Serbia and Montenegro: Warning signs of fundamentalisms - feminist responses

Zene u crnom/Women in Black - Beograd/Belgrade
The training "Warning signs of fundamentalisms - feminist responses" is taking place in Belgrade from 7-9 April 2006 in Hotel ’’Putnik’’, Novi Beograd, Dragoslava Jovanovića 1, Belgrade.
During the last two decades, the feminist movement has identified, both globally and regionally, fundamentalisms as political movements of the rightwing or ultra-rightwing orientation which act under the veil of religion, ethnicity, tradition, and cultural heritage.
Friday, April 7th

13 - 14h – Performance "We want democracy, not theocracy”, at Republic Square

15h – Introduction

15:15 – 15:45h – Introducing of participants

15.45h - 17h – New strategies of fundamentalisms, the attack on democracy and fundamental human rights (the abuse of religion, identity, and ethnicity for political purposes, etc.)

17:15 – 18:30h – Fundamentalisms and oppression of women’s human rights (the abuse of religion in order to control women).

This lecture will be given by Marieme Helie-Lucas, Algiers/France, sociologist and founder of the International network “Women Living Under Muslim Laws” (WLUML).

Saturday, April 8th

10 - 11h – The teaching of history as a misuse of the past, lecturer Dubravka Stojanović, historian, The Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade.

11:15 – 12:30h – The traditional, modern and retrograde in Serbia in the last two centuries, lecturer Branka Prpa, historian, director of The Belgrade Archive.

12:45 – 13:45h – Nationalism, the stereotypes of Serbian intellectuals from the 20th century about “us” and “the others”, lecturer Olivera Milosavljević, historian, The Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade.

14 – 15:30h – Lunch

15:30 – 16:30h – Feminist responses to the fundamentalism of the Serbian Orthodox church, lecturers Marija Perković and Tamara Belenzada, Women in Black activists.

16:45 - 18h – The Church, education and fundamentalist movements, lecturer Ljubiša Rajić, The Faculty of Philology, Belgrade.

18:15 - 19h – New-age and fundamentalisms (new forms of spirituality and fundamentalisms), lecturer Jasenka Kodrnja, feminist researcher, University in Zagreb.

19:30h – Dinner

After dinner, the promotion of the reader ’’Warning signs of fundamentalisms: Feminist responses’’ is planned, Staša Zajović and Tamara Belenzada, Women in Black

Sunday, April 9th

10 - 11h – Fundamentalism as an inner occupation and the prevention of political alternatives, lecturer Vesna Pešić, sociologist, the Institute for philosophy and social theory, Center for peace and democracy.

11:15 – 12:30h - Feminist strategies against fundamentalisms, lecturer Marieme Helie-Lucas

The context: global and regional

The fundamentalist movements are not religious or spiritual movements as they represent themselves; rather, they are political movements which misuse religion, nation, tradition, cultural heritage in order to gain political power, to gain social control, to demonize others and those who are different, and particularly to oppress women.

Fundamentalist movements are common, intersected movements of retrograde conservative rightwing tendencies (the so called fundamentalists from the shadows) and religious fundamentalist leaders (open fundamentalists).

Fundamentalist movements are a global phenomenon. Mutually connected, they give support to each other, create strategic alliances and coalitions; despite their opposition to each other theologically, the Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu and other fundamentalists work together towards defeating democracy and human rights, particularly women’s human rights. These strategic alliances exist regionally and worldwide.

Fundamentalist movements also act within educational institutions and family structures in the field of reproductive and sexual rights, working to impose extremely conservative and – for democracy, civil society, human rights, etc. – destructive models.

Slobodan Milosevic’s regime instrumentalized both nation and church in order to gain and maintain power; and the so-called national interests served him as an excuse and a cover for his criminal politics: aggression, death squads, ethnic cleansing, robbing, despoilment, discrimination, and all forms of violence.

After the fall of Milosevic’s regime, on October 5th 2000, and especially since the current government came in power (with Vojislav Kostunica as Prime Minister), the process of theocratization of the state has increased (the loss of the state’s secular character), which violates one of the basic principles of democracy – the separation of church and state.

At the same time, the process of clericalization of society continues – the involving of the Serbian Orthodox church (SPC) in all spheres of public political and social life. The SPC has become a political actor, it interferes not only in state affairs, but also in educational, cultural, health, and social institutions, in the area of intimacy, family, and especially in the area of women’s reproductive and sexual rights. These cleric-nationalistic and fundamentalist tendencies of the SPC have provided fertile ground for the flourishing of similar tendencies in other religious communities in Serbia. Instead of overcoming huge problems, among which is the absence of serious facing with the former regime’s criminal past, these extremely retrograde and dangerous tendencies are defeating slight democratic attainments, human rights and freedoms.

Project aims
  • To inform public, and above all, women, of the concept, content, tactics, and fields of actions of retrograde cleric-nationalistic, cleric-fascistic, and fundamentalist movements, globally, regionally and locally;
  • To warn about the loss of the state’s secular character and the clericalization of society in Serbia; about the extremely negative effects that these movements have on democracy, civil society, women’s human rights, particularly on reproductive and sexual rights, and on the misuse of women for nation’s and church’s needs;
  • To warn of the implications and danger of the activities of fundamentalist movements on youth, especially young women, and the re-traditionalization of women in general;
  • To train women, especially civil society activists, to recognize the aforementioned tendencies;
  • To initiate legislative campaigns and initiatives against the increasing clericalization in Serbia;
  • Feminist solidarity in action: through common actions against all forms of fundamentalism, across all state, ethnic, and religious boundaries and divisions;
  • Feminist solidarity in action: by giving support to the victims of fundamentalist violence and oppression against women, in our region, as well as elsewhere;
  • The strengthening of feminist coalitions of solidarity and mutual support globally.
The project has several segments.

Reader: Warning Signs of Fundamentalisms: Feminist Responses

1st Chapter – Fundamentalisms: Concept, characteristics, forms and fields of actions

Papers which deal with the following issues can be found in this chapter:
  • the concept of fundamentalism as a misuse of religion in the form of manipulation of identities (religious, ethnic, cultural) in order to consolidate power and broaden social control, demonize others and those who are different; the gaining of political power in order to control women, particularly their reproductive and sexual rights, etc;
  • the characteristics of fundamentalist movements: the intersected work of retrograde conservative rightwing forces (regional and global strategic alliances and coalitions among fundamentalists and fundamentalist movements and tendencies);
  • Fields of work of fundamentalist movements: particularly in the area of education, family, social politics, etc.
This part contains the review of various forms of fundamentalisms: Christian, (before all Orthodox, but Catholic and Protestant as well), Islamic, Jewish, and Hindu.

2nd Chapter: Fundamentalisms: The attack on democracy and basic human rights, oppression over reproductive and sexual rights

This chapter is dedicated to the testimonies of women from different cultural and political contexts about oppression of civil society, democracy, civil freedoms, and women’s human rights in the name of religion, identity, and ethnicity;

3rd Chapter: Fundamentalisms and feminist responses

This part contains feminist responses and alternatives, experiences of actions and strategies of women’s nonviolent initiatives and movements against all forms of fundamentalisms.

Besides that, the reader contains dictionary of basic terms and contributor’s notes.

The purpose of reader is, before all, to be a didactic material for use in fieldwork. Various other parts of previous Women in Black readers related to this issue will be also used for that purpose.

The reader is 244 pages long.


The second segment of this project consists of two cycles of trainings about this issue.

1st Stage: will be held on April 7th-9th in Belgrade. The training is intended for the activist core of Women in Black from Serbia and Montenegro and Kosovo. The training will be organized in the form of interactive lectures by experts from the academic community as well as by the Women in Black activists from Serbia and from the global network Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML).

Among others, lectures will be given by: Marieme Helie-Lucas, Dubravka Stojanovic, Branka Prpa, Olivera Milosavljevic, Ljubisa Rajic, Vesna Pesic, Marija Perkovic, and Tamara Belenzada.

2nd Stage: will be held on April 28th – 30th, as a continuation of the previous training, again in the form of interactive lectures and workshops. During this stage, lectures will be given, among others, by: experts and activists from Women in Black Network from Italy, Zagorka Golubovic, Olga Popovic-Obradovic, Lino Veljak, etc.

3rd Stage: the application of gained knowledge – fieldwork, in the form of six regional seminars in Serbia; the workshops and interactive lectures will be coordinated by teams of activists who have passed the training, with mutual consultations and regional meetings, as well as common evaluation meetings. It is also planned that lecturers from both cycles of training give lectures at regional seminars.

In regional seminars will participate not only activists from Women in Black Network, but women education workers, women journalists, women members of democratic political parties, women active in trade unions, etc.

4th Stage: General evaluation and agreement about the continuation of project activities.

It is planned that this stage of project lasts until the end of year 2006.

Part of the sources for this project’s realization is supported by women’s fund FILIA Stiftung, Germany.

Prepared by: Stasa Zajovic, project coordinator