People say you have to read between the lines.
I want to help you to read between the pictures!

Hello! Ja sam Barbara, the initiator "Our view - 12 women from Srebrenica" in the year 2000. Here come some looks behind the scene and thoughts about...

About Old Photographs

July 4th , 2015

Photographs from former times. I asked the women to bring their photos from pre-war time to our next meeting. After knowing their photos and personal stories so well and over such a long time I felt that there was something missing to the whole picture. More pieces of the puzzle. Of course each woman had a life before war! The women came along with their photos and it was if they were introducing us to their old best friends. Due to the war, many photos were lost. Panicing when fleeing Srebrenica, not all were able to save their photos.
MIRSADA received photos from her relatives living abroad. And there is only one “picture” of Mirsada and her killed husband together – on a video tape taken by UN Dutchbat soldiers. Now on my way back to Germany July 10th I have the only "picture" of that young couple in my luggage. A torn video tape. Mirsada asked me if I can digitalize it.

When fleeing Srebrenica, in all that trouble, the only thing SELMA took along was her photoalbum – holding it tight during these hard days. When showing us these pictures she pointed out: “From that group of ten here on the picture only one survived”. Next photo: “Only two are alive”. “Here, on this picture only that man”. Endlessly.

DADA has no pictures. She and her family packed their belongings in 1992. They wanted to flee the next morning. That night paramilitary troops came to their house. And killed all male members of the family. She has hardly any photos to remember her loved ones.

JASMINKA – she speaks about her flight in 1992. Her husband buried her jewelry in the garden. They never found it again. The family packed their stuff and Jaca wanted to take the photo album with her but her husband thought it might be better to pack as many clothes for the kids as they were able to carry. They thought they would return very soon. Soon war would be over. An error. When they came back to see their house in 1995 it was burnt to the ground. With all the photos. Jaca regrets deeply to not have taken these photographs with her. And she regrets something else. On their escape they spent some days in an abandoned house. The former inhabitants were refugees too at that time. Their photos were scattered all over the floor in the house. She was thinking about collecting and saving them – but then she didn't. Until today she is regreting it. To have left someone else somewhere in the world with missing their family photos, too. Who might that be? All those lost photos – lost to the civil war in former Yugoslavia. And lost lives. The women wipe their tears out of the corners of their eyes... when Jasminka cracks a joke... “Oh I just wish I had a picture of my husband when he was still young and beautiful...!” We giggle...

Flowers. No tears.

First July Week-End, 2015

Grief, mourning, condolement seems to be monopolized and misused by the nationalists. Of all sides. Is it forbidden to just cry on "a personal basis"?

What is happening with our group? Are we failing? The long planned joint meeting is cancelled by the women in Srebrenica. Last minute! They will attend the memorial day in Bratunac instead of meeting us. Is it inappropiate to meet the women from "the other side" on such a day? Just hours before the sudden cancellation everybody was happy chatting on Facebook: How much they were looking forward to our meeting. And excited that we afterwards would all go to town together to sit in a café... The sudden rejection causes irritation within the group. In Bratunac also serbian civilians were murdered in 1993 and in the years to follow. (Looking for numbers? Counting victims? You can google the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Centre RDC or the NIOD report) The 12th of July is the "Serbian Memorial Day" for the serb victims. This year it has been accelerated to the week-end before. The reason? I was told "they" want to at least gain a little bit of attention by the media who was already assembled for "20 Years Srebrenica". None of the women in Srebrenica told us the reason. I asked them if any of their family members and friends lost their lives back then - to know about their personal approach to this debated memorial date.  The answer was: "Many". Uncles, neighbours, friends... The immediate reaction from Tuzla:

"We sympathize with you because we know that you live without your loved ones - we all lost them to the damn war. We are sorry."
"We know how you feel. This it is waiting for us at the next weekend. We have to be strong because life goes on"

That is a strong signal. But it is unimaginable, that women from the "wrong side" would attend the Memorial day of "the other". And it is difficult for the serbian women to frame their losses. Srebrenica seems to be a too strong symbol of muslim suffering because of the genocide in 1995. There is no room for talking about any other grief. I was curious, what kind of pictures would the serbian women post that day. Pictures of "heroes"? Of mourning? Graves? Of sadness? After this anxiety? The first picture that popped up on my phone was an empty street scene: "Srebrenica today, a very sunny hot day. (..)" No hint or sign about anything special that day... The next one: "Colorful flowers in my backyard."...
But someone deleted that picture of the flowers.

About Ways of Remembrance

Museum, Former UN Camp, Poto?ari, June 15th 2015

The exhibition at the former UN Camp in Potocari. Here thousands of refugees gathered when they tried to escape after the fall of Srebrenica. Serbian troops entered that “safe haven” and started to separate men from women. In a nearby building men were shot. Women were raped. In the museum a film about Srebrenica is shown, people call it “shock therapy” - belongings of the murdered found in the mass graves are presented along with a portrait. Photos are presented on the rough wall. They are all in a devastated condition. The guest book is the only place where people can respond to the horror. Students from all over the world visiting Potocari go through this exhibition. A big group of elderly Turks watch the film. Not a word about the civilian serb victims in the area around Srebrenica. Bratunac? What happened? Busses are parking in front of the building. A group of Australian students step out in the bright sun. With shocked impressions on their faces. Later I see their bus driving into Srebrenica, making one round. The students stare at the people living in Srebrenica from inside the bus. People stare back at them. Like in a zoo. After just one round the bus is leaving the stigmatized town again. They've been to Srebrenica. Have they?

I happen to meet the director of the exhibition because she is wondering if I was a lost student. “Yes, I do feel lost” and we come into a discussion. I tell her about our project “Our view – 12 women from Srebrenica” and how we now started by going smart and social to reach more people and start a dialogue. The expression on her face changes from disgust to anger and back again. She (sorry I forgot her name) seems very upset. She heard about the project and believes it is totally wrong. She talks herself into rage... Facebook and Instagram could never be an appropriate place for memorial work. These women aren't able to use smart phones and “post” something which is adequate to the topic of genocide. She personally would forbid her mother to take part in our project. She prefers interviews of witnesses and a presentation in a museum. “This project is not good for the women. The women can only fail using these devices.”

I am really astonished and ask back: “But how do you know they fail? How can you tell it doesn't help? They are doing very well. Have you seen their work?” She has to admit that she hasn't. seen anything of their work.

Is only the museum as a place and an interview a good form to remember Srebrenica? Institutionalized versus personal remembrance?
I love that personal view of the women. They decide themselve how they want to be “presented” - what is most important for them in their life.
Our view – that means humanizing while not victimizing again.

What do you think?


Internet, June / July 2015

Decided to have an open Facebook wall to see what will happen... When we started promoting the Facebook-Site only few hours later we had the first rude comments. The strange thing to me was: It was under a very sweet photo. Jasminka typing on smart phone.

So only the word Srebrenica brings people to spread hatred? Immediatley others reacted to that, but we decided to better delete it before it attracted more nationalists. We didn't want to become their playground. This guy was threatening that "they" (Muslims in Srebrenica) will go up in smoke, (As a german, that was too much for me) he would live only 10 km away from Srebrenica... He did not post not anonymously like others. On his Facebook page I find a lot of pictures from the gold old time - Yugoslavia. Childhood. He really lives in the next village. He must be in his 60's by now. How was his life? Where were he in war? How did he come so far to threaten other peoples life via Facebook. His family name appears often on a list of civil victims in Bratunac. I start feeling sorry for him. Does that sound strange? If I ever meet him, shall I ask? Most of the time he is writing in CAPITAL LETTERS! Be aware of people writing in CAPITAL LETTERS !

(Sorry one line is missing, we deleted very much in a  hurry...)

And then in July a nice looking elderly woman wrote a comment. Dubravka posted a picture of the run-down hospital in Srebrenica. A lot of money was donated by NGOs, EU... but it filled some peoples private pockets and didn't improve life in Srebrenica. The economy in Srebrenica is down down down... no jobs, not even a bakery. Dubravka spoke about that corruption. And that friendly looking women commented “If you don't like it then just go away.” Knowing very well that everybody who was able to has left in Srebrenica. Young people, educated people. Those who stayed do not have any other alternative than staying.

What is worse for the reconcilation process? The dumb nationalist threatening other peoples life? Or this “normal” woman writing comments that feel like little pinholes / Nadelstiche.  THAT LADY WROTE IN CAPITAL LETTERS, TOO !
Do people really feel threatened by 12 women of different ethnics, most of them former neighbours, who talk with each other again?  Then talking must be a powerful tool on the way to recocilation.

Filmstill from: "We are all neighbours" - Visnjica (Kiseljak) '93 by Debbie Christie and Tone Bringa
This documentary chronicles the transformation of neighbors into enemies and a peaceful town into a battleground.

Not About Religion

Srebrenica, June 13th, 2015

One young man in Srebrenica, mother christian, father muslim, felt the urge to decide for one religion. Growing up in a complete serbian surrounding (his father is still missing) he decided to become christian. It was difficult to remain quiet, but I didn't want to offend him by saying:
“Do you really think God gives a .... if you call her Allah or God?”
No. He doesn't. I am sure. Only society does... I never find the right words when again powerful people use the name of religion to tear friends, even families, neigbours and societies apart. "In the name of..."

In the days before we started the project there was a so-called Islamist attack in Zvornik. The young assassin had lost his father who was murdered by Serb Military forces in Zvornik in 1992, but the killed police-man's father was murdered by Bosnian Military forces. After the attack news media coverage went mad writing about Islamistic groups being strong in the bosnian villages surrounding Srebrenica. Police were examining these villages and of course found some weapons. The villagers were very afraid and scared by these house-to-house searchings. They were reminded of the beginning of war. In Srebrenica the police even searched the kindergarden because one woman working there wears a head scarf... so the rumours. Both "sides" are scared. Fearing that the next war is knocking on their door, trembling when they speak about the revenge that will come. “I am afraid this could be a start of much worse events in Bosnia and Herzegovina." warn serbian politicians and spread nothing but fear.

In this threatening, tense atmosphere we meet again after 10 years and.. talk! Pushing those limiting religious bounderies and ethnical imputation.

Mosque, Wolve, Church, Srebrenica

About The In Between

Sometimes it is difficult to get the real meaning in the pictures. When a serbian woman is posting her selfmade Baklava and writes: "In this beautiful month of festing we often prepare our traditional meals." And probably means the month of Ramadan... Is this already a further step to understanding? Sometimes I have the impression that the women enter a dialogue in pictures. Consciously? And sometimes people "from the other side" hit the like button, unconsciously. They can't tell the difference between these two groups of women. The women are facing the same realities and problems. Sometimes it even looks like they are living in the same country. The same world. And that is good.

Tonight was a special night in Tuzla. It is an organized "Iftar" for 1600 fasting people. It's Ramadan.
Right: Glory holiday in my home is something sacred that we respect and celebrate with faith. Friends and family comes together to enjoy this day. Photo: Dubravka

Left: Planted flowers next to the dry wood is a symbol for new life and joy. In the yard of my brother, signs of beauty. Photo: Vojka
Right: Life is as tough as this work without a life companion (husband). Keep your life passengers. Loneliness is as hard as a rock. Photo: Dada

Left: Dear friends and all the people of the Islamic religion, happy big festival of Eid RAMAZAN. Bajram Serif Mubarak Olsun. I wish you health and happiness by celebrating. /// Dragim prijateljima I svim ljudima ISLAMSKE vjeroispovjesti ,sretan veliki praznik RAMAZANSKI BAJRAM. BAJRAM SERIF MUBARAK OLSUN. U zdravlju I sreci ga slavite. Photo by Dubravka (July 17th)

In the morning my mobile phone explodes.... hundreds of messages from the women in the Facebook chat. All women of the group wish each other Happy Ramadan Celebration. Just like in good old times. When everybody visited "the other side" when "they" were celebrating religious feasts. Like when there were no "other side". Hoping for "good new times"...

About Suffering And Victim Numbers

All women of this group have been refugees at some time of their life. To make that clear. All suffered. I am very bored with arguing who suffered most. I love reminding the group that you can't look inside my counterpart. When you lost “only one” - does it really mean you suffer less than when you lost 20 family members? Come on. When you re-marry does it mean you haven't loved your sweetie as much as the one who never gets married again? I always say: You can only speak for yourself. And I encourage: Do it! Here you have the opprtunity.

There is only one topic I am more bored off. When it comes to numbers of victims. Then we are always close to propaganda.
Time for a Facebook posting !


WoooHoooooo - About Getting Started

We meet the first time again after ten years. What a joy! After talking we un-pack the new phones. I explain a little about Hashtags, Instagram, Internet, the camera on the phone, Facebook & Co. and meanwhile 12 women simultaneously upload photos on Instagram. What a hodgepodge, what a joy! I am so grateful that our group accepted the new tools. So thankful that they even like it. Big like! :-)

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Want to get in touch?
Photos: © Barbara Hartmann unless otherwise indicated
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* please excuse spelling and other mistakes in my English.
English is not my mother language.

And for most of these issues I have no words.