Peace Network in the War Zone

The following, which  appeared in the Albanian magazine "Koha" in 1994, was helpful in encouraging Kosovars and Albanians to join the ZTN node in Pristina. Unfortunately, that node was short-lived, and not as helpful in providing comms aid to Kosovar peace groups as had been hoped . The following version was obtained from the Peacenet Balkans gopher.  --  ed


by Eric Bachman

[Additionally, one must know that the name "ZANA" is a woman's name. It is also the traditional name of the good fairy of the woods that helps people. This name was chosen by the people in Pristina.]

Throughout the whole world there is a new fever raging. Some call it "email" (electronic mail) others "Internet", still others the "information superhighway". Despite all the mumbo jumbo of it's own jargon it is actually a simple concept. The text files, the digital pictures or in fact any data that is in your computer can be sent via the telephone lines to another computer anywhere in the world. It is the exchange of digitalized information from one computer to another. Electronic mail (email) refers to sending and receiving messages from one person to another over the world-wide network of computers. It is similar to writing normal letters, but the transmission of the letters is much quicker.

Email is definitely not the best form of communication. I would much prefer to be with the person with whom I am communicating. There is no substitute for the personal contact, seeing their smiles or frowns, hearing their laughing or observing their gestures as we exchange opinions, develop ideas or just chat. There is much more to communication than just words. This is especially true if there is tension in the air, misunderstandings or even mistrust.

Nevertheless, electronic communication is and can be very helpful. Email messages are quick, cheaper than a fax and the data arrives in a format that your computer can digest. This means that you can immediately use the data, edit the text, read the data into a program or work with the digital pictures, etc... Users of email can write messages to and receive them from anyone else in the entire world who has an email address. Also email messages can be put into public reading areas called newsgroups or conferences which everyone may read. They are called conferences because, just like a normal conference where everyone there may speak and can hear whatever is said, in these written conferences you may read whatever anyone writes and you yourself may write messages that everyone may read. It is a new form of communication, somewhat like a on-going public discussion or a newspaper where everyone can be both journalist or editor and at the same time reader. The conferences are divided according to topics. In an email system you will find people "talking" or rather writing in hundreds if not thousands of different conferences on just as many different subjects.

Email messages can provide paths for communication where other ways have become difficult. In my work as a consultant for nonviolent conflict resolution I was invited to lead seminars by anti-war groups in Zagreb and in Belgrade.This was in September 1991, the time when the war was exploding into the reality of every-day life. One of the results of the war was the destruction of many normal channels of communication. Friends and relatives in Croatia and Serbia and then also Bosnia & Herzegovina and elsewhere could no longer telephone with each other nor exchange letters easily. Also various groups and individuals who were working to prevent war and to promote peaceful solutions were cut off from each other. It was these groups, especially the Anti War Campaign in Zagreb and the Center for Anti-War Action in Belgrade who first asked for help in setting up a network of electronic communication. By the summer of 1992 two email systems, one in Zagreb and one in Belgrade were operating.

An email system like ZANA-PR (also known as a "server") consists of one computer that is connected through a modem to a telephone line. It is running 24 hours a day and waits until someone dials the number and connects his/her computer to it. This allows people (users) to send messages to other users and to retrieve his/her own messages. Also the public messages are exchanged at this time. If the message sent is for a user of another system, perhaps in another city or country, then ZANA-PR will connect to his own server and forward the message. The messages are automatically forwarded from computer to computer until the server is reached where the user has his/her personal email address (also called email account). The messages of course still have to wait there until that user decides to look into his personal email box. No matter how fast the messages travel, they will not be read and answered until the person receiving them acts.

The ZaMir Transnational Net is born

Because the server in Belgrade ZAMIR-BG and the server in Zagreb ZAMIR-ZG could not connect directly (direct telephone lines were destroyed in the war), they had to exchange their messages via another server as a stepping stone to forward messages to each other. They became a part of a network of computers. In the mean time there are servers in Ljubljana ZAMIR-LJ, Sarajevo ZAMIR-SA and now in Pristina ZANA-PR and more are planned in other cities. This network is now called the ZAMIR TRANSNATIONAL NET (ZTN) and is a partner with a world-wide network called the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). The APC includes email systems or servers in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, Europe and North America. Not only can users send messages to all users of the APC, they can send messages to all email users in any network in the world. The many different networks are regularly exchanging public and private messages with each other. The fastest networks are the ones like the Internet (which includes 3.2 million computers) which are continuously connected with each other 24 hours a day. Our network (ZTN) uses the cheaper (but slower) store and forward method. Our messages are stored in the computer until it makes its regular connection to another server. This happens at least 4 times a day and sometimes even every hour.

The ZaMir Transnational Net aims especially to serve people working for: the prevention of warfare; the elimination of militarism; protection of the environment; the advancement of human rights and the rights of peoples regardless of race, ethnic background, sex or religion or political convictions; the achievement of social and economic justice; women's rights; the elimination of poverty; the promotion of sustainable and equitable development; more and better democratic structures in society, especially the advancement of participatory democracy; nonviolent conflict resolution and to aid the communication between all people, especially for refugees. (from the statement of the Zamir Transnational Net)

With the help of this email network it has been possible to find and coordinate humanitarian aid for some of the many refugees of the war. It has become an important means of communication for humanitarian organisations working in the war region and sister organisations from other countries. It helps to coordinate the search for volunteers who are helping to reconstruct the damage of the war in all parts of former Yugoslavia. One volunteer who came for one month to Croatia has ended up staying for more than two years. He began to write a daily dairy so that his two young sons would later know what their father was doing. This "Zagreb Diary" as it is called is posted regularly in the public conference called "/APC/YUGO/ANTIWAR". (To keep the names short abbreviations are used for the names of conferences.)

This conference "/APC/YUGO/ANTIWAR" was the first international email conference which was opened to deal with working to stop the war here. It now contains the equivalent of 5,000 pages of messages, ideas, opinions, suggestions, actions and discussion about the subject. People from all over the world write to and read this conference. During the last weeks you have people writing about the "Post-War Views of Refugees", "Sarajevo Film Days" ( Sarajevski filmski dani ), the "Orthodox Peace Appeal", "Classroom-to-classroom projects", "Member of Parliament arrested at eviction", "What after Bosnia", "Witness" (Svedok), "The path to normalization" and many more. Authors of the messages come from Switzerland, USA, Croatia, Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Australia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany, Finland and many other countries.

Another interesting conference "/APC/REG/EXYUGOSLAV" contains mainly official documents, press releases from different governments, agencies and organisations. "/APC/EXYUGO/REFUGEE" is as it says about refugee issues. You can find the most recent documents from the United Nations in the "/APC/UNIC/NEWS" , information about the media from around the world in "/APC/MEDIA/ISSUES", women's rights issues are to be found in "/APC/WOMEN/FORUM". These are just a few or the more than one thousand subjects to be found in the list of APC conferences. The full list is available in ZANA-PR and even if the conference that you are interested in is not yet available on the server, it can be ordered.

Not only the APC conferences are to be found in ZANA-PR. The Zamir Transnational Net has its own set of conferences.
"/ZAMIR/!CONTACTS" helps people to find each other,
"/ZAMIR/WHO_IS_WHO" is for users to inform each other about their email addresses. In
"/ZAMIR/FORUM" public discussions about any subject take place and
"/ZAMIR/PEACE/DISCUSSION" is for peace issues.

Some of the media from the Balkan region are beginning to use email to put summaries of their journals on the net. These conferences do have English names, but the main languages of these "Zamir" conferences are the languages of the region.

Volunteers around the world often gather news, reports and articles about certain subjects and then forward them to interested users of email. Such lists are often offered as "read only" conferences for anyone to read. Some of these are very interesting for people here. For example, there is the "BosNews" which distributes information relevant to the events in/about Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It includes reports from numerous sources, newspapers, press services, etc. "MAK-NEWS" reports about events which are important for the Republic of Macedonia, RokPress is for news from Slovenia, the Serbian Information Initiative (SII) distributes both news and discussions about events especially as it concerns Serbs. Plans are under way for a KosovaNet for news on this region.

There are not only conferences on current events but on almost any subject under the sun. You name it and surely there is a conference or mailing list somewhere in which people are discussing this issue. Not all of these thousands of conferences are available on ZANA-PR. It would not be possible to cover the costs of transporting all of them. If you are interested in a conference subject which is not available on ZANA-PR, ask the system operators (email address: SUPPORT@ZANA-PR) for some help to find conferences that you are interested in.

As you know, the present situation in this region has resulted in many refugees who are now living in many different parts of the globe. Groups and individuals around the world are helping these refugees by forwarding email for them. Because not everyone has the necessary equipment to use email, users of the system are offering their support, sending and receiving messages for others. For example, many volunteers in Bosnia are sending and receiving private messages for other people. The messages are destined for friends and family who now live in other widely separated countries. For families that are now separated by even continents, this support is extremely important. Groups have been and are being formed in different countries to transfer email to paper-mail and vice-versa in order to help communication. A group in the Netherlands that is working with the refugees has even been very successful in using email to help reunite families that have become separated as they fled the war zone.

If this sounds interesting you may now be filled with questions about, "How do I begin?" A certain amount of technology is needed to participate in the global email village. A computer, any computer (even older ones) are suitable. A modem is necessary to enable the computer to communicate over the telephone lines. Software (which you can get from the system operators of ZANA-PR) is necessary to run the computer and modem for the communication with the server. You then can dial 038-40233 and connect to ZANA-PR. After registering to be a user (see the description in the box) you can begin to send and receive email. You can also read and write into the public conferences there.

[list of contact infomation for ZTN nodes is ommitted here - ed]

This list shows systems in the Zamir Transnational Net. The list includes the modem telephone number and a voice number to ask for help from the system operator. All of these systems are open to everyone. All who want to may become users of the system. The systems are dedicated to the open flow of information, there is no censorship. Of course each user is responsible for his/her messages. And it is expected that all users act in a polite way to each other. This has become an important issue, especially in some public conferences because it is very easy for some people to hide behind the imagined anonymity of the computer and write very angry or even libelous messages. Even messages that are not meant to be nasty sometimes are upsetting because they are misunderstood. The nuances of communication available in personal contact are not possible in email. To help out, people have begun to use so-called "smilies" like this one: :-) or this one: :-( If you do not understand the hieroglyphics, then turn your head 90 degrees to the left side and look at them again. Those two were obvious, here is a winky smiley ;-) and one laughing :-D Everyone can invent their own: >:-)

Through email it is possible to join a global community, it is possible to make new friends from anywhere on the earth, it is possible to have an unbelievable amount of information at your finger tips. This aspect is often overwhelming for many new users. Some many conferences, so many messages. How can I read them all? The answer is simple. You can't. Don't even try it. It is impossible. Just as when you go to a library, you do not think about reading all the books there, you will have to choose among the conferences and even among the messages within one conference. Oh, it has been a while since I last logged in into ZANA-PR. If you will excuse me for a moment, I must see who left a message for me ---- ;-)

Eric Bachman, Consultant in Nonviolent Conflict Resolution and Email Communication

copyright Eric Bachman

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