Laila Zulkaphil

Laila Zulkaphil (Bosnian Women’s Group – BOSFAM): Laila’s family is from Kazakhstan. She was born and raised in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and speaks English, Russian, Kazakh, Mongolian, and Bulgarian. In 2005, Laila entered the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) on a full Soros Scholarship. She graduated in 2009 with a BA and honors. At the time of her fellowship, Laila was pursuing a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution with a concentration in Human Rights at Georgetown University. Prior to her deployment, Laila interned at The Advocacy Project’s DC office. After her fellowship, Laila wrote: “I have been greatly inspired by the amazing women of Bosfam. Despite all the pain and hardship they have been through, they are able to stay strong, cheerful, and optimistic. They never give up; they never lose hope. As a result of this fellowship, I will avoid favoring a certain group based on ethnic or religious identity."

The Story of Rasema

28 Aug

Bosfam has been very quiet since the commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre. The women who had a painful experience of burying their relatives on July 11 are taking some time off from work to relax and re-center, while many others decided to stay at home to fast during the month of Ramadan. One of the very few women who have been coming to Bosfam regularly during this quiet period is Rasema Germic. She is the youngest one among the Bosfam women and a very talented and dedicated weaver.

Rasema is from Bratunac, a small town in eastern Bosnia. She got married shortly before the war and moved to live in a nearby town called Milići. When her town was ethnically cleansed in 1993, she fled to the UN-protected “safe area” in Srebrenica with her husband and two-year-old son. After seeking refuge in Srebrenica for 11 days, Rasema arrived in Tuzla with her son on a humanitarian aid truck. It was the first vehicle to transport refugees from Srebrenica to Tuzla. Since men were not allowed to get on the aid truck, Rasema’s husband remained in Srebrenica. She did not see Mustafa until after six months.

Upon arriving in Tuzla, Rasema stayed in a school building in a nearby village called Banovići. Her father-in-law, who was living and working in Germany at the time, came to Bosnia to take Rasema and her son to Germany. Rasema was stopped in Kladanj on her way to Germany and was not allowed to travel further as she did not possess the necessary paperwork; she had not been able to take all the documents with her when she was expelled from her home. Therefore, she returned to Tuzla, obtained the necessary documents, and made another attempt to leave the country. Once again, the attempt was unsuccessful because all the roads had been blocked by Serb forces.

Meanwhile, Rasema’s husband, Mustafa was trying to escape from Srebrenica. He stayed in Srebrenica for about three months following Rasema’s departure and was able to exchange letters with her through the Red Cross relief workers. Then he fled Srebrenica with a group of approximately 90 men. They traveled at least 110 kilometers (68 miles) between Srebrenica and Tuzla on foot. This extremely dangerous journey took three months, and only 30 out of the 90 men managed to survive. While some men died from hunger, sickness, and exhaustion, most were killed by attacking Serb troops. Mustafa says that a common trap used by Serb troops was to cover themselves up and dress like Muslim women and when the refugee men approached for help, the troops immediately shot them.

Finally, Rasema and Mustafa were reunited in Tuzla and have been living there since then. Mustafa got a job at the police station and Rasema has been working at Bosfam. They now have two children – a 19-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. The loss of many relatives, friends, and neighbors in the Srebrenica genocide of July 1995 exacerbated Rasema and Mustafa’s pain and suffering. Nevertheless, they are working hard to rebuild their lives and are trying to stay optimistic.

Posted By Laila Zulkaphil

Posted Aug 28th, 2010

1 Comment

  • Evelyn

    December 8, 2011


    I really appreciate making this post of a real life story about what had happen during those past time. It is really hard for all the war victims to start again out from nothing. This is really painful to think of. For us men, when this article mentioned about the guys must stay and doesn’t have to be in the truck, I will cry probably seeing my wife and son vanishing from my sight. I can’t imagine what sacrifices they made by this time. 🙁

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