Prostitution and Trafficking

'Whistleblower' Dirties Hands in Rebuilding Bosnia

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kathryn Bolkovac joined private military contractor DynCorp in 1999 eager to support U.N. peace-building in Bosnia. Instead she found herself in the middle of a sex-trafficking ring. An excerpt from "The Whistleblower," also just released as a film.

(WOMENSENEWS)--We were set up in a hotel in the northern hills of Sarajevo, Bosnia. First thing the next morning, a bus wound us down the narrow, cobbled street into the city center for our weeklong orientation session.

We rolled down the main road, Boulevard Mese Selimovica, better known as Sniper Alley during the siege, when the Serbs held the entire capital city hostage. This street, the only way in and out of the city, was vulnerable to the row of high-rise buildings and hillside houses, where snipers would wait and peck off innocent civilians, especially children.

The scars in the concrete left by exploding shells had now been filled in with red resin that formed flowerlike shapes referred to as Sarajevo roses, in remembrance of the person who had been shot at that spot.

We arrived at a nondescript, aged U.N. building dubbed Tito Barracks, after the former leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, whose presidential term had spanned three decades. This was the training facility where the weeklong orientation for all new monitors arriving from U.N.-participating countries took place.

Surrounded by stone walls, barbed wire fence and armed guards perched in lookouts on the roof, Tito Barracks was not exactly the most welcoming place. Its yards were wild and overgrown, but on closer inspection, I saw this was not due to neglect--the wrangled, rusted metal rims of land mines were visible, poking through the ground. Because of this, designated walkways were cordoned off for us to enter and exit the building.

The sight of refugees around Sarajevo, old and young, hobbling around on one leg, was an immediate and consistent reminder that mines still infested the area. The mines had been hidden everywhere--from public squares to private gardens, where, in between the vegetables, they had been planted by the man of the house who would have rather had his home blown up than had it taken from him.

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Thank you for printing an excerpt of Ms. Bolkovac's excellent book. As a point of clarification, the film was independently researched and written by its credited female co-writers, Larysa Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan, who wrote it.

As a woman who had the honor of serving on the search committee that recommended hiring Madeleine Rees as the Secretary General of Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, I share your desire to have Ms. Bolkovac's experience known. In the process of providing publicity for her gripping memoir, I hope we can also honor the work of the incredible first-time female film-makers who created an indelible visual expose of human trafficking.