The Passing of Two Women, Very Different, But Bonded By Their Search For Peace

the Editors
On the left, Hatidza Mehmedovic in a memorial grounds of the Srebrenica massacre victims, photographed by Laura Boushnak for the New York Times. On the right, Kathy Kriger photographed by Ph. DR.

Two strong women’s lives never crisscrossed, coming from different worlds, politically, socially and economically, yet their missions in life were somewhat similar. Kathy Kriger and Hatidza Mehmedovic each worked towards standing up against injustice, in their own ways, regardless of their backgrounds. Kathy Kriger, born Kathleen Anne Kriger, served as the United States’ diplomat in Morocco for several years, living what many would consider a comfortable life in a prestigious position. In the wake of September 11 and the
emerging global war on terrorism, however, Kriger headed in an unexpected direction. She chose to leave her work as a diplomat and instead devoted her time to opening Rick’s Cafe, based on a cafe of the same name from the 1942 movie “Casablanca,” in Ancienne Medina located in Casablanca, Morocco. With this cafe, Kriger wanted to create a “symbolic stand for tolerance by investing in a Muslim country,” according to a New York Times article. Undoubtedly the rise of Islamophobia which followed the September 11 attacks encouraged her to create a social space that would foster tolerance and understanding between Arabs, Muslims, and Westerners. Well-loved by locals and tourists alike, the cafe came alive during evenings with jazz performances and a program of arabesque music that was also streamed online on the cafe’s website. As cited by the New York Times, Kriger loved how the cafe -- a “sanctuary of tolerance,” in her words -- allowed people from many nationalities to socialize, a quality that “she felt the cinematic Rick’s Cafe Americain represented.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Hatidza Mehmedovic was a traditional Muslim woman thrust into the hardship and tragedy of violence. Mehmedovic lost her sons, Almir and Azmir, and her husband, Abdullah, in the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, when Serb forces in Bosnia stormed the town and killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a practice called ethnic cleansing. To find justice for all those lost in the violence, she worked as an activist and was president of the Mothers of Srebrenica, a group representing the thousands lost in the massacre. Mehmedovic, as cited by the New York Times, urged that “We can’t let those who had killed to become the same as those who had been killed… I should not be the only one who is afraid of the future in which we don’t know who was the perpetrator and who was the victim.” She devoted her life’s work to convicting those responsible for the killings, and in 2003, moved back to Srebrenica while facing resentment from Serb neighbors for her “denunciation of people living in their midst who were accused of war crimes,” according to the New York Times. Nevertheless, to people like Camil Durakovic, the former mayor of Srebrenica, and Emir Suljagic, a survivor of the massacre, Mehmedovic was a symbol of strength and dignity in the face of tragedy. According to Suljagic, “She is our Rosa Parks, our heroine… She refused to have been ethnically cleansed from her homeland.”

Kathy Kriger passed away on July 26, two days after being hospitalized for a stroke. Hatidza Mehmedovic passed away on July 22 due to complications relating to breast cancer. Their obituaries in the New York Times appeared two days apart. (To view the two obituaries, please click on the links below.)

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