Sears tells of Bosnian War horrors firsthand

by Andrew Allport | 11/6/97 6:00am

English Professor Priscilla Sears gave an emotional talk about her experiences in the war-torn regions of Bosnia and Croatia, and also emphasized the need for women to help bring about peace to an audience of 20 women yesterday in the Women's Resource Center.

Sears, whose speaking style intertwined vignettes and historical facts, described the Bosnian countryside as "breathtaking," although the civil war had exterminated so much of its life that it "didn't seem real."

The country had become a "garden of landmines," she said.

Sears also read a short story she had written, "Rumours of Angels," which detailed the trip into Bosnia -- how the truck she rode in had to keep on the narrow road for fear of landmines, how the hotel she stayed in had recently been used as a "torture center" and how the guards at the Bosnian border had told her, "Welcome to Hell."

Her experiences in Bosnia obviously had a profound impact on Sears, and at one point while telling an especially tragic story of a playground that had been hit by a mortar, Sears broke into tears and had to pause.

Painful memories also moved members of the audience to tears as Sears related other atrocities of the war and criticized America and Americans for lack of involvement.

In addition, Sears talked about the need for a Dartmouth Women's Studies program in a place where women's rights are truly suppressed, such as Kenya or China. She addressed the horrific conditions of women in Bosnia, who, as she put it, "longed for a bomb to hit their concentration camp, since it would be a quick death."

However, in a story she told about dancing with the women of Bosnia, Sears described their openness and capacity to love, even in the face of unimaginable horror.

After her talk concluded, the room was opened to discussion of topics about the problems of Bosnia and how they might be solved.

Sexual Abuse Awareness Program Coordinator Susan Marine, who coordinated the talk, pointed out that the "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia is parallel -- although not equal in numbers -- to the Holocaust. Sears echoed this idea, stating that the Serb war lords gave the same reasons for the mass killings as the Nazis: that Muslims are contaminating the "pure" Serbian race.

Sears had visited the devastated country in May, and participated in the Women's International Peace Initiative Conference, where she gave a presentation on the inherent peacemaking qualities of women. Sears pointed out that women are programmed by society to be more compromising and non-violent than men.

"I am a feminist, but I'm not marching in Lorena Bobbit's parade," Sears said -- referring to the woman who gained international notoriety by slicing off her husband's penis with a knife.

Sears added that "women can save the world, with a little help from their friends."