"Miss Bosnia"

I am writing to you to protest the presentation of Louis Nowra's play "Miss Bosnia" by the MTC, and to demand its immediate closure on the grounds that it vilifies men and women loyal to the multiethnic Democratic State of Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H) and in turn; 1) propogates fascist sentiment, and 2) encourages Australians to deny any responsibility for the recent and current suffering of the people there, blaming the victims instead.

Having seen the play and read several reviews, both positive and negative, I am confident that the play has not been misrepresented in its production and that it is its content; i.e. the script itself, which is injurious. As such I consider that you, who would have known the content of the script beforehand, are responsible for this incitement to condone the violence already committed and still being committed against the people of B-H and other republics and provinces of former Yugoslavia.

There is no artistic reason why the play is set in Sarajevo; no evidence that Nowra feels anything for, or knows something about his content-the citizens of B-H. Out of innocent people who, during a three and a half year siege suffered utter degradation and genocide in trying to defend their multi-ethnic democracy against racist dictatorship, he creates characters who resemble war sit-com cliches. More contentiously, he systematically misrepresents their political struggle, the experience and desperate needs of a shattered, vulnerable people in order to reinforce myths and stereotypes of them, both of which have indirectly but greatly contributed to their slaughter and continued denial of human rights and justice. Chief among these myths is the idea that the people of B-H and the Balkans in general are uncivilised, violent chauvinists with a continuous history of mutual hatred and war. Historically this claim is slanderously untrue, especially for the 500 years up to the end of WWI when, for example, Croatia and Serbia were conquered borderlands of opposing empires; the Austro- Hungarian and Ottoman respectively. Since then 2 Yugoslavias existed and were ruled in turn by Monarchic and then Communist dictatorships for 61 out of 71 years - broken during WW2 by opportunistic brutality in an attempt to end it. This is the period of history routinely quoted to substantiate the claim of the inherent brutality of the people there.

    Yugoslavia fell apart when Serbia:
  1. unilaterally and unconstitutionally revoked the status of its then 2 autonomous provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo (1989)
  2. imposed illegal martial law on Kosovo using its republican police (1989),
  3. stole vast quantities of money from the Federal Bank (1989-90),
  4. orchestrated the attack on Slovenia and then Croatia where they took one third of the country and killed or exiled all non-Serbs and Serbs who disagreed with their racism.

World powers have insisted that the aggression is beyond comprehension and without military goals or political aims. Moreover, they insist that it is an uncivilised and-irrational explosion of violence from irrational and violent people. They have refused to distinguish between victim and aggressor, interpreting any forceful resistance or defence toward the aggression as being the same as attack. This lack of distinction has meant that in B-H in 1992 an unarmed people were restrained from arming and defending themselves despite their pleas, (all in the name of not levelling the killing field) and were denied protection while their vastly better armed enemy committed genocide over three an a half years (we watched on TV) in their quest for territory and a fascist, politically and ethnically pure state. It has also allowed world powers to keep on claiming moral superiority, the mantle of civilization and the right to world leadership without having to explain why some people and nations have less right to democracy and human rights than others in the world community. But the opposite to totalitarian Yugoslavia's martial law in Kosovo and Serbia's racist aggression is a democratic, multi-ethnic B-H, not consumerism, which is Nowra's philosophy and in which he invites the audience to participate.

Since the Miss Sarajevo contest was held in the B-H government held part of Sarajevo, it is clear which Bosnians are represented in the play. While the real Bosnia-Herzegovians know who their murderers were and stated repeatedly that they were being killed because of their democratic politics or because they were non-Serbs, in Nowra's play even the soldiers don't know what they are fighting for; '...only the mad could understand this logic."

All of Nowra's characters are violent towards each other and the B-H general's character is racist, homophobic, chauvinistic and so totally corrupt that he is a dehumanised killing machine,incapable of rationa-I thought. This is a total insult to the defenders of B-H who so often died for children in fall view of the world cameras. To reinforce the idea that the people of B-H are uncivilised, the society is represented as sexist and stereotyped. The 6 women in the play show no feeling for their nation and what they are suffering, nor do they show political understanding of the war. This includes the one woman soldier-sniper, who makes numerous statements that femininity is incompatible with self-defence. To enforce that war is men's business, she says she is becoming schizophrenic and must leave Sarajevo to rediscover love and find her Serbian husband who, being on the other side is her potential killer but one who has a big penis. The life stories of these women further assert that before the attack no real society existed in B-H. They all seem to be victims of men and society in general.

Despite the fact that tens of thousands of Serbs and Croats (Orthodox and Catholic) loyal to the B-H government defended Sarajevo, there are no Serbs in Nowra's play and only one Croat. The only reason given as to why one of the contestants' husbands, an unseen Serb, is on the other side firing at his wife is that he's Serbian. Thereby reinforcing the lie that this is an ethnic and religious war. While hungry Sarajevians even went on a hunger strike to protest against the "humanitarian effort" which was being used as an excuse not to lift the arms embargo against them or not to intervene in their defence, in Nowra's play, all the women are gluttons who don't want more effective weapons but rather complain about the lack of eye-liner. Similarly, the male contestant in drag has no use for weapons. He cannot even shoot his long-term tormentor and now potential killer and discovers that he likes being dominated by powerful men. Three further characters are similarly masochistic, naive and infantile.

With the people of B-H represented as such, the play doesn't motivate anyone to act to save them. On the contrary, since Nowra feels nothing for B-H, he has nothing to teach us about our own lives from their experience. Instead, the characters dish up our fantasies, myths and stereotypes about them. He relies on form, which is the beauty pageant, to entertain us and invites us to laugh; not at ourselves, the common human experience, but at the other, with whom we have nothing in common, thus creating the distance which dehumanizes and diminishes the character to make the audience feel superior. This is a common technique in conditioning people to treat those so dehumanized inhumanely.

About 200,000 B-H people have been killed, double that number wounded, tens of thousands of women have been raped, thousands have disappeared and most of the 4 million population is displaced or exiled. The Serbian regime which perpuated this genocide has been rewarded by the world powers with rich territorial gains while the B-Hians live in continuing fear and hopeless poverty. By dehumanizing such vulnerable people, Nowra is inciting their genocide.

Satire should educate. By looking at it we should learn about ourselves and our connections to the world. Nowra instead exonerates apathy towards genocide democracy and humanism and evokes fascistic feelings and attitudes.