It is our great pleasure to invite you to the opening of the exhibition about children born of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina – „BREAKING FREE“. The official date of the opening is October 12, 2022 at 18:00, in the premises of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR Serbia) at Endžio HAB, Dobračina 4, Belgrade.

Breaking Free exhibition is inspired by the struggles and strength of children born of war and their mothers, which has been going on for almost three decades. Until now, their struggle has been silenced by stigmatization and discrimination, but today, with joint forces and a united voice, they decided to come out and speak about the darkness in which they had to live, and many still do.

The ongoing normative and practical marginalization of these children and their mothers in post-conflict societies is a significant obstacle to sustainable and inclusive peace, reconciliation and transitional justice. Transitional justice processes that do not recognize nor implement the rights of children born from the act of sexual violence cannot fulfill their goals, which include truth, reconciliation, accountability and the delivery of reparations. Denying their rights is irreconcilable with the universality of human rights. The personal experiences of these children are the direct reflection of the political and social structure in peacetime, that deepens their existing trauma by patriarchal oppression. The stories of children born of war help us to face the past and ourselves, and motivate us to create a better and safer future through dialogue.

This exhibition represents a particularly big undertaking for children born of war, because several members of the Association went public with their stories for the first time. Breaking Free emphasizes solidarity, empathy, freedom, equality and choice. Children born from an act of wartime sexual violence clearly express their identity as “children of their mothers”, they have never been and will never be “children of the enemy”. Our mothers, all survivors of wartime sexual violence are not to blame for that!

Th exhibition concept was developed by Ajna Jusić and Mirna Omerčaušević, while the author of the photographs and video work is Sakher Almonem, a Syrian-French artist born in 1986. After a 12-year professional dance career in Syria, France and Austria, he started taking interest in stage photography. Inspiration for this exhibition was born when Darrel Toulon (The Alpha Group) invited him to participate in the project “In the name of the father”, created in cooperation with the National Theater Tuzla.

The exhibition consists of three parts: The first part presents the portraits of children born of war, members of the Forgotten Children of War Association, and their mothers who supported them by being photographed with them. The second part of the exhibition are portraits of actors who have told the stories of children born of war on the stage of National Theater Tuzla. The third part is a video projection that summarizes the entire exhibition, accompanied by the original music composed by Norbert Wally (Author’s song “Karma Baza”; Performed by Norbert Wally and Clara Luzia).

Organisers of the exhibition in Belgrade are the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), Women in Black and the Autonomous Women’s Center. The exhibition will remain open until October 22, and visits are possible every day from 12:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The concept of transforming the experienced trauma into an artistic representation of BREAKING FREE followed the principle of dialogue at all levels. The central change was the creation of a safe space in which children created a foundation of trust towards society. This enabled the willingness of children born of war to face a wide audience together, and to motivate society to get in touch with their stories. Exhibition gives insight into one’s own responsibilities in the context of the consequences of war and sexual violence. It is crucial that, in the peacetime period, citizens become aware of their own discriminatory practices, which can further complicate already difficult fight against injustice on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

Let’s be a society of equal values, not a society of different labels!