The advent of democracy in the former community states of Europe brings both much promise and, as we are learning much peril. For millions, the complexion of life has evolved from red to rose-colored to raw. A monolithic nemesis has been replaced by a perplexing variety of threats to stability in this fragile region, with expressions of democracy frequently drowned out by the noises of intolerance and repression.
Exotic tales and dramatic details about Muslim women's views of Bosnian society are uncommon. In fact, few Muslim women in Bosnia are overtly Islamic in appearance or action. Rather, they blend into a secularized society in which Islamic heritage provides traditions and values, not dogma. Despite this assimilation, 12 Bosnian women relate 3 different but connected features of their lives: the effect on sex roles of the political turmoil of the past century, the particular perspective women bring to questions of war and peace, and the rich prewar multiculturalism. Their overarching consensus is that women in Bosnia are equipped for leadership but stifled by an erosion of their status in society. During the communist period, women gained a greater level of freedom and became independent thinkers, even though the communists didn't allow them to exercise the leadership they'd assumed during World War II. With the demise of communism in the late 1980s and the chaos of all-out war in the early 1990s, women were preoccupied with survival. Cultural tolerance emerged as a unifying factor for Bosnian women of different tradition, education, and socioeconomic status, although this was obscured by the outside misconception that the war was caused by ‘age-old hatreds’. On the contrary, religion not only was far from a central identity, but, according to many Bosnian women, it simply did not matter. Yes, they were victims of a ruthless genocide; but Muslim women in Bosnia are also energetic, determined, smart, and savvy.
The eyes of the world focused on Afghanistan: our global consciousness was awakened to the plight of a population in turmoil. The subjugation of women served as part of a call to arms, another reason used to justify armed conflict half a world away. Images of women in burkas, kept from education, health care, and meaningful work, their myriad talents and skills wasted, helped mobilize the coalition that joined in defeating the Taliban.
You can't end wars by simply declaring peace. “Inclusive security” rests on the principle that fundamental social changes are necessary to prevent renewed hostilities. Women have proven time and again their unique ability to bridge seemingly insurmountable divides. So why aren’t they at the negotiating table?