Oct. 11: I Came to Testify

October 11, 2011

Watch the full episode:

When the Balkans exploded into war in the 1990s, reports that tens of thousands of women were being systematically raped as a tactic of ethnic cleansing captured the international spotlight. I Came to Testify is the moving story of how a group of 16 women who had been imprisoned by Serb-led forces in the Bosnian town of Foca broke history’s great silence – and stepped forward to take the witness stand in an international court of law. Now, as Bosnia is once again in the headlines with the capture of Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic, the women agree to speak for the first time since then, on condition that we keep their identities hidden for their protection. “Witness 99,” who was held at gunpoint for a month with dozens of other women in a sports hall in the center of town remembers: “We were treated like animals. But that was the goal: to kill a woman’s dignity.” Their remarkable courage resulted in a triumphant verdict that led to new international laws about sexual violence in war. Returning to Bosnia 16 years after the end of the conflict, I Came to Testify also explores the chasm between this seismic legal shift and the post-war justice experienced by most of Bosnia’s women war survivors. Narrated by Matt Damon.

Watch the Promo

Full Credits

More from the Women, War & Peace series:

Pray the Devil Back to Hell
The astonishing story of the Liberian women who took on the warlords and regime of dictator Charles Taylor in the midst of a brutal civil war.
Peace Unveiled
Three women in Afghanistan are risking their lives to make sure women’s rights don’t get traded away in peace negotiations with the Taliban.
The War We Are Living
In Cauca, a mountainous region in Colombia’s Pacific southwest, two extraordinary Afro-Colombian women are braving a violent struggle over their gold-rich lands.
War Redefined
The capstone of Women, War & Peace challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men’s domain through incisive interviews with leading thinkers, Secretaries of State and seasoned survivors of war and peace-making.


  1. Kristin Bulin says:

    Thank you for giving these silent screamers a voice and a story to the public of their heroic souls!!

  2. Letty says:

    Thank you for your courage to speak up of the horrors you suffered. I bless you with all my heart.

  3. Joan Truitt says:

    Thank God for women of courage and strength in this world! Their voices are so important to the sanity of the world!

  4. Helmut,E.Garz says:

    I can only applaud the women of courage such as these .Raping ( Causing injury pysically or mentally) to_ another human , irrespective of gender is simply NOT DONE , period . Anyone commit such acct is not fit to be a member of the human race .

  5. Janea says:

    What time does this air tonight. I checked the two local (Atlanta) PBS stations and my dish dvr and cannot find this show.

  6. Yalemzewd says:

    Thank you for expressing the reality and stand up for women rights. This has to stop. Together we can make a difference

  7. Fotini Sianou says:

    Thank you for presenting the courage, the wisdom, the persistence, the patience, the determination, of these women to the world. Thank you for making them and their actions known. The female principle is coming back to the world and you have all contributed so much to this. To the restoration of balance on Earth, the equal participation of women for Peace and respect to our Planet. Fotini Sianou from Athens, Greece

  8. Molly Martin says:

    It seems these programs are on only at 11pm on the west coast. Past my bedtime! I’ve had this on my calendar for weeks. It’s just not fair!

  9. Bev Everett says:

    I can only get Iowa PBS station on my dish and for some reason they are not airing this program. I understood it was to be aired on all PBS stations.

  10. Medina says:

    My mother and I will be sharing our story! Follow me on twitter medina__ and give me feedback! So blessed to have an opportunity to share our story with the world and encourage awareness. Thank you PBS!

  11. Eunice says:

    Please continue to air these types of programs. We care about the reducing, preventing, of the suffering of others, the futility and waste of war, in modern times. The cycles of abuse have to stop, accountability has to be taken, and lessons learnt , before healing can take place. It is a long journey..but each step helps-and you are taking giants steps..Thankyou.

  12. Dianne Dietz says:

    Your fine show would short one very important story if you don’t include the women who are systemticllay raped over and over again often in front of husbands and children. PBS did a show on this and talked to the rebel about why the did this. The answer was an off hand well it’s fun and sometimes my buddies come along and rape them too. This has been going on for year after year after year. This is a country wide use of rape as a means of breaking down the who community. I think these poor beleagerered women deserve the attention PBS could bring them and hopefully to the world. Please help these women and this beaten country. Please, please do a show on these pitiful women. Some of these women end up with fistulas and the husbands and family shun them. The have to walk sometimes 100 miles to get to a heaven sent doctor who just repairs fistulas thereby giving the girls her life back. Please help them by investigating and presenting their miserable situation.. Thank you. Dianne

  13. BJ says:

    Thank you for showing the world the courage, wisdom, persistence, patience and determination of these women against their mindless attackers. We must let them know that in order to restore the balance on Earth, the equal participation of women for Peace and respect to our Planet must be upheld.

  14. D. Dietz says:

    Post of 10/12 ay 12:10 am left out one important fact – the country – Congo.

  15. grace says:

    The show was very well done, but also disturbing – I realize that it was not intended to be an easy story. These are the kinds of stories that we don’t know about – what is happening to women in war – and the world stands by. The women who testified are amazing – very corageous! Hooray for women who have the courage to stand up for justice. Also -I have heard from several friends who watched it – they were enlightned to know the story and to learn about the women.

  16. Bridget Renk says:

    Special thanks to the Prosecuters at the Hague for getting the Law through. The truth and getting it out to the public to have awareness of these past atrocious atrocities. Too sad for words the agony the many people suffered and a denial of a memorial plaque -Shameful and Selfish- to turn away thoughtfulness. “Blessed are those with the Courage to speak up”.

  17. Eve says:

    The horror of the war rapes is sickening and the mental and physical scars cannot be imagined. The abandoned unwanted babies resulting from it will be a never-ending sorrow for the world.

    I would like to watch the other 4 programs but cannot find their times. Can you direct me? Thanks.

  18. madhavibhasin says:

    Hats off to the courage of these women. No punishment is enough for the convicted but I feel more sorry that these women will have to live with those horrible memories.

  19. Kathleen B. Jones says:

    Excellent Video. Courage to witness is often not as appreciated form of courage. Creating a shift in legal precedent. And then, the decades that still will be required to accept that ordinary people do awful things to one another, even if they have been neighbors. Congrats to the NEH for helping fund this important series. I will post a blog entry about your first video and send you the link.

  20. radyne coursey says:

    How comfortable we here in america are. But throughout the rest of the world this is happening. American women need to use are voice and strength to keep this heard over and over again.

  21. Siba Kikanovic says:

    Isn’t it amazing that only women are following this story and being outraged by it?! I am Bosnian, was in the war for some time, and then fled the country and lost everything I owned. But, I never felt upset for material things I lost, all the things I worked for all my life, but the lives, and the wrong that was done to us it’s what hurts even today. All of this, and much, much more was happening to us in the dead center of Europe while world stood and watched! And not only that, the world has helped Serbs, by imposing an arms embargo. The embargo hurtonly Bosnia and Herzegovina, because Serbia inherited the lion’s share of the former JNA arsenal. The Bosnian government lobbied to have the embargo lifted but that was opposed by the United Kingdom, France and Russia. US congress passed two resolutions calling for the embargo to be lifted but both were vetoed by President Bill Clinton for fear of creating a rift between the US and the other countries. So, the World stood and watched concentration camps, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing, systematic mass rape and genocide…. I live in Chicago now, since 94, and whenever someone asks me where I am from, after hearing Bosnia, they say, o yeah, you guys were fighting there, killing each other!? that comment always hurts another part of me! NO, we were not killing each other, we were getting killed! Thank you PBS for showing this to the world. Thank you to everyone for spreading the word! and lets do something for the rest of the world, where atrocities like this are still happening!? PLEASE!???

  22. Daniel Toljaga says:

    I couldn’t watch this video. It says “We are experiencing technical difficulties that are preventing us from playing the video at this time.” Can you please upload the video to YouTube then?

  23. Liz says:

    You can watch this online.

  24. Jen says:

    The above video isn’t working, nor is the original video working either.

  25. Lauren Feeney, ed. says:

    Hi Daniel, hi Jen, I just tested the video and it works for me. Are you located within the U.S.? If not, that may be the problem – we unfortunately don’t have the rights to stream the full episodes internationally. Otherwise it may just be a connectivity problem; please try again! Sorry for the difficulty.

  26. James J. Braddock says:


    Did Angelina Jolie use (steal) this book (The Soul Shattering in English) written by the Bosnian-Croatian author James J. Braddock a.k.a Josip J. Knežević, as the story platform for her movie In The Land of Blood and Honey?

    Did she totally miss the truth and core of that genocidal war against Bosnia and her people?

    Why was she banned from filming in Bosnia by the most influental organization of women – victims of the war?

    Did she rewrite history and offended thousands of women and other innocent victims of the Serbian aggression on Bosnia & Herzegovina?

    Should American women and human rights organizations get involved?

  27. Rick Finnegan says:

    I watched this video and cry so deep inside. My tears were shed for the women,whom paid the price of the lack of humanity the world had for them. My other tears were for the lack of humanity we have today, in Africa. Our “humanity is only exerised for oil and economic gains.
    The words”never again”, ring with the hollows, as crimes against humunity.

  28. Dustin says:

    I have been waiting anxiously for over a year for this series, and now it seems I won’t be able to watch it. I am living in Germany currently, and the video won’t play here. All other Wide Angle episodes on the main website work fine, just not this one.

  29. Sarah says:

    Is there any way that people outside of the US can have access to the video? I live in Chile but am teaching a course in English covering issues of gender/peace/war and would LOVE to watch it!

  30. Stephanie Ericsson says:

    I wrote an entry on my blog about this film here http://www.stephericsson.com/2011/376/

  31. Dawn says:

    I am also very interested in seeing this series, after I was shown the trailer through Facebook. I live in Canada and I’m unable to view it on this site.. Will there soon be a way to view it internationally?

    • Lauren Feeney, ed. says:

      Hi Dawn! We are working with an international distributor to make sure that these films are broadcast all over the world. In the meantime, unfortunately viewing of the full episodes via the web is restricted to the U.S. only. Our other web content, including web-exclusive videos and our trailer, are available to all. Many thanks for your interest!

  32. Mirza says:

    Thank you so much for raising awareness of the horrendous abuse, suffering, and pain that tens of thousands of Bosnian girls and women had to endure during the Bosnian Genocide, as well as their strength in confronting their Serb torturers in court and set a precedent for all the women of the world. Thank you!

  33. Emir says:

    It is so unfortunate that we outside the USA are not able to watch this piece. :(

  34. Bea says:

    I agree that it is a pity the episode (especially I Came to Testify) won’t play outside the US. Is there any way we can see this? (It seems to work for Pray the Devil Back to Hell…)

  35. Lynn says:

    I worked with a young woman who grew up in Bosnia and Croatia, WAR leaves the evidence long after you leave it. She suffers from digestive ailments , a result of a stressful childhood. I can not even fully comprehend what these people suffered, she told stories of days with no schools open- too dangerous or no power.

  36. Elsie says:

    I want to express my support for all those brave women who testified at this tribunal; thank all the men and women of the ICC who participated and all the men and women who made this film possible. Being the daughter and mother of victims of rape I can only imagine the horror these thousands of women have endured. Let us all, both men and women, teach our sons and daughters that rape is a crime against humanity. Let’s give them the tools to develop a healthy self-esteem, to the best of our abilities so that men like those convicted don’t feel the need to feel powerful when one or other leader, in the name of nationalism or whatever, tries to entice them into killing and raping innocent people.

  37. Sejla says:

    It would be really great if you made this episode available to be seen everywhere! I am from former Yugoslavia and making it possible for all of us to see how brave some of the victims are, would surely make more women come out with what they had to endure during the war years in my country.

  38. Tamara says:

    Will we be able to view this outside the US? I was able to view Pray the Devil Back to Hell but unfortunately not any of the others.
    Thank you

    • Lauren Feeney, ed. says:

      Hi Tamara and Sejla, we are working with an international distributor to make sure that these films are broadcast all over the world. In the meantime, unfortunately viewing of the full episodes via the web is restricted to the U.S. only. Our other web content, including web-exclusive videos and our trailer, are available to all. Many thanks for your interest! We’ll keep you posted about international broadcasts and screenings via Facebook.

  39. Its such as you learn my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the e-book in it or something. I think that you just could do with a few % to force the message house a bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

  40. Tamara says:

    It works! Thank you from Vienna, Austria!

  41. Marisol Ontiveros says:

    The courage and dignity of these women is awe-inspiring. They have emerged from the hell they were subjected to and used their pain to shed light on these nauseating acts of human degredation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to these courageous women and please know that many out there hold you in their thoughts and prayers. A thank you as well to those unsung heros who are fighting to put an end to this vileness, and bring these monsters to justice.

  42. Neri says:

    My grandmother was raped and beaten almost to death in the war. My heart goes out to all the people that suffered pain. I am so happy that these woman are speaking up!

  43. Zarathustra says:

    Another Canadian here. I really wish I could watch this. I was overjoyed to discover the wonderful programming available on the PBS website, but was disappointed to find many of the programs are not available for Canadians to watch.

    Thank you for the great shows – but please make more available to us Canadians! :)

  44. Very nice post! contains everything I was looking for related with gestational diabetes. Good-bye, Bye, Bye-Bye.

  45. Kyla says:

    I have to say that I’m disapointed that I cannot watch this documentary because I live in Canada.
    What sorts of requirements do I need to have to myself educated? I can’t see the benefits in restricting this content.
    If I could be informed of a way of watching this documentary I would appreciate it.

  46. Musimbi Kanyoro says:

    ” I came to witness” is painful and courageous documentary. We owe thanks to courageous women who speak out and reveal the atrocious gender based sexual violence they experienced. All over the world , raped women are hurting in their bodies and deep down in their souls. Justice delayed is justice denied. The courts entrusted with responsibilities must hurry to give them opportunity to “witness”. The documentaries, ‘Women, War and Peace” give us a glimpse of what is out there.

  47. Zephyr says:

    The biggest mistake the Serbs man was letting their let their semi educated miltias run amok and behave like animals. It handed a huge PR victory to the Bosniaks and Kosovars (left-over vassals of the Ottoman empire) not to mention Croats who emerged smelling of roses. This helped foster the PR propaganda myth that all was well between the various communities before this particular conflict and that the war was simply Serb aggression. The truth is the Muslims have been systematically oppressing Serbs in the region for centuries. This is how Islam functions – to press it’s supposed superiority on others in all sorts of ways. So Serb fustration finally just boiled over. But of’course there is no excuse for these Serbs to have behaved like complete animals. http://www.bright-work.co.uk

podcast twitter facebook