because your scale can’t handle four digits.


Soviet Money and its children:

Communists are dirt poor,
and, therefore, have no sins to renounce.

“Pride” comes from the Communese word “self-reliance,”
which means in Stalinese: We don’t have any money;
we don’t want any money, and we don’t need
any help from our rich neighbors;
all foreign help is an anti-communist plot.

“Greed” comes from the Communese word “corruption,”
which means in Stalinese: We don’t need an equality
where everyone is paid the same; we need an equality
where everyone is paid nothing.

“Lust” comes from the Communese word “commitment,”
which means in Stalinese: Lenin was so committed
to the revolution that he never had sex with his wife.

“Envy” comes from the Communese word “suffering,”
which means in Stalinese: We must take all possessions from people
and they’ll stop being jealous of each other.

“Gluttony” comes from the Communese word “appetite,”
which means in Stalinese: Those who starve today
will surely want to work for their bread tomorrow.

“Wrath” comes from the Communese word “wrath,”
which means in Stalinese: Anyone who tries to derail the revolution
will be shot on the spot.

“Sloth” comes from the Communese word “traitor,”
which means in Stalinese: Workers who demand to be paid for their work.


Communists and Capitalists make peace:

Money is the bible of capitalism
and the false religion of communism.

Money can’t turn water into wine,
but it can turn blood into blue blood.

Money is to red, white, and blue
as red, white, and blue is to green.

Money is to Reds, as Reds are to Whites.


Money is a flashy watch that says there are 80 seconds in a minute. Money is a woman that lies about your age. Money ages like cheap clocks traveling at the speed of light. If you push them off a building together, George Washington will hit the ground exactly when Benjamin Franklin does, even though Washington is much wealthier. Money is the simplest arithmetic problem and poverty is the most difficult equation to solve. Money was the world’s lingua franca even before the Swiss got their francs. Money is a fully automatic weapon without a safety switch. The right to bear money didn’t come from the Americanese doctrine of capitalism because even communists must buy things, but the right to throw people into a cage full of money and have them kill each other for it is a uniquely red, white, and blue tradition because only Reds kill their citizens over freedom of speech and other dissident activities. “The right to throw people into a cage full of money and have them kill each other for it” is an Americanese expression that comes from the phrase “profit motive,” which means in English “only do what’s best for you even if it means fucking everyone else over.” Since communists were always short of money, people were thrown into an empty cage and told not to kill each other until they built a worker’s paradise in which workers wouldn’t be paid. “Worker’s paradise” comes from the Communese word “Gulag,” which means “full-time employment” in Russian. A wise man once said: “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” A good communist once said: “The best things in life are free; therefore, capitalism is pointless.” The word “happiness” comes from the Communese word “work,” which means in Russian “the freedom to work 16 hours a day because you got no other choice,” which is actually a poor translation of the Aryanese philosophy “Arbeit macht frei,” which means “you’re fucked” in German. Some people are born into money; some people are born into poverty but they were really born to make money; some people are born into money, but they were actually born to squander it all; some people are born into poverty and they were born to stay there; some people are born to make a little honest money and take one vacation a year, but they aren’t born to start a family, or even marry; some people are born to make lots of dirty money, to get divorced 7 times, to have a family with each spouse, and to have 7 honeymoons in the Caribbean; some people are born to make a little honest money, to marry, and to have kids, but they aren’t born to see the world because they were born behind the Iron Curtain; some people were born to escape the Iron Curtain and make lots of honest money, but they were also born to miss their families and give birth to children who never saw their grandparents alive; some people were born rich behind the Iron Curtain because they were children of government officials, but they were born to value freedom more than money—so they spent all their money buying their way to freedom; some people are born to immigrant parents who come to America with nothing and give their kids only two choices: doctor or lawyer; some people are born to become good doctors and lawyers and some people are born to obey only orders and parents; some people are born into poverty, and, therefore, see the corruption of America; some people are born into poverty, and, therefore, see the corruption of communism; some people are born into American money, and, therefore, try to make society more equal; some people were born into Soviet money, and, therefore, tried to make society more equal; some people are born to steal because they’re born to be good at it; some people steal because they’re born to be hungry; some people also steal because they’re hungry for power; some people steal because they’re born without regret; some people steal because they’re born without choices. Money, you’re a witch’s concoction of suffering. You can buy hot cups of coffee in the winter, and cold lemonade in the summer—but only if you can afford it. Behind the Iron Curtain, money could neither buy a hot cup of coffee in the winter, nor a cold lemonade in the summer—even cold lemonade was scarce in the winter, and hot coffee was enjoyed in the summer. Money, would you like me to drink hot lemonade and cold coffee? Since you’ve already made cold coffee sexy, why can’t you work your marketing mojo on the hot lemonade? Money, you’re hot lemonade on a hot summer day. Money, I don’t want to be married 7 times, even if I can have 7 kids and see the Caribbean 7 times. Money, I want a divorce, but I also want half of everything you have.


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 received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.


7 Poems from (DISS)INFORMATION, by David Garyan, published in Interlitq


The poems “Dear Psychiatrist,” “Smoke and Mirrors,” and “If You Could Be Anyone in the World, Who Would You Be?” first appeared in Volume 5 of The American Journal of Poetry (July 1st, 2018). They subsequently appeared—along with these other poems—in (DISSINFORMATION), published by Main Street Rag.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


Dear Psychiatrist

My life is a supermarket full of choices,
but what I want is not in stock.
When I share secrets,
it’s only the most boring ones—
especially during our session.
Writing this on a blank page turns me on:
“This page is intentionally left blank.”
I resist peer pressure
with my inability to make friends.
All my ideas are pure 100% orange juice from concentrate.
My stream of consciousness
loves slippery slopes,
and this attitude will only get worse.
Cocaine is what I consider rush hour traffic.
I buy shoes that are three sizes too large—
just to leave a bigger carbon footprint.
When I go to a Gentlemen’s Club,
I never meet anyone who doesn’t embody its name.
My dream is to build a thousand landfills
full of nothing but reusable water bottles.
I envision a perfect world, in which Equal Opportunity
won’t discriminate against Opportunists.
My specialty is interest free loans,
where I never forget the favor
and always expect something in return.
My brain is the septic tank
of a mental institution.



Smoke and Mirrors

I like the good old days better, because I wasn’t there to experience them.
—Ozka Wild

Ah, everything was so much nicer back then.
You could smoke in a restaurant.
You could smoke on a plane.
Even children loved second-hand smoke.
Everyone and everything smoked.
Your friendly neighborhood doctor smoked.
Your friendly neighborhood doctor wrote opium
prescriptions to kids who wouldn’t fall asleep.
Firemen smoked while driving Ford Pintos
that were rear-ended by other Ford Pintos
because real men should never be afraid
of explosions and fire, especially firemen.
Fidel Castro smoked. So did Joseph Stalin.
Hitler smoked everything that wasn’t German.
Truman only smoked Japan.
Buddhist monks smoked
themselves to protest the war in Vietnam,
while Nixon blew a lot of smoke
and never made the peace,
but maybe it’s finally time to rejoice:
Smoking rates are at an all-time low.



If You Could Be Anyone in the World, Who Would You Be?

Not Charles Bukowski—his liver;
this is my wish, really.
I thought about other options,
actually for some time now,
and nothing sounds quite as appealing.
Albert Einstein—or his brain—would be nice,
but that involves a lot of thinking
and I don’t have the energy for it.
A friend, some time ago, proposed
the fists of Muhammad Ali;
it was a good suggestion, I admit,
but that entails dealing with constant soreness,
not to mention, hitting
people all the time. No.
When I declined the face of Marilyn Monroe,
my girlfriend got angry, becoming insecure
about her own features.
Maybe it’s because I’m a private person;
people’s constant attention would bother me,
and, also, living longer than 36 is a must.
Old Hank’s liver will just have to do—and it’s not
a compromise, really. Think about this: I’d be happy
all the time, and I wouldn’t think; I’d never knock
someone out (maybe only to sleep). Plus, I’d
be responsible for making the rest of Buk’s body
happy, so he can write about what it is he writes about.
Nobody likes a sober Charles Bukowski,
and the next worst thing is a Charles Bukowski
who can’t process his liquor.
See, I’d be very important;
like Marilyn, I could live in Hollywood,
yet last so much longer: 73 years, to be exact—
that’s more than twice as much.



Freeway: Clearly a spondee

The stress
falls on both syllables:
and way,
because the 101
is never
during rush hour,
and that’s the fastest
to my job in Encino.

It’s like being thrown off a boat,
and given two choices:
sink or swim.
But only one choice
is a real choice,
because I can’t actually swim.
So, I pretend to have freewill
and make the decision to sink.

Yes. In a                free country,
I can do things my way.
I can quit my job and be happy,
but if I quit my job,
then I don’t eat, and if I don’t eat
then I can’t stay alive to make more choices
that I’m not free to make.
So, Kant? How do I freely quit my job,
and, at the same time, choose
not to starve?



Behind the Background

No one knows my name
in a city whose name
everyone knows.
To escape,
I only go to the bars
where people drink
to get drunk—
where bartenders
are always busy enough
not to remember
their regulars.

In a city whose name
everyone knows,
my face is swimming pool
no one has jumped in for years.

In a city whose name
everyone knows,
my eyes are traffic lights
that never turn green.

In a city whose name
everyone knows,
my arms are roadblocks
to dead-end streets.

Why doesn’t anyone know
who I am in a city whose name
everyone knows?

Someone is always awake
in a city whose name
everyone knows.

Something is always open
in a city whose name
everyone knows.

Something new always happens
in a city whose name
everyone knows.

You can always tell old friends
“I’m busy” in a city whose name
everyone knows.
I want someone to remember
me in a city whose name
everyone knows,
but I forget to remember
that I’ve also forgotten
many friends
in a city whose name
everyone knows.



The Post-Modern Man

In Spanish, for instance, a cheetah is always un guepardo (masculine) and a zebra is always una cebra (feminine), regardless of their biological sex.

The post-modern man is a masculine
pronoun in the passive voice—
no longer the grammatical
head of English,
but more prominent than the Queen.
Donny never makes chief decisions;
women in power give him directions,
then decisions are made in his name.
Donny doesn’t fix the car these days;
he leaves it with Sharon, the mechanic,
then tells Suzan, his wife:
“Problems have been solved.”
Donny is a real man; he wants results
by any means necessary.
He doesn’t care who pronounces his verdicts
or who fixes his cars,
so long as judgments are pro-Donny
and he isn’t seen in a mini-van.
Donny likes the 21st century;
he can freely take out the trash
and change Junior’s diapers
because he’s no longer the subject
performing these actions—
Donny is simply a man
being shaped by his wife,
and modernity says it’s okay
for the diapers and trash
to be handled by Donny,
especially when he fears
being labeled a sexist.
Donny is on a moral crusade
against oppressive linguistics;
he wants to close the gender gap
in every tyrannical language,
particularly Russian,
but also Spanish.
How can moloko have a masculine ending
when it’s women who breastfeed?
Isn’t it time we let the cebra decide
what her real gender is?
After all, she can already choose
whether she’s black or white.
Donny’s had enough—
no more Russian misogyny
and Spanish machismo;
the fight for equality won’t stop
until the first sex change operation
is performed on the mother tongue
of Russians and Spaniards.
Donny is outraged—and rightly so:
He makes more money than Suzan,
but he accepts this because Donny doesn’t really make
more money than Suzan; more money is simply received
by Donny and he can do nothing about it.
Give him a break, for God’s sake—
Donny’s no expert in Foucault, or discourse analysis in general.
How much power does one man really have?
Donny thinks he can change things by voting;
he’s an informed voter—
he only cares about the issues.
Donny never votes for Republicans,
unless they happen to be women.
The act of being active in politics
is wholly embraced by Donny,
but he’s totally powerless;
he can’t keep his own promises,
but he’s voting for people who promise
to keep his promises for him.
Donny’s has no agency over the law;
the law acts upon him—makes him who he is.
Donny does all he can to follow the crowd,
but he’s one crowd away from changing his mind.
Words like “humanity” and “manmade”
are thoroughly avoided by Donny;
he believes the weaker sex must be rescued
with excellent lexis,
but only on three conditions:
first, chivalry stays;
second, beach volley ball remains
the sole women’s sport men enjoy watching;
third, men are still expected to pay for the date—
so they can still expect something in return.
Donny’s attitude is a driver in a Hummer
who prefers to go where he’s told,
but Donny would never be a chauffeur,
unless the taxi was being steered by him.
Donny’s mind is a sports car
with an old navigation system;
he never gets lost in familiar places—
the computer always leads him astray.



Where Have All the Vikings Gone?

Agnes says she wants a real man,
someone who’s tall, assertive,
with broad shoulders, and knows
what he wants in life—
a man who can hold his liquor
and watch sad films without crying.

Her friend, Astrid, asks what’s wrong
with her husband, Lorenzo.
Agnes says he never wants to wash the dishes,
or watch Cinderella with his daughter;
he never wants to change the diapers,
or hire a babysitter so she can have a career, too.

Astrid laughs and says that Agnes
is looking for Marco Polo’s ship
in landlocked countries.

Helga says she wants to be swept
off her feet like in the movies,
but she’s tired of soft men
who can’t even pick up a broom—
much less carry her home from the car.

Helga waves her arms in frustration;
she’s tired of weak, indecisive, and insecure men
always asking her “Where should we go on a date?
or “What movie should we see?”
She wants her man to be a man.
She wants him to have a plan.
She’s desperate for passion.

Helga’s friends, Bjorgh and Tilde,
ask how Helga’s date went with Konstantinos.
She says it went horribly.
Konstantinos wouldn’t split the check
and insisted on watching The Pirates of the Caribbean.

Helga wanted to pay for the movie;
Konstantinos refused: “It’s not right—in my culture, men always pay.”
Bjorgh and Tilde laugh.
Helga says she believes in equal rights:
“He thinks I can’t pay for myself? How rude.”

Tilde smiles and says that Scandinavian men are the best—
they’re gentle, sensitive, and always do what you tell them.
“Exactly,” Helga says. “They’re not romantic at all.


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 received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

Photoschade, an Essay by Arthur Ovanesian and David Garyan

Photo by Arthur Ovanesian


an essay by Arthur Ovanesian and David Garyan

“It’s strange. I look so different here.”


Have we misread it?

The product of the phenomenon that creates a record of the past, captures history in the frame—with what appears to be unremitting truth and accuracy.

But what if the photograph is a vain (hopeless? self-centered?) attempt to retain what could never be—because it was never meant to be—held in unmandated suspension? Does the photograph rescue memories from oblivion, or does it in fact lead them there?

The French philosopher Roland Barthes believed that photography irrevocably implied death because “it records what was there and is there no longer” (Eliza Richards, “‘Death’s Surprise, Stamped Visible’: Emily Dickinson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Civil War Photography,” 13). We, however, have been given to assume that what has disappeared in the physical sense can now forever stay unchanged simply because it has been photographed. In this sense, the photograph claims to resuscitate the past, but in reality, most of what it does is connected to death. Thus, what we would like photography to do is not recovery of moments (i.e., exact replications of reality, which would be impossible, precisely because reality is a sequence of moments, whereas the photograph is merely one moment—supposedly suspended in time).

Since photographs cannot offer the so-called recovered moments, we attempt to use them to relive instances as they were originally experienced. Yet it is not clear whether that desire is good for us, mainly because it is based on an unconditional trust that photographs will accurately represent what we felt at the time. The very desire to discover the original experience inside a photograph can become openly harmful because it is, in fact, an unfulfillable fantasy. Why? Repeated viewings of the image destroy the sequence of moments surrounding the “one” instance captured in the photo, to such an extent that the individual abandons the interpretive fluidity around the entire event in favor of the coveted initial sensation offered by the supposedly stable photograph. You want what the photograph claims it can give you: the authentic memory of the past stored within. But the photograph has no memory to begin with. All it can do is testify to the disappearance of things around the moment it has captured—the gloomy, inscrutable twilight that settles over what has been.

There are four words related to photography whose definitions clash internally with one another (much like photography, in a real sense, opposes itself to memory rather than enhancing or facilitating it). These words are “mold,” “quick,” “specimen,” and “negative.”

Emily Dickinson, nineteenth-century American poet, was once asked for her portrait by someone she knew. She wrote back refusing, stating that, “could you believe me—without? I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well? It often alarms Father—He says Death might occur, and he has Molds of all the rest—but has no Mold of me, but I noticed the Quick wore off those things, in a few days, and forestall the dishonor.” The words “mold” and “quick” stand out in this passage. “Mold” refers here to the photographic image; it’s the ‘material’ which has the power to preserve, and yet this very material is also an agent of deterioration. In other words, Dickinson argues that whatever superficial preservation photography gives us, its real nature lies simply in erasing the photographed subject and replacing it with the photograph—that is, the photograph becomes the new subject. This contradiction is for Dickinson what informs the entire medium: to mold the image, but the image itself begins to suffer from mold. How and why does the image begin to “mold?” Because the photograph becomes the object of attachment, while the person fades into the background: a kind of idolization, if you will, the consequence of which is that the person suffers an implicit death and can no longer be brought back—a photographic acknowledgement, yielded by the photograph itself, of loss and departure. The same is true of the word “quick.” “Quick,” according to one scholar, referred to “any substance which increased the sensitivity of the light-recording compound and thus very materially reduced the time of the exposure in the camera” (Robert Taft, Photography and the American Scene: A Social History, 1839-1889, cited in Richards, “‘Death’s Surprise,’” 18). It eased the process of taking a photograph, but it also expedited the very erasure of identity that photography sought to capture, because the “living essence, or “Quick,” of the pictured subject fade[d] even faster than the picture” (Richards, “‘Death’s Surprise,’” 18). The photograph is produced more quickly, but even faster is the loss of the reason, the essence, that informed its taking in the first place. The living essence is emptied out, and what remains is a slain presence, or an animate absence. Photographs without reasons or essence—and, by implication—without people in them either.

Instead, Dickinson would like to see her loved ones “believe her without” (to use their memory in order to visualize her, because the alternative entails losing both the person and the ability to recall them). Photograph means “sun picture,” but its ultimate effect is to lead people into darkness. The photograph occludes memory because it already preconditions the mind by way of looking at the image. More genuine memories might be displaced and cast aside, because the photograph makes a totalizing claim to truth, while your memories cannot do so. If all this seems harsh on photography, it is only because we all lack the recognition that “we photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds.” It is to avoid having to do the critical work of remembering, calling back to mind the possibilities of the past and confronting its attendant ambiguity (for the past is never something to be wholeheartedly embraced or totally rejected). It is not for nothing that an individual in one of Dickinson’s poems found themselves startled, because they could no longer distinguish: is your memory the photograph, or is the photograph your memory? Is there even a difference? This is what concerned Dickinson, and it is indeed no small worry.

Walt Whitman, also a nineteenth-century American poet, offered interesting insights about photography as well in his 1882 autobiography, Specimen Days. Whitman was interested in the simultaneous potential and limitations of photography, in the sense that he would put words to photographic use, seeking within them an illumination of the “relationship between the positive identity represented and the means—call it the negative—of its representation” (Sean Meehan, “Specimen Daze: Whitman’s Photobiography,” 481). Delving into those means was for Whitman the first step in overcoming the limitations of photography (better elucidating its real nature), because the first and most important point to grasp was the following: all that the “negative” (the means of representation, whatever they may be) had to offer were “glimpses.” Glimpses, because, obviously, memory cannot remember everything, but more because, even if it could, no moment can ever be recovered fully—the reality of its having vanished is already past restoration. By having words do the job of the camera, Whitman reveals those aforementioned limits of representation in their fundamental nature. He evokes photographic images in our minds of things he “wish[es] he could convey”; for instance, the creases and bloodstains of his Civil War notebooks (Whitman, quoted in Meehan, “Specimen Daze,” 483). This already is a demonstration of the vulnerabilities of photography: how can it be that an image is evoked that one wishes could be conveyed? A photograph would, therefore, obviously be no more successful in evoking the departed feeling of the photographer than a writer wishing to communicate an emotion he felt long ago, and perhaps even less. In both cases, the reality refuses totalized representation.

Whitman’s glimpses are the “specimens” indicated in the title—the parts that Whitman hopes might put readers within view of the whole: out of reach, but able to be comprehended in some sense. “Specimen pages,” as stated by one scholar, “best represent the type of war they portray by reproducing some of the actual traits of the physical specimens that the war produced…the text remembers by gesturing toward what can no longer be restored…whether reproduced in writing or seen firsthand…specimen cases are primarily visual representations, as the etymological ‘spec’ of the word specimen (Lat. specere: to look at or behold) would suggest” (Meehan, “Specimen Daze,” 484). The representation that is based on specimens would by necessity be incomplete, but the whole point is that a complete story can be incompletely told, leaving the reader with enough of a feeling to understand what it is the writer wanted to share. Authentic, but incomplete: you understand what I wanted to share. Here at last the limitations of photography are overcome: revealing through words that its truth claim is partial. But, having consulted the word for guidance through the mist, and mystery, known as the photograph, we get closer to a resolution. The “negative”—the renunciation of the notion that there can ever be a complete representation of the truth—to arrive at a “positive,” a more faithful rendering of it.

Reading photographs—for the photograph is the word too, enigmatic though it may be—involves acknowledging the unfulfilled certitude of the medium. It acknowledges it by itself. Hence people’s visceral reactions at times to photographs of long ago: “it’s strange. I look so different here.” Strange—as if almost to say, I’m unrecognizable to myself. And so, we have to ask: when we stare at a photograph, what is it that stares back at us?

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




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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[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: 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” (, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ((12) (PDF) Sexual Violence Against Refugee Women (, the UNFPA (Assessment Report on Sexual Violence in Kosovo. UNFPA ( and OSCE (Kosovo/Kosova As Seen, As Told ( 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)) (

[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)) (

[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.