On Thursday, 21 September, coinciding with the commemoration of the International Day of Peace, ICIP presented the ICIP Peace in Progress Award 2023 to the associations “Women Victims of the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina” and “Forgotten Children of War” in a ceremony held at the Palace of the Parliament of Catalonia.
The award-winning associations work on the documentation of rapes during the Balkan War and the legal and social recognition of children born in situations of sexual violence. The award recognises their work “denouncing rape as a weapon of war, fighting against impunity, and empowering and drawing attention to victims of sexual violence.”
The ceremony was presided over by the president of Parliament, Anna Erra, and ICIP president Xavier Masllorens. In his speech, the president of ICIP stated that the award “honours all those people and entities that work against the tide, highlighting the dignity of the victims and building bridges where mental walls abound.” He also pointed out that sexual aggressions are “crimes against humanity” and a “reminder of the brutality of war,” and he emphasised the need to work within the paradigm of the culture of peace for a “world without misery, more just and egalitarian.”
The event began with the performance of an excerpt of the play Encara hi ha algú al bosc (There is still someone in the forest), inspired by the experiences of survivors of the Bosnian War and created by the Cultura i Conflicte collective, the organisation that nominated the winning ICIP Award candidacy.
The journalist and member of Cultura i Conflicte, Teresa Turiera-Puigbò, read an overview of the award-winning organisations and defined the people receiving the award as “survivors of war and victims of peace” because, for thirty years, they have had to suffer “not only the physical and psychological consequences of the aggressions they endured but also the lack of recognition as victims by institutions and the silence and stigma of the society in which they live.” In her speech, Turiera highlighted the “discreet and silent” work of the award-winning associations and noted that sexual violence is a crime that “is still prevalent in most present-day conflicts.”
Meliha Merdzic and Amela Medjuseljac received the award for the “Women Victims of the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina” association. In their acceptance speech, they pointed out that “rape survivors still suffer society’s stigma”. They added that many war criminals have been tried and sentenced due to the testimonies the organisation has gathered since its establishment in 2003. Ajna Jusic and Alen Muhic, both born of rape, were also present at the ceremony on behalf of the “Forgotten Children of War” association. Upon receiving the award, Jusic noted that the children born of war live in a context of “social injustice” since “their fundamental rights for a dignified life have been revoked” and denounced the inactivity of the international community and the failure of Bosnia and Herzegovina to comply with the requirements for peace.
The president of the Parliament, Anna Erra, closed the ICIP Peace in Progress Award ceremony. In her speech, she highlighted the work for peace carried out by award-winning organisations and praised the work of ICIP in the promotion of peace both at home and abroad.
The ICIP Award, a twelve-year history
The ICIP Peace in Progress Award, established in 2011, aims to publicly recognise individuals, organisations or institutions that have worked for and contributed to promoting and building peace prominently and extensively.
The award consists of public recognition, the sculpture Porta del Sol, created by Nobel Prize winner, artist and activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, and an economic endowment of 6,000 euros. Throughout its twelve-year history, the ICIP Award has honoured individuals and organisations from Catalonia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia, Mexico, Algeria and Bosnia for their struggle in favour of reconciliation, truth, justice and equality, with a focus on women’s empowerment and the gender perspective.