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Advocacy Project Blogs - 2007 Fellow: Gail Morgado

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12th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre, July 11, 2007

Posted By: gail

This was one of the most intense moments of my life. I visited the Srebrenica Memorial with members from Women in Black on 12th anniversary of the massacre where 8,000 Muslim boys and men were killed by Serbian forces in a crime that the Hague has called "genocide."

No Serbian officials were present; We were the only Serbians to visit Potocari on this day. "Visiting the places of crime committed in our name" is one of the most important activities that Women in Black is committed to.

Women in Black came to express their sympathies to the survivors of the Srebenica massacre.
Stasa Zajevic, president of the association, said she and other members came to Srebrenica to “apologise to the relatives of the victims for the crime that was committed on our behalf”.

“We admit that genocide in Srebrenica was a crime organised on a state level and that the country we are coming from was involved in it. We want the perpetrators of this crime to be punished,” said Zajevic.

For more photos on Women in Black in Srebenica, visit my flicker account:

Women in Black website

Posted By: gail

Link: http://www.zeneucrnom.org/

Visit the Women in Black website at:

Women in Black documentary - Final Part

Posted By: gail

Link: http://www.zeneucrnom.org/

This is the final part of WIB documentary.

Women in Black documentary Part 2

Posted By: gail

This is the second part of Women in Black documentary.

Women in Black Documentary Part 1

Posted By: gail

This is the first of three parts to a Women in Black documentary describing the last 15 years of peace activism.

For Justice, against War

Posted By: gail

Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8691734@N06/767656251/

July 2, 2007

Women in Black, Belgrade sponsors eight to ten weekend conferences and seminars a year aimed to unite women from all over Serbia in the fight against all forms of violence and abuse of power.

This weekend’s conference aimed to inform and encourage activism against the abuses of clericalism and fundamentalism in Serbia. “Knowledge is power” as the old saying goes. It’s important for all women, especially in the more isolated rural areas, to know that they are not alone in their struggle for empowerment.

The workshops consisted of lectures and group activities that included brainstorming sessions providing each woman with an opportunity to share her thoughts on various topics. Poster board, or as Serbians say, “flip charts,” are used to record and summarize all that is said. When the posters are all hung up on the walls, participants are able to read and talk about the ideas mentioned in each small group discussion.

During one workshop, Latinka Peroviæ, a well-known historian in Serbia, spoke about the role of politics and religion in Serbian history since the beginning of the twentieth century. Speaking freely in an audience of female activists, she said, “Serbia has to acknowledge what it has done. The moral process has to happen! We’re living in a state of lies, and without the truth, we cannot develop. Without acknowledging our past mistakes, we cannot make any steps forward.”

It’s really amazing to me how controversial this statement sounds to some people. Although it sounds completely rational to me, many people in Serbia would completely disagree with it. They would say that the Yugoslav wars of the 1990’s were just that -- wars. According to them, Serbia was no more aggressive than its other Balkan counterparts. They believe themselves to be the real victims in this story. “The Hague, the Special Court on War Crimes, NGO’s advocating human rights and transitional justice—these are just institutions imposed by the West to persecute Serbians” they would say.

What about the Srebenica massacre in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed when Serb forces took over the town on July 11, 1995? This was the largest mass murder in Europe since WWII. Why hasn’t the Serbian government officially apologized for this? Why hasn’t it handed over the tribunal’s most wanted fugitive General Ratko Mladic?

I’ve been told that Women in Black in Belgrade, like other local NGO’s here, have a bad reputation in Serbia. Because they are anti-nationalist, and accept the blame for crimes committed in their name, they are disliked. They have organized close to 700 peaceful actions on the street (protests, performances, campaigns…) Everything that they do is for peace, not war. Instead of support from their people, they receive death threats, bomb threats, and intimidation of all kinds. And yet, they persevere in their mission for peace and for justice. When kicked down, they pick themselves up, and tell people about it. Women in Black empowers women (and men) to do something, anything – against the evils of hate and injustice.

Now, this is a lesson we can all learn from…

Staŝa, the director of Women in Black, Belgrade speaks of the evils caused by fundamentalism in a WIB conference in eastern Serbia (Bôr) on July 1, 2007.

Please visit my flickr account for more photos:


Meeting the Women in Black

Posted By: gail

“Get ready to hit the ground running once you arrive to Belgrade.”

Rachel Long, an American interning for the Women in Black Network in Belgrade for the last eighteen months, wrote these words to me in an e-mail shortly before I departed from the U.S. I didn’t really believe her until I arrived to Serbia and saw myself doing just that. My experience thus far with the Women in Black can best be described as a high speed chase. They’re running ahead, and I’m just trying to keep up behind them.

On Saturday morning, Rachel and I took a four hour bus ride to the city of Bôr in eastern Serbia to meet with the other members from the Women in Black for a conference on fundamentalism. The women instantly greeted us with kisses, hugs, and warm handshakes, very happy we had arrived.

One woman asked me what I did in the states and why I had chosen to come to Serbia to work with the Women in Black. Knowing that I had Rachel as a translator, I gave the woman the only answer I could come up with. I told her, “I work for the Advocacy Project in DC. We’re a non-profit organization that sends graduate students abroad to work with grass-roots organizations in order to help strengthen their mission through information dissemination.”

Not realizing I had used every buzz word in the book, they both broke out into uncontrollable laughter. “Fancy” was her response. “Your organization sounds very fancy.” Rachel then confirmed my thoughts by saying that “fancy” has a rather pejorative connotation in Women in Black. “Great,” I thought, “this is a great start.” I worried, “how am I going to get my thoughts across if I can’t even cross this language barrier?”

After that cultural stint, I realized I had to change my tactics and to simply lighten up. As I met each woman, I realized how fiercely independent, intelligent, and incredibly good-humored each one is. They loved to complement me and poke fun at me, almost simultaneously. It was really great fun – and I’m very excited to work with such an energetic group of people, each determined to make a difference.


"Lost in Translation"

Posted By: gail

“Sorry. The flight to Prague is closed. There is nothing we can do. Please walk to the other side of the terminal and speak with someone about rebooking a new ticket.”

As the Czech Airlines attendant plainly stared and unapologetically said these words to me and ten other people, I realized my trip to Belgrade was not going to be easy…

I had already struggled to make the flight from Newark to Brussels: Continental had been experiencing technical difficulties and personnel changes and what could have taken half an hour took two hours instead. I even had to chase down a supervisor at the other end of the airport in Newark just to beg her to allow me on the flight. Sprinting like a mad woman, I made it just in time to hear the flight’s last call for boarding.

Now, I was stuck in Brussels…

After two hours of roaming aimlessly through the airport, I finally found the tiny Continental ticket counter where I patiently waited my turn for another 2 ½ hours. Everyone else had found a flight that day to Prague. I was the only one whose final destination (Belgrade) posed a problem. Czech Air only scheduled one flight per day to Belgrade from Prague, and that flight was long gone. Because I had used frequent flier miles to purchase my flight, no other airline would take me.

My only option was to leave the next day…

This would have been great—if the flight the next day to Belgrade hadn’t also been canceled. All flights were full thereafter. What now? I was stuck. Continental Airlines in Houston Headquarters said there was nothing to be done. They would return my miles to me and send me back to New Jersey. What? This couldn’t be possible!

My only saving grace was Danijela, the Continental representative, who went above and beyond to try to help find me a way to Belgrade. Not only did she help me find a hotel, but also she showed me around Belgium and eased my anxiety by promising me she would find a way to Belgrade. Danijela followed through on her promise and persistently called everyone she knew.

After several hours, Aeroflot, the Russian Airlines, agreed to take me as their passenger. I was re-routed to Moscow and finally arrived to Belgrade Friday morning, 62 hours after my departure from Newark. Needless to say my bags also had a fun trip—they arrived two hours after I did on a flight from Milan.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this: First, always fly with caution when flying with frequent flier miles. Second, leave more than one hour layover when connecting international flights. Third, and most importantly, always pack a change of clothes and a toothbrush - because you never know when you’ll see yourself acting like Tom Hank’s in "The Terminal."


From DC to Belgrade

Posted By: gail

Tomorrow I leave for Serbia to work with the Women in Black Network in Belgrade, a women’s feminist - antimilitarist peace organization that advocates against all forms of discrimination and violence toward women and other minority groups.

Just typing this now places me in a state of shock. How is it that I’ve been given this incredible opportunity? I feel so fortunate to have been chosen as an AP Peace Fellow to work this summer on areas that I’m deeply interested in: women’s rights, war to peace transitions, and transitional justice, just to name a few.

Last week, I spoke with Balkan experts, Roy Gutman and Jonathon Landay, about the most important questions I should be asking myself during my stay in Serbia. The themes we discussed included education, religion, culture, and politics; most of which were directly related to the former Yugoslavian Wars of the 1990’s that left enormous social and political repercussions in the region. Through my work with the Women in Black, I will seek to answer the following questions:
- What do Serbs think about the loss of Montenegro and the impending loss of Kosovo?
- How do Serbs perceive the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and how has it affected the functionality of the court?
- How much have Serbs come to grips with the past?
- What is the relationship between church and state since the break up of former Yugoslavia and what effect has this had on social movements?

Although I realize that my stay in Belgrade will be very short and that a complete understanding of past and present social and political dilemmas would take years of analysis and research, I will do my best to grasp as much as possible in order to accurately convey this information through my blog entries.

I am told that the Women in Black are a very organized, energetic, and prolific group of women and I hope that my work as an AP Peace Fellow will contribute to their mission in some meaningful way.

Before I finish this first entry, I'd like to add another point. I’ve been working for the last four weeks at the Advocacy Project in DC as their outreach coordinator. Working for AP’s home base has been a truly wonderful experience. The office was a fun and friendly environment filled with motivated and intelligent people, always eager to try their best at the task at hand. I already miss working with this amazing group of individuals and hope that the rest of the summer will be as rewarding as my experience has been thus far.



Posted By: AP Staff

Technorati Profile

Gail Morgado is an Advocacy Project Peace Fellow working this summer with the Women in Black Network from Serbia, an AP partner organization in Belgrade, Serbia. She has recently finished her first year in the MSFS program at Georgetown University where she is concentrating in foreign policy and international security.

In 2004, Gail received her BA in political science and Spanish with a minor in Portuguese at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. She was awarded highest honors in political science for work as a Henry Rutgers Thesis Scholar researching Cuban-American relations and its influence in a transitional post-Castro regime.

Selected as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to Portugal, Gail served as an "ambassador of goodwill" from 2004-05 and earned a post-graduate diploma in European studies that specialized in the political economics of Euro integration and community law of the European Union. Here, she also organized fundraisers and community activities, which helped to raise AIDS awareness and to increase national literacy and educational standards in Portugal.

Gail is working with Women in Black, a women`s feminist - anti-militarist peace organization that has been advocating against militarism, nationalism, war, sexism, and all forms of hatred, discrimination and violence since 1991. Gail will be working with this courageous group of women to further their mission of peace and justice in a post-conflict society.

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