Activist Denounces "Gendercide" in Kosovo

Released: Monday, 29 March 1999

[NOTE: This press release, written by Adam Jones, should be viewed in tandem with the complaint launched to the Canadian Human Rights Commission against the Immigration & Refugee Board in February. The complaint, which is discussed in the text of the release, is co-sponsored by Jones and Prof. Ferrel Christensen of the University of Alberta. Prof. Christensen is equally capable of discussing these issues for media or public purposes. He can be contacted at 403-488-4593 (phone, most reliable), or Adam Jones can be reached at 604-301-1633 or by e-mail at For further information on gender-selective atrocities in the Balkans (including currently in Kosovo), see Jones's website,]

A Vancouver researcher and activist says that human-rights atrocities in Kosovo could amount to "gendercide," and is calling on the Canadian government and non-governmental organizations to address "an appalling oversight in existing gender-based policies on international conflict and ethnic violence."

"We're seeing a pattern in Kosovo that's been evident from the earliest days of the war in the Balkans, and in many other conflict situations around the world," said Adam Jones, a 35-year-old college instructor and graduating Ph.D. student in Political Science.

"Men are being systematically separated from women and children, and marched off to detention, torture, and mass execution. Meanwhile, our institutions have become so focused on the gender-based suffering of women that they're unable to see the crisis for what it is, and to take appropriate counter-measures."

Jones has compiled some of the Kosovo news coverage on his website, with relevant passages highlighted.

A little over a month ago, on February 20, Jones published a controversial feature in The Globe and Mail entitled "Pity the Innocent Men". In it, he alleged that institutions like Canada's Immigration & Refugee Board and the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development had consistently ignored the victimization of civilian men in conflicts around the world.

His article focused on the slaughter at the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995. An estimated 7,079 Muslim men were executed by Serb occupation forces in and around the UN "safe area" at Srebrenica - while, says Jones, Dutch peacekeepers and the international community looked on passively. The atrocity was the largest in Europe since the end of the Second World War. (For more information on Srebrenica, see David Rohde's book Endgame.)

According to Jones, identical patterns of separation, detention, and mass execution of men are already evident in the Kosovo crisis, which some commentators are calling Europe's greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II.

He pointed to an Agence France-Presse dispatch from Kukes, Albania, published in The Globe and Mail on Monday, 29 March, stating that "Most refugees who arrived Saturday [27 March] were women and children who said they were separated from the men. The whereabouts of the men were unknown. By yesterday [Sunday], there were more men, but refugees said Serbs took one or two men from each group. One group said they saw 10 young men who had been shot dead lying by the road as they entered Prizren."

The dispatch quoted one Serb woman who said she had "saved [her] 15-year-old son" by putting "a dress on him and a shawl" so that "the Serbs thought he was a woman." The Serbs appeared to be making "no effort" to stop the exodus of women and children, even opening additional border points, according to the report.

The ten dead young men are "just the tip of the iceberg," Jones says. "They're the ones who happened to be lying by the side of the road in that village when that particular group of refugees passed by." He cites U.S. State Department references to "ominous indications that men of fighting age" were being "separated from their families" and led away to "unknown" destinations.

Jones argues that Canada could be doing much more to help vulnerable men in Kosovo and other conflict situations. In February, he filed a complaint with the the Canadian Human Rights Commission, co-sponsored with University of Alberta professor Ferrel Christensen ( The complaint alleged that a Women At Risk initiative sponsored by Canada's Immigration & Refugee Board discriminated against male refugee claimants. The initiative, to be launched in Winnipeg in May, will give women who deemed at risk in conflicts a special exemption from normal refugee procedures.

While refugee claims standardly take months to process, the Women At Risk initiative will allow "refugee women facing danger in camps worldwide [to] be flown to Canada and provided with asylum, shelter and living expenses" if they fail to meet refugee requirements within 24 hours, according to a report in the Toronto Sun.

Though an IRB spokesperson described the program as addressing "urgent cases where people are facing danger," in fact the only people considered are female, said Jones. "And women are rarely the ones most at risk from violence and state repression in a conflict situation," he adds, citing Kosovo as "an especially murderous example."

Jones says he is not seeking to have initiatives such as "Women At Risk" repealed, but rather broadened to include "at-risk" males. "I've seen photos in the last 24 hours of 'battle-age' men from Kosovo lining up to apply for refugee status in Macedonia," Jones says. "I think it's an incredibly opportune moment for institutions like the IRB to wrap their minds, and their gender policies, around atrocities against men. There's no-one more 'at risk' in Kosovo right now than civilian men, especially younger ones. Women are being treated with kid-gloves by comparison." The mass sexual assault of women which featured in earlier stages of the Balkans conflict does not appear to be occurring in Kosovo so far, he adds.

Jones says he wrote to Nurjehan Mawani, chairperson of the IRB, early this month after his Globe article appeared. "I offered to help them rework their gender policies to make them more inclusive. I emphasized that I wasn't trying to disadvantage any of the women and children they wanted to help, but to make new resources available for men at risk."

Jones says he has received no reply to the letter, but is writing again today (Monday) to Mawani, offering his "constructive assistance."

Though critical of NATO's attacks on Yugoslavia, Jones is calling for ground forces to intervene in areas where satellite photos indicate men are being rounded up for incarceration or mass execution. "There are reports of hundreds, possibly thousands of men being rounded up and detained in Pristina's sports stadium," he says. "Wherever a detention centre can be isolated, special forces should be in there as rapidly as possible to secure the area and restrain the Serb security forces and militiamen."

Jones says NATO "usurped" a role in Kosovo "that rightfully belongs to the United Nations, however dismal its record at Srebrenica. But the reality is that NATO may be the only force capable of preventing another Srebrenica in the next few days. Until that immediate danger can be confronted and a meaningful UN presence established, NATO ground forces are going to be necessary."


The pattern of government institutions and NGO's ignoring the issue of male victimization is a longstanding one, according to Adam Jones.

Jones says he wrote to to the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (ICHRDD), then chaired by Edward Broadbent, addressing the matter as early as 1994. "The tactics of occupation forces - not just Serb occupation forces - in the Balkans were obvious to anyone who read the human-rights reports coming out of the region. The war there has been pretty horrific for women - there's been sexual assault on a mass scale, for example. But the levels of torture and mass execution of defenseless civilian men are beyond belief."

Jones sent Broadbent a copy of his article, "Gender and Ethnic Conflict in ex-Yugoslavia," published in the British journal Ethnic and Racial Studies in January 1994. (See "Gender and Ethnic Conflict in Ex-Yugoslavia" and "Terminal Sexism".) It cited examples "too numerous to mention" of men being separated from women and children and marched off to detention, torture, and mass execution.

"There were literally dozens of reports of scenes that are straight out of Auschwitz," says Jones. "And I was writing about this early in 1993. By now, the number is into the hundreds, with the Srebrenica massacre by far the worst. And at Srebrenica, the UN peacekeepers were standing right alongside the modern equivalents of the Nazis, helping to separate the men from the women and send the men off to their deaths."

He noted that a "Sixty Minutes More" report on Srebrenica, broadcast three weeks after his Globe article appeared, also drew the Auschwitz comparison.

"So when I hear words like 'genocide' being used in the Kosovo context, you have to forgive me for speaking up for the modern equivalents of the Jews and gypsies," he adds.

Jones contends that successive presidents of the ICHRDD - Edward Broadbent and Warren Allmand - dismissed the written concerns expressed by him and by Jeffrey Asher, an instructor at Dawson College in Montreal (tel. 514-485-6789).

"Broadbent had his assistant write me a three-paragraph letter, thanking me for my 'interesting' comments, but saying the issues I raised weren't part of their mandate," Jones says. "Professor Asher got a similar treatment from Warren Allmand. Meanwhile, the ICHRDD was founding an International Coalition on Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations. That was in 1996, the year after 7,000 men were massacred at Srebrenica."

In November 1998, both Broadbent and Allmand put their names to the "Edmonton Declaration," calling upon "all states to promote and protect the human rights of all citizens, and especially those of women [and] girl children."

Jones calls the Declaration "typical of a certain morally-bankrupt mindset that accepts only one sex's suffering as valid, and views all men, however helpless, as complicit in their own victimization."

Jones teaches Political Science and Latin American Studies at Langara College in Vancouver, and will graduate with a Ph.D. from UBC in June. Over the past few years, he has published widely on gender issues, both in Canada and internationally. His 1996 article, "Does 'Gender' Make the World Go Round?," appeared in Review of International Studies (UK), and won the award of the British International Studies Association for Review article of the year (see especially the final section, "Towards An International Politics of Gender").

Despite his research emphasis on men, Jones defines himself as a staunch feminist. "For me, a feminist is someone who believes women deserve rights and opportunities equal to those of men," Jones says. "I believe that wholeheartedly. I've worked alongside women, in women-dominated occupations, for much of my life. I've spoken in defense of women and feminism on numerous occasions. I devote a fair amount of my research on gender issues to women's experiences and the discrimination they continue to face around the world.

"But as a humanist, I'm also concerned about the other half of the human race - that is, about men's gender-specific vulnerabilities. I don't accept feminist-inspired arguments or policies that just turn the discrimination back on men, usually the most vulnerable men."


[For contact information for Adam Jones and Ferrel Christensen, see the top of the document]

Further Contact Information:

The Hon. Lloyd Axworthy

Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6
Tel.: (613) 995-0153
Fax: (613) 947-4442

Ms. Nurjehan Mawani

Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board
344 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1A 0K1
Fax: (613) 947-5338

Warren Allmand

President, International Centre for Human Rights
and Democratic Development
63, rue de Brésoles
Montréal, Québec
Canada H2Y 1V7
Tel. (514) 283-6073
Fax: (514) 283-3792

Edward Broadbent

J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Fax (main SFU): (604) 291-3039
Phone: (604) 291-5854

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Created by Adam Jones, 1999. Last updated: 12 October 2000.