Marte Tunaj, the Woman Who Dared to Report Sexual Assault

Marte Tunaj, the woman who provided hope for the raped women during the Kosovo war, bravely stepped forward as the first to testify before the court. Her testimony shed light on the horrors of violence, suffering, abuse, and mistreatment that she and others had endured during the war.

She aimed to seek justice for the crime perpetrated against her body and bring the epilogue to light, demonstrating how sexual violence as a weapon of war had brutally assaulted her in the most barbaric ways imaginable.

“The world must know what happened to us, and we must confess,” was the message that Marte Tunaj conveyed to the other victims while she was still alive.

The violence against Marta occurred in May 1999. Her powerful statement led to the immediate arrest of the perpetrator, Milosh Jokic, by KFOR forces. However, her story did not conclude there. It was exceedingly challenging for her to disclose everything that transpired to her family and husband after the war.

“I summoned the courage and took it upon myself to report Jokic to the police. I did this not only for my own sake but also for the countless mothers and pregnant women who had suffered at the hands of Jokic.  My husband only learned of this after the trial, and I am immensely grateful to him for standing by me until the end,” she confessed.

Tunaj reveals that her determination to testify as an Albanian woman from Kosovo was also motivated by her son Sherif, who was a member of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) and was the sole minor in the entire Vitia region.

Sherif himself had issued an appeal to all other women and girls in Kosovo who had suffered sexual and physical violence at the hands of Serbian forces, urging them not to remain silent but to report the crimes against them. He emphasized that this crime must be punished and not ignored by the institutions.

Feride Rushiti, the director of the Kosovar Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (KRCT) expressed that Marte Tunaj’s courage to testify publicly and expose these crimes has been “immensely inspiring.”

“To publicly disclose such trauma entails not only confronting personal anguish but also grappling with stigma, prejudice, and injustice. Despite these challenges, Martja exhibited remarkable courage and heroism,” she remarked.

Even the director of the Civic Initiatives Forum, Dajana Berisha, acknowledged, “Marte Tunaj should be honored for her courageous testimony against the crimes committed against women and girls in Kosovo. She broke the taboo surrounding this crime in Kosovar society.”

Following their harrowing experiences, not only Marte Tunaj but all survivors of sexual violence during the last war had to contend with recognition of their status by the Government of Kosovo. Martja herself spoke out on this matter, stating, “I have the courage to speak on behalf of all victims of sexual violence so that the state will consider and do everything possible to provide them with a more dignified life. It is a tragedy that survivors of sexual violence are left to rely on charity. They require proper care and various medical treatments.”

Marte Tunaj passed away in 2016, never witnessing the decision of the Kosovo institutions, which, for the first time, officially recognized April 14 as the Day of Survivors of Sexual Violence during the last war. This day, as declared by the authorities, was established to “acknowledge the pain” of all survivors of sexual violence during the war and contribute to the collective memory.