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Center for Balkan Development
Tel: 978-461-0909
Fax: 978-461-2552
[email protected]

Friends of Bosnia and The Advocacy Project present:

Weaving for Hope
Traditional Kilim rugs woven by refugee artists from Bosnia


November 19, 2003-January 2, 2004
Opening reception and video lecture
Friday, November 21, 6-8 pm
Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center
41 Second Street, Cambridge, MA 02141

(Click here for directions.)

Gallery open: Monday-Friday, 10am - 6pm and during all CMAC events.
Free admission. Wheelchair accessible.


Cambridge November 5, 2003: Bosnian women who survived the notorious 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, Bosnia, are using rugs to promote their message of hard work, hope and reconciliation in the Boston area.

The elaborately-woven rugs, which are known in Bosnian as kilims, will be exhibited at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center between November 19 and January 1. The exhibition, Weaving for Hope, is being jointly organized by two US non-profit organizations that are working with groups in Eastern Bosnia -- Friends of Bosnia (www.friendsofbosnia.org), based in Massachusetts, and the Advocacy Project (www.advocacynet.org), in Washington DC.

The goal of the exhibition is to promote the work of refugee weavers from Eastern Bosnia who weave together at Bosfam, a Bosnian women’s organization that supports women who were widowed or displaced during Bosnia’s brutal three-year war (1992-1995).

Many of Bosfam’s members lost sons, brothers or husbands in the massacre which occurred after the town of Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb Army on July 11, 1995 after a three-year siege. During the days that followed, women, old people and children were bussed across the lines to the town of Tuzla. Over 7,000 men and boys over the age of 15 were killed.

Srebrenica itself has been largely shunned by the aid agencies in the years since, and remains physically and spiritually desolate. According to the United Nations, less than 1,500 Muslim refugees have returned to the town, out of some 30,000 former Muslim inhabitants. Meanwhile, in the Muslim part of Bosnia, many of the massacre survivors remain in refugee shelters in Tuzla, traumatized and impoverished.

Bosfam is one of the very few organizations that offers them a viable alternative. Over the last ten years, Bosfam has trained hundreds of women to weave kilims, sweaters, knitted wool socks and even fashionable dresses. Many are made at looms in the Bosfam office.

Twenty kilims will be displayed at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center. All were individually woven, and bear the name of their weaver. As well as rich in color, they also bear traditional Bosnian patterns that have been handed down from mother to daughter. The largest kilims, which measure one square metre, can take up to three months to weave. Weaving provides the only source of income for many Bosfam members.

As well as offering an opportunity to work, the Bosfam center provides its members a place to meet and console each other about their loss. In the words of Beba Hadzic, the founder of Bosfam, many of the Srebrenica survivors are in a state of permanent desperation because they do not know the fate of their lost relatives. (more)

There is little chance that their uncertainty will end soon. After eight years, only 1,083 victims from the massacre have been identified and buried, according to a spokesperson from the International Commission on Missing Persons, a body that was set up by the 1996 G-7 Summit at the suggestion of former US President Bill Clinton.

Making matters worse, the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague has issued only 12 indictments in connection with Srebrenica, and only 5 accused persons are in custody. Some of the killers have even been spotted in and around Srebrenica itself – further discouraging the return of refugees, and deepening their sense of despair.

Given this, the psychological support offered by Bosfam to its members is almost as important as the tangible benefits if provides from weaving. In addition, the organization seeks to promote ethnic reconciliation by opening its doors – and its looms – to Serb and Croat women who also suffered during the war.

Indeed, Bosfam’s overall impact in Tuzla has been so great that Beba Hadzic plans to open a similar Bosfam center in Srebrenica itself. This, she hopes, will not only help the town’s devastated economy but also attract back women refugees.
One of the goals of the Cambridge exhibition will be to raise funds for the new Srebrenica center, and for Bosfam’s weavers. The exhibition will also celebrate Bosfam’s message of hard work and reconciliation.

Americans are receptive to the message, to judge from an earlier exhibition of carpets that was organized in Baltimore this summer by the Advocacy Project. The exhibition drew hundreds of visitors and generated over $4,000 for Bosfam.

* To read about the rebuilding of Srebrenica visitwww.advocacynet.org/cpage_view/srebrenica_01aintro_18_85.html

* For further information: contact Glenn Ruga, Friends of Bosnia, 978 461 0909: Kelly Kliebhan, Advocacy Project, 202 468 6474