8 months ago

Valton Marku: In Praise of Zero Impunity

Valton Marku

“Zero Impunity” in the 11th edition of Anibar!

It is impossible not to arbitrarily request yourself 15 minutes of rest after watching the documentary “Zero Impunity”. This is because the construction of the movie does not coincide with the ordinary and the easy, but with the trauma (the raped) and irritation (the politicians and society). As we look at the documentation of rape cases during wars and conflicts around the world, we lose ourselves to the thousands of rape victims during the last war in Kosovo, twenty thousand of whom are still living dismayed with the heavy burden caused by a monstrous war. Moreover, when we understand how the misdemeanor of people and societies are similar wherever these phenomena occur, it is the claim for zero impunity from journalists, directors, activists, artists and other people that give hope for a better world.

For an hour and thirty-two minutes, the animated documentary “Zero Impunity” from brothers Nicolas and Stèphane Blies, supported by the research of at least 12 investigative journalists and 10 media partners around the world, brought to light the phenomenon of rape in wars and conflicts through powerful visualizations. Produced by combining the techniques of rotoscoping, 2D and pure film photography, the movie also addresses the relationship of society and politicians with cases of rape. The other and perhaps most hopeful aspect of this movie is the direct call not to cross arms but to act, which is characterized by symbolic actions and the #ZeroImpunity movement, a movement that has around four hundred thousand supporters all around the world, whose effects are also reflected in the movie. Unlike other powerful documentary movies, such as “Soldiers Who Rape” and “The Whistleblower”, the movie “Zero Impunity” goes beyond the classic superficial cause-and-effect description, to address and to provide solutions, putting the movement whose creative method is video-documentation in the foreground.

The animated documentary begins with amateur footage filmed in the early days of the 2011 war in Syria. The protests echo with calls against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who has held the presidency post since July 17, 2000, inherited from his father, Hafez al-Assad, who held the post since 1971 up until that day. The newborn revolution however had ended in failure, with Syria destroyed today and Assad still in power. “Zero Impunity” rapidly and intentionally takes us to the town across the Jordanian border called Daraa. The reason? In Daraa, Syria, because it is the case when state forces in an organized manner had raped women and men. Among them is 11-year-old Nora, whose case was brought by the docu-animation “Zero Impunity”. As a war strategy and to pressure her father to surrender, since he was a member of the revolutionary forces, Assad’s soldiers held Nora hostage for 45 days until her father surrendered. On the fortieth day, 11-year-old Nora was raped while the fate of her father is still unknown. The aftermath? Five days of sexual violence by many Assad’s soldiers, whose weapon of war caused Nora anxiety, insomnia, vaginal deformities and hatred for her homeland.

One notion that ascribes the situation of rape victims in an interesting way as they begin to return to the pre-rape point that characterizes the first chapter of “Zero Impunity”, is rape as a “Radioactive Weapon”. Rape victims, after starting the gradual overcoming of trauma, face stigma and exclusion. Marked by rape and perceived as objects of high radioactivity, their reintegration becomes even more difficult Nevertheless, rape as a radioactive weapon has spread to the last Kosovo war in ’99. Of the 20,000 reportedly raped victims of the last war in our country, only three hundred and thirty are entitled to a pension as victims of sexual violence. On the other hand, only three women have come out openly seeking justice and urging others to break the stigma and not forgive the rapists of the war. Marte Tunaj, already deceased, Vasfije Krasniqi and Shyhrete Tahiri who are one of the most vocal in this regard. Others who have agreed to speak in disguise have confessed how they have been declared by society and family as people with all kinds of disorders. Why? Because of the rape. Compared to these numbers, rape as a war crime has achieved its effect in Kosovo as well, as the use of this means of war has led to the denial of the existence of the other.

Rapists in wars and conflicts have no nation, race, religion or gender. Their characteristic is the brutal exercise of power in inhumane environments, such as wars and conflicts, mainly under the directives of a certain authority. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo had conducted an experiment with volunteers at Stanford University, an experiment carried out in the basement of this university with the simulation of a prison with prisoners and guards. The experiment had ended earlier because the situation had escalated resulting in the internalization of predefined roles. The prisoners became more submissive and desperate while the guards became crueler. So, in other words, certain situations can bring out the worst in people and that they, by delegating authority and power, act in accordance with their roles. This exercise of role is even easier among the soldiers due to the nature of their function.

Let’s get back to the movie. The second chapter begins with the treatment of rape cases in the armed conflict that started in 2014 in Ukraine. All this happened due to the status of the Dansk and Donbass regions. Russian forces had annexed Crimea. All these events came after the Orange Revolution that brought about a change of government, after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and then added other authoritarian measures to the country. “Zero Impunity” landed in Donbass for the same reasons it landed in Daraa. Rape as a tool of war was used in this region as well as throughout Ukraine. This time the animated documentary brought Alisa’s story who after being drugged, was raped by a Russian soldier. As soon as she woke up, Alisa began to feel cold inside her vagina. The rapist had placed a bullet in it. Years later Alisa had decided to echo the invisible crime done to her by writing a play and seeking justice through the European Court of Human Rights.

The Blies brothers and many journalists, artists and activists, throughout the movie deal with cases of prisoners’ interrogation through perverse sexual methods in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan by US soldiers. Then, there are cases of sex slaves in Congo are shown, where French soldiers are at the center, ending this bold animated documentary with criticism of the inadequacy of the UN. “Zero Impunity” is by no means a call to hear and be stuck in the cruelty of the rape victims. Rather, “Zero Impunity” is the outline of opportunities to find wherever there is a point of strength that overcomes each difficulty. Because people can nevertheless protect cities and public spaces; can decide on 50/50 representation of women; can triumph over fears; can reduce to zero the impunity of rape cases of any other subject that is the victim of impunity.

Therefore, praise to every effort for zero impunity.

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Valton Marku biography:

Valton Marku is a political scientist and Project Manager at Anibar. He has contributed with research, writings, analysis, reports and activities on several cultural, social and political issues, through various local and international organizations. Its focus is on social and cultural policies, critical theory, higher education, media culture and workers’ rights. He is currently the Project Manager of the “Cultural Spaces of “Kosovo supported by the European Union, and also  the Coordinator of the Network of Cultural Organizations in Peja