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Bosnian women join Istanbul convoy against Syria abuses

International Conscience Convoy aims to raise awareness for Syrian women tortured in regime prisons

News Service Anadolu Agency

Bosnian women have mobilized to join an all-female convoy in Turkey protesting human rights abuses against Syrian women.

Around 200 Bosnian women have joined the convoy from Sarajevo, which set off on Tuesday from Istanbul to raise awareness about the suffering of women and young girls imprisoned in Syria by regime forces.

The International Conscience Convoy which describes itself as the "voice of the oppressed women in Syria" gathers over 50 nationalities in 55 buses.

The convoy will make stops in the Turkish cities of Izmit, Sakarya, Ankara, and Adana before reaching the Hatay province, which borders Syria, on March 8, World Women’s Day.

Shehida Abdurahmanovic, who lost her husband in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, told Anadolu Agency that when they heard about the convoy, Bosnian women reached out to help.

More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces attacked the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as international peacekeepers.

"We wanted to do something for Syrian women because we understand their pain the most," the Bosnian activist said.

"The most important message I have for these women is: stay strong, be always strong because no matter what, after the war ends, you are witnesses of it, you will be the voice to get justice, you will have to fight for peace, this is why you have to be strong," she said.

- 'Same pain in Srebrenica'

According to a statement by the Conscience Convoy, over 13,500 women who were subjected to torture, rape and other inhuman treatment in the prisons of the Syrian regime are known by name, but the actual number is certainly far higher.

Currently, over 6,700 women -- over 400 of them young girls -- are still living in these brutal prisons, the statement added.

"We experienced the same pain in Srebrenica, but after the war our responsibility was much bigger as we fought for justice. This is why it is important to be strong and to have faith,” she added.

"Not just for Syrians but for everyone we as women who experienced Srebrenica say that no one in this world should have to ever experience what we did," she said.

Abdurahmanovic said that the pursuit of justice is one of the important things to provide the strength needed.

Gurdic Ramiza, who lost her husband and two sons in the Srebrenica massacre said that it was very important for her to be part of the Conscience Convoy.

"My message to the Syrian women is: Be brave. Never stop fighting. We faced similar pain as you do today. If we would not have been brave, we would have lost," she said.

- 'Raise your voice'

Ramiza said that soldiers had attempted to take her but she resisted. "Raise your voice and never forget the war crimes and the perpetrators," she said.

"This convoy is very important but saddens me at the same time as it brings me back to the pain I experienced when they separated us women to camps from our men and sons," she said.

"May Allah give strength to the Syrian women, I am praying that they will escape the hell they are going through as soon as possible," she added.

Ramiza lost 38 family members during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Suhra Sinanovic, who lost 23 family members in Srebrenica, said she knows how it feels to live in war under the sound of bombs and therefore the most important step is to fight for justice.

"We know what torture of women feels like, we know the experience of losing beloved ones," she said.

"Every woman -- a mother, sister or daughter – needs to be free. It is a woman’s basic right to be free," she added. "After Syrian women will be free, they have to fight to pursue justice so that the responsible perpetrators will face justice."

Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.

The UN Security Council had declared Srebrenica a "safe area" in the spring of 1993. However, Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic -- who now faces genocide charges at The Hague -- overran the UN zone.

The Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing about 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone. Some 15,000 Srebrenica people fled into the surrounding mountains but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.

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