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Bursting My Bubble « Jodie Swallow's Blog


Bursting My Bubble

In the last few months the news seems to have contained an awful amount of conflict kicking off around the world.  I spend much of my life living in cultures that I am alien to and whilst it helps my perception on life I am regularly shocked to recognise how naive I can be about the atrocities that have, and still, occur across the world.

It was whilst staying with James that I began to learn the smidgiest bit about African politics and the issues that Africa faces in trying to become a developed nation.  I don’t profess to know much, but I now understand, that beneath BBC News 24 and free speech there is also a priority spectrum where our own media emphasises preferred issues and skirts around events that seem far removed from our old colonies and economic ties.  As I travel, I have decided to become less blinkered by my preference of the fluffy, and inane news I like to read in ‘OK’ and ‘Heat’ and educate myself about the hard facts about the world that are easier to ignore.

When I was younger I remember my mum telling me about a book ‘The Monkey House’ by John Fullerton.  She said I should read it when I am a little older.  I have just read it.  I wish I had read it then. I wish I could have understood how desperation, chaos and panic can influence a people into bloodshed, murder and atrocities.  It is a shocking story, occurring in our lifetimes.  I was too busy crying over being 0.1 secs outside my PB at a swim meet to follow the war back then.

The reason I talk about the Bosnian Genocide now – as disturbing as it is- is because still I find myself obsessing over poor weather, or a sore foot, or a closed pool when the people around me in Krabi have just had the bottom floor of their homes flooded out.  There is so much in my life to be grateful for and so much to learn from these Thai people who smile whilst their homes are ravished.  It’s about perspective and we lose it sometimes. 

So I pledge to get a little more aware, and a little less selfish.  We should know about the Rwandan genocide, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, The Ivory Coast War, the uprisings in the Middle East – not only to understand and sympathise- but to allow us to grow as people. I’m not going to live blinkered to the world -where once I thought my life was tough trying to win an Ironman- I kind of see I got an easy ride here.

In 1995, I was 14.  I won ASA National Age Group Best Girl, National Schools’ Cross Country Champs, All England Cross Country Champs and National Schools Track Champs……meanwhile in Bosnia…..

A 15-year-old girl said she and other women were raped by 19 Bosnian Serb soldiers. She escaped through a window and ran more than four miles through the woods to Bosnian government lines. Her brother’s nose and ears were cut off when he refused to rape their mother, the girl told aid workers. (from article)

I feel somewhat ashamed.

Other facts about the Bosnian Genocide :

  • The term Bosnian Genocide refers to the genocide committed by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995 and the ethnic cleansing campaign that took place throughout areas controlled by the Bosnian Serb Army during 1992-1995.
  • In March 1992, Bosnia-Hercegovina declared its independence from the former Yugoslav federation. The Serbs who lived in this ethnically diverse area feared the idea of being controlled by the Muslim Slavs who formed the majority of the population. The Serbs soon armed themselves and began to fight the Muslims.
  • All roads leading in and out of Sarajevo were blockaded, and the airport was shut down. 400,000 residents were trapped in the siege.   Thousands of civilians were killed and wounded, and every imaginable offense against human rights was committed ranging from ethnic cleansing and rape, to mass executions and starvation.
  • The events in Srebrenica in 1995 included the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.

  • There was also mass expulsion of another 25,000–30,000 Bosnians Muslims, in and around the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Ethnic cleansing included unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery and inhumane treatment of civilians; the targeting of political leaders, intellectuals and professionals; the unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians; the unlawful shelling of civilians; the unlawful appropriation and plunder of real and personal property; the destruction of homes and businesses; and the destruction of places of worship.
  • During the Bosnian War the existence of deliberately created “rape camps” was reported. The aim of these camps was to impregnate the Bosniak and Croatian women held captive. Often women were kept in confinement until the late stage of their pregnancy. This occurred in the context of a patrilineal society, in which children inherit their father’s ethnicity, hence the “rape camps” aimed at the birth of a new generation of Serb children.

  • Most of the present rape allegations are against Bosnian Serbs, but all sides in the conflict claim women and girls were sexually abused.
  • 30,000 Muslim women were thought to be sexually assaulted.
  • Fighting was ongoing for four years without ceasefire.
  • On February 29, 1996, the Bosnian government declared that the siege of Sarajevo was over.
  • The most recent research places the number of killed people at around 100,000–110,000 and the number displaced at over 2.2 million, making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War.

The cold, hard facts – despite the troubles of today, a bad race, a bad session, an injury at least hopefully we can sleep safe tonight.  This blog is dedicated to ‘George’, a Serbian tennis player I met at a in Latvia at the World Schools’ Cross Country Champs in 1998.  He was just a guy playing tennis, like I was running – same dreams, slightly different circumstances.  No wonder he liked being on tour.

J x

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