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."



Vruće

12 Jun

“Vruće” is the word I have heard most since I came to Bosnia last week. It means “hot.” It’s been constantly above 35°C (95F) lately, and today is 39°C (102F). Coming from a cold country like Mongolia, this is by far the hottest temperature I have ever experienced. I remember teasing the AP fellows going to Africa when they complained that DC was hot, but Bosnia is currently much hotter than much of Africa.

Downtown Tuzla

Despite the heat, I am greatly enjoying my fellowship and my time in Bosnia. People keep asking me, “Everything must be so new to you. Are you getting used to living here?” In fact, I got used to Tuzla the moment I set foot here because it is very similar to the Bulgarian town of Blagoevgrad in which I lived for four years, except that in Tuzla you hear the adhan (the Islamic call to prayer) five times a day. What I love most about Tuzla is that it is home to a number of international organizations and thus has a large international community. I have already made friends from the US, Canada, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Peru, and so on. However, I might be the only Asian in this town of nearly 200,000 people.

Trg Slobode – Square of Freedom

Bosfam is busy preparing for the 15th anniversary of the fall of Srebrenica. By July 11, Bosfam will have 15 Memorial Quilts which will commemorate nearly 400 victims of the massacre. On that day, the Quilts will be displayed at the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Center where the newly identified bodies will be buried. Bosfam might eventually join all 15 Quilts into one massive display and make a permanent exhibition.

At the same time, Bosfam is working to open a branch in Srebrenica and hopes to have it up and running by the end of this month. Beba, the director of Bosfam, lost her house in 1992 when she was pushed out of Srebrenica and got her house back in 2001. The Serbs destroyed her house before they left, so it was in need of complete reconstruction. Now Beba’s house is being renovated into a new Bosfam center that will give legal advice to returnees and provide various workshops for women. Beba says that the women survivors of the Srebrenica massacre are often misperceived as passive victims who simply sit and wait for foreign aid. The mission of this new center is to challenge this misperception, raise the voice of educated and motivated women, and show that the survivors of Srebrenica are not merely passive victims but can be active proponents of social change.

As for me, I am helping Bosfam publicize the Srebrenica Memorial Quilt project, serving as a liaison between Bosfam and AP, and playing the role of an IT person who manages the English content of Bosfam’s website. I find myself busier than expected as I have certain obligations to AP as well. Overall, my fellowship is starting well and will be even better if the weather gets less “vruće.”

Posted By Laila Zulkaphil

Posted Jun 12th, 2010

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