Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Voices of war

I often hear voices, voices of war- of taint, of shame, of regret, of dismissal, of lies, of malice, of destruction, of annihilation.

Tatiana was eight-and-a-half-months pregnant when her husband and her two year-old son where hacked to death by irregular militia in May 2003. When she, her mother and two younger sisters heard that the same militia intended to raid the district of Bunia, where they lived, they fled. Six days later, they reached a militia checkpoint, but her mother could not pay the US $100 demanded. The militia cut her throat, killing her. When Tatiana's 14-year-old sister began to cry, she was shot in the head. Her other sister, age 12, was taken to a nearby clearing and gang-raped. Tatiana was told to leave at once or suffer the same fate. After 7
six days walking, she went into labor and gave birth to a girl. Although she had lost a lot of blood, she had to take to the road again the following day. The baby later died*

"There were three government soldiers with guns. One of them saw me and asked,
Where are you going?I said I was looking for wood. Then he told me, You are
assigned to me for the day. I was very afraid. He forced me to go far into the
bush, and he undressed me. Then he raped me. When I got dressed afterwards, he
took 50 Liberian dollars from me. ... My stomach is very painful, but I donít have
any money to go for treatment.*

Since I learned I was infected [in 1999], my husband said he couldn't live with me.
He divorced me and left me with three children, so now I donít know how to pay
for food, rent, school and so on. I have no family left. My six-year-old has many
health problems, and she must have HIV. She should be on antiretrovirals, but
there isn't the money. Since I was married after the war, it is difficult for me to
access help from the Genocide Survivor's Fund. My greatest worry is what will
happen to my children if I die. I want to get sponsors for them, so at least I can die
in peace"*

"When I was eight months pregnant from the rape, the police came to my hut and
forced me with their guns to go to the police station. They asked me questions, so
I told them that I had been raped. They told me that as I was not married, I will
deliver this baby illegally. They beat me with a whip on the chest and back and put
me in jail. There were other women in jail who had the same story. During the day,
we had to walk to the well four times a day to get the policemen water, clean and
cook for them. At night, I was in a small cell with 23 other women. I had no other
food than what I could find during my work during the day. And the only water
was what I drank at the well. I stayed 10 days in jail and now I have to pay the fine
-- 20,000 Sudanese dinar [$65] they asked me. My child is now two months

"I regret that I didnít die that day. Those men and women who died are now at
peace whereas I am still here to suffer even more. I'm handicapped in the true
sense of the word. I don't know how to explain it. I regret that I'm alive because
I've lost my lust for life. We survivors are broken-hearted. We live in a situation
which overwhelms us. Our wounds become deeper every day. We are constantly
in mourning"*

These voices belong to women scarred by war; I wonder what could we blame this time around- their nationality, ethnicity, religious beliefs or simply their gender ?

These women are not the perpetrators of war nor are they fighting it. Their only fault was that their fate intertwined with the darkness of war, engulfing their lives.

"Why?" - I shudder to think of the time when we would have to give an answer to this innocuous question. It is not only directed towards the government or leaders, it involves us and our little lives.

Perhaps one day we'd all be able to hear these voices, perhaps one day we'll take the first step to hear them out. Until then , I hope for forgiveness, I hope for a new light.

* Taken from UNFPA's 2006 briefing paper titled "Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources"