Donna Harati

Donna Harati (Women in Black in Serbia): Donna spent the 2007 and 2008 summers working in Zambia with Project Concern International, and helping a peer mediation program for at risk youth in Zambian schools. Donna also taught English in Mauritius through Learning Enterprises. At the time of her fellowship, Donna was pursuing a degree in Cultural Politics with a focus on social justice from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. While at university, she also worked with incarcerated adults and court adjudicated youth through Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice. After her fellowship, Donna wrote: “I was faced with questions I did not know even existed. If my experience in Serbia taught me anything, it was that being complacent is simply not an option.”

Alternative history

10 Jun

During the network meeting in Leskovac, three films were shown. One was a UNIFEM produced film about rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, another was a Tamil film about the Tamil Tigers, and the third was a film entitled “I bi svjetlost” or “And it would be light”. The last film really struck a chord with me. The film was introduced by Christina, an American professor on a Fulbright here in Serbia who works closely with Women In Black. Christina showed the film after giving a lecture on militarism in the media, specifically focusing on the United States. She spoke a lot about the influence of television and how media frames our perception of the world.

The film was a great compliment to her talk as it was made to challenge audiences to view the war in Bosnia from a different perspective.The narrator of the movie described how the perpetrators of the war were being punished as the dominant worldview expects those who are bad or evil to be brought to justice. Yet, the movie asked, “why are there no courts or tribunals for acts of goodness?” There are stories of human goodness and valor in the Bosnian war, yet we focus solely on the evil. To this day, all the attention and controversy surrounds those who have been accused of committing or ordering atrocious crimes.

To make his point, the filmmaker highlighted a few incredible stories from the war. The first focused on a Serbian doctor named Dr. Stanic who saved the lives of his Muslim Bosnian coworkers by hiding them and lying for them. The Serbian forces would come to his hospital and ask if there were any Muslims there (the Serbians committed genocide against Muslim Bosnians), and Dr. Stanic would bravely say no, having hidden all the Muslims. Eventually, the Serbian forces found out about the doctor’s actions, and he was executed. The film interviewed many people who knew the doctor, including relatives and those whose lives were saved by his, and they all spoke of unassuming heroism. He never thought twice about committing his acts of kindness. Why are his acts not remembered and celebrated? Why is all the focus solely on the evil and the bad?

Another story highlighted a Croatian woman who lived in a Bosnian village and risked her life to feed and protect the Muslim inhabitants. She went as far as to stuff eggs in her bra to ensure her neighbors were well fed. Again, most people have never heard of this woman or her compassionate acts.History, as recent and fresh as it may be, is complex and constantly evolving by the way we frame it or choose to remember it.

By no means should the bad be ignored and justice forgotten, but I think the film made a compelling argument that there’s more to the story- an alternative framework that is not being explored but that I think could co-exist with transitional justice.  It made me think of the media’s portrayal of the recession in America. Of course, the recession is real and it’s bad, but by constantly reporting on how every minute segment of society is being negatively affected by the current state of the economy, the situation is exacerbated by creating a cycle of psychological panic. A friend told me a story about a family who had to sell all their furniture and belongings in order to be able to afford to keep their home. Someone bought it all and then gave it back to the family. Why are these stories not being told alongside those about trust fund babies who are being cut off from their parents

The film reminded me that it’s important to remember that the stories we are presented with greatly influence our perception of reality. Although it can often be difficult to do, I think seeking out alternative perspectives and histories is critical and should be done more frequently.

Posted By Donna Harati

Posted Jun 10th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Danielle

    June 11, 2009


    Great blog, Donna. Makes you really think about what you read in the media every day, and more importantly, what you don’t read. Keep telling these stories!

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