Posts Tagged stories of torture
Twenty years after the Rwandan Genocide, one woman explains how she moved past murder, rape and torture
The genocide, which remains the largest of modern times, still has effects on the country 20 years later. To understand the effects we are publishing 10 stories from female victims of sexual violence who are recovering from the trauma.
The fifth story focuses on Berthilde Uwimbabazi, who at the age of 34 witnessed the death of her seven brothers, two sisters, her husband and four children – all at the hands of the Interahamwe (a Hutu paramilitary organisation responsible for many of the deaths at the time).
For Berthilde the torture did not end in the psychological effects of witnessing death. Raped, threatened with grenade attacks, and beaten repeatedly, Berthilde found incredible bravery and strength to overcome her experience. However, through a targeted programme of sociotherapy, Berthilde has overcome her past.
You can read an extract of Berthilde’s story “Sharing my problems soothed my headaches and took me out of loneliness” below. To read her full story, click this link. And to read the stories of the other brave women featured in our campaign, click this link.
My name is Berthilde Uwimbabazi. I come from the Eastern Province, where I was born in 1960, one of 11 children of my farming parents. I married my husband in 1977. We had five children. When the genocide took place, it found us in Bugesera District. My parents, seven brothers and two of my sisters were all killed. Only one of my sisters and I escaped. However, I also lost my husband and four children. One child was killed by a neighbour. Of the children I had with my husband, I remained only with one – the one I carried during the genocide. I also have another daughter as a result of the rape I experienced in 1998 and an adopted child.
I had a good life before the genocide. I was still healthy and my husband was working as a mason; we both had enough money as well as a large plot of agricultural land. My husband and I helped and understood each other. I liked my peers, my children, my neighbours and my friends, but most of them were killed during the genocide.
I now live in a complex of newly built houses for poor and vulnerable people, inhabited by people from all over who do not know my sufferings. I sometimes feel intense sadness because they have called me Interahamwe. They were not in Rwanda during the genocide and have no idea about who I am. When I think about what happened to me during the genocide and about the way my neighbours talk about me, I feel intense sadness and grief so strong it kills me.
None of the previous conflicts in Rwanda were as violent as the 1994 genocide. After the airplane of President Habyarimana crashed, the Interahamwe started killing people that same night. My family and I took refuge atthe Nyamata Catholic parish. After a few days, grenades and bombs were thrown into the church, killing or hurting those inside.
Those who had been outside, including me, all ran away on their own without looking back. I went to hide in a nursery school. The same day we were shot at, MINUAR picked up the white French people who were staying there with us.
Three days later, the school guard chased out those who remained. I then started to hide in a forest during the daytime and slept in ruined houses during the nights. At one point the Interahamwe found me there with seven other women and young girls. From then on they raped us in turn in the evening after their daily work of killing Tutsis. We expected them to kill us too but they did not.
To read Mameritha’s full story, click this link (opens as PDF)
To view the full list of stories, which will be updated every two weeks from April until July, please click this link.
We summarise some of the biggest news stories, statements, events and news from the World Without Torture blog, Facebook and Twitter pages over the month of April.
On 8 April 2014, the IRCT hosted a large event – including members, donors, and staff of the IRCT – to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the anti-torture movement, which began in Denmark and spread across the globe.
The event marks 40 years since human rights defender, Dr Inge Genefke, placed an advertisement requesting help from doctors willing to investigate torture in Chile, an advert which encouraged the development of the first medical group for the rehabilitation of torture victims in Denmark.
From this beginning on 8 April 1974, the first medical group under Amnesty International was created, and from this blossomed the evolution of the anti-torture movement, including the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).
The event included music, poetry readings from two brave torture survivors, and the presentation of the prestigious Inge Genefke Award – won by IRCT’s Lilla Hardi.
To read about our role in the campaign just click this link.
Our most popular blog series this month has been our new Rwanda: 20 years on campaign which reflects on the horrors of the biggest genocide in recent memory by telling the stories of female victims of sexual violence.
The campaign, which will run throughout the 100 day period of the genocide until mid-July, sees a new survivor of torture telling their story every two weeks.
To kickstart the campaign, this month we heard from four women – Illuminee, Charline, Hildegarde, and Mameritha – who have all overcome experiences of rape, and the trauma of losing loved ones, through specialist sociotherapy treatment.
To read all the stories from the campaign, click this link. And keep checking the blog, our Facebook, and Twitter for future updates to the campaign.
Sweden has a good record when it comes to human rights and torture prevention and rehabilitation. But problems of excessive police force, and alleged mistreatment of refugees, still echo through the country each year.
Providing support in these instances is the The Swedish Red Cross Center for Victims of Torture and War in Malmö. Primarily aimed at refugees and their families in Skåne, southern Sweden, the main mission of this Swedish IRCT member is to give support to refugees who have experienced war, imprisonment, torture and mistreatment while in exile to Sweden or in their home country.
To read more about what they are doing to assist refugees – many of whom are torture survivors – just click this link.
Our most popular story shared on Facebook this month was this piece from UK newspaper the Guardian who secured an exclusive interview with one of the architects of the CIA’s interrogation programme, which includes allowance for torture.
Dubbed ‘enhanced interrogation’, the short interview with James Mitchell shows one thing very clearly – after all of the alleged torture, there is still no remorse or regret for the effects it may have caused the victims.
Views like this only help to justify and promote the use of torture across the globe, rather than helping to stop it. And you agreed too – allowances for torture like this have to stop. Click here to read the story in the Guardian.
Ida spent around one year in Damascus and, after the conflict began in 2011, Ida has twice visited north-western city Idlib with grassroots solidarity network Witness Syria – an initiative connecting activists inside and outside of the country.
Throughout her travels, Ida has seen the damage of the conflict, the pain it causes families and refugees, and has heard stories of torture along the way. In her first blog for World Without Torture, Ida uses a series of pictures to capture the fear, hope and everyday life in the city of Ma’arrat al-Numan.
Veli’s story is complex, unusual, and powerful. Caught up in a prison siege in Turkey in 2000, Veli lost his arms after armed security forces stormed his prison block with a bulldozer which tore down the wall where Veli was standing, ripping off his right arm.
After years of torture rehabilitation and legal assistance from IRCT member the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Veli was granted a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights which specified his entitlement to compensation.
And so the compensation was paid – until the Turkish authorities overruled the payment. Now they demand that Veli pays the compensation back, at a much higher rate than it was awarded to him.
We joined the Human Rights Foundation Turkey in pressuring the state to end this case and to stop this extended miscarriage of justice by tweeting with the hashtag #JusticeforVeli.
However, despite the pressure, once again his hearing has been postponed, this time until July 2014. This continual postponement means Veli has now been fighting for justice for 14 years, which is far too long.
We shall join the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey later on in the year to campaign again. To read more on Veli’s case, and to see how we are helping fight for his rights, click this link.
And finally, over the Easter break IRCT’s Communications Officer Ashley Scrace visited the House of Terror in Budapest, Hungary – a chilling museum detailing the torture inflicted upon political opponents through the regimes of the Nazis and the Soviet Union.
The museum itself is actually based in the building which acted as the secret police headquarters throughout both periods of history, a building which was renowned for its underground torture chambers (which has been reconstructed for visitors today).
You can read more about the unique museum, and can see pictures of the museum, by clicking this link.
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Twenty-years later, the effects are still being felt across the country. To understand the effects we are publishing 10 stories from female victims of sexual violence who are recovering from the trauma.
The fourth story focuses on Mameritha Nyiramana and her story of recovery, a long and difficult process as Mameritha not only had to overcome the murder of her siblings during the genocide, but also had to take the responsibility of a pregnancy caused by her rape by members of the Interahamwe (a Hutu paramilitary organisation responsible for many of the deaths at the time).
Speaking in frank, vivid terms, Mameritha explains how she overcame fleeing to the Congo, re-entry to Rwandan to testify in legal proceedings against her attackers, and her journey through sociotherapy which has gradually allowed her to build a happy home.
You can read an extract of Mameritha’s story “I found a family through sociotherapy” below. To read her full story, click this link. And to read the stories of the other brave women featured in our campaign, click this link.
I was born in the Southern Province of Rwanda. My parents were cattle keepers. We were ten children. We are now four because the other six died during the genocide. Before the genocide, I never experienced any violence. The first time I encountered violence was during the genocide, when I was nineteen years old. I was raped and I gave birth to a child of theInterahamwe. I have good memories of my life before the genocide, especially of meeting up with my friends. It hurts that I no longer see them, because the genocide separated us.
At the beginning of the genocide we were all at home. We saw houses being burned on the other side of our neighbourhood. Suddenly I saw many aggressive men coming towards our home. They had machetes and sticks. I then heard my mother telling us, “Run away because they are coming to kill us.” We fled separately, each searching for a place to hide. I decided to hide in the forest, expecting nobody to find me there. I spent three days alone in the forest. Then the Interahamwe found me and raped me.
Most of them left as soon as they arrived, but four of them stayed. They tore my clothes to pieces and started to rape me one after another while the others watched. After that catastrophic experience I lost consciousness.
When I awoke I was still in the same place. After regaining some strength, I got up and wandered aimlessly in the streets. Seeing me like this, the Interahamwe raped me again several times. A few days after the rape I felt unwell and thought that it was because of hunger and the rape. At the time I knew nothing about pregnancy because the rape was the first time I had sexual intercourse.
Not realising that I could be pregnant, I continued to think that the illness was related to the rape. Once I found out, I felt intensely downhearted. If I had knowledge on how to abort, I would have done that. It was very difficult for me to accept that I was pregnant from the Interahamwe.
To read Mameritha’s full story, click this link (opens as PDF)
Over the course of 100 days, over 800,000 people were killed for being part of a different ethnic community. To date, the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 remains the largest of modern times.
Twenty-years later, the effects are still being felt across the country, and to understand the effects we are publishing 10 stories from female victims of sexual violence who are still overcoming the effects of this genocide.
In our third story, we hear from 40-year-old Hildegarde Nyampinga who vividly recalls the beginning of the genocide, the murder of her parents, and the horrifying ordeal she endured afterwards as gangs of men raped her.
It took years for Hildegarde to come to terms with what she had experienced but, slowly, she began to move on. And although today Hildegarde still suffers from the rape and torture she suffered – her battle against HIV is notable in particular – therapy has helped her to forgive.
You can read an extract of her story “I died and was resurrected” below. To read her full story, click this link. And to read the stories of the other brave women featured in our campaign, click this link.
I was born in 1974 in the Southern Province of Rwanda, where I grew up with my ten siblings. I moved after the genocide.
Today, I live in Bugesera District, in the Eastern Province. My parents were killed during the 1994 genocide. Before they died, I had a very good life. The affection I was given by my aunt is the most pleasant thing I can remember from my life before the genocide. Since my aunt was also killed during the genocide, I cannot enjoy getting her affection anymore.
Even though I was sometimes tortured by the secretary of our commune, who used to tell me that once the war started they would violate me with a piece of tree in my vagina, I never thought a genocide would happen. It was in 1992 that I saw Tutsis being killed for the first time. Before the soldiers killed them, they made them dig the holes into which they would be thrown.
Once, on the way to visit my relatives who were refugees at the Catholic Church of Nyamata, I was taken out of the bus and almost raped by soldiers. Another Tutsi passenger was killed in front of my eyes. I went home very scared, but still it did not enter my mind that genocide could happen in my home area.
I experienced the genocide in the South where I grew up. One day, my sister’s domestic worker, who was married to a Hutu, came and told us that we should not go to sleep because the plane of the president had crashed. That raised ethnic tensions and immediately touched off heaving fighting around the presidential palace and a frenzy of killing of Tutsis. That same night, I observed houses being burnt down. We slept outside of our house. After three days, the killings in our area started.
Perpetrators came to our house asking for me. I was with my parents. With a big abscess on his buttocks, my father could not run. On the fourth day, while I was discussing with my father about whether to carry him on my back in order to search for a place to hide, a crowd of Interahamwe and Burundian refugees caught us at our place. I saw the Interahamwe cutting off my father’s neck with a machete, after they had hit him with a hoe on the head. They threw him into our old latrine. I cannot say what went through my mind while they were cutting him.
Afterwards, they also killed my mother and threw her into the same latrine as my father. Then they decided to rape me.
To read Hildegarde’s full story, click this link (opens as PDF)
Over the course of 100 days, over 800,000 people were killed for being part of a different ethnic community. Behind the numbers, people lost loved ones, their homes, and their lives to the hands of the military, the police, neighbours, and even friends.
The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 remains the largest of modern times.
Twenty-years later, the effects are still being felt across the country. But perhaps those who suffered the most are women, many of whom were victims of sexual violence and torture.
Every 10 days, over the next 100 days – which marks the period of the genocide – we shall be publishing a story of survival from one of the many female victims of the conflict. Their stories are among some of the most detailed and horrifying, but also among the most hopeful as they describe how they overcame the effects of rape through rehabilitation.
To mark the beginning of the campaign, we have published three stories relating to the genocide. The first comes from Rwandan IRCT member Uyisenga N’Manzi, who are working with orphans from the genocide to help them rebuild their lives.
The other two stories are the first of the collection from female survivors of torture. You can read the introduction to these stories below, or click here for the full list of stories.
My name is Illuminée Munyabugingo. The 1994 genocide against Tutsis happened when I was thirty-four years old. I was born in Kigali in a camp for internally displaced persons. My family had moved there from Eastern Province because of the 1959 massacres of Tutsis. We were a family with sixteen children. During the 1959 massacres, the house of my family was not destroyed as it was during the 1994 genocide. People still had kindness when I was younger.
My mother died a few years later when I was fourteen years old. In 1979 I married a man from a prosperous family. I lived with my husband in Bugesera until the genocide started in 1994. We had a good life and together had seven children. The 1994 genocide took my beloved husband, two of my children and thirteen of my siblings.
The genocide was in many ways different from the previous wars of 1959, 1963, 1967 and 1973. In those wars, a person could hide in the house of a neighbour. In 1994 no one was willing to rescue another person. I had never realised before that someone can kill his or her neighbour, slay an innocent child or even kill his own sibling. What I experienced then brought me far in my thoughts, it traumatized me deeply, up to a point that I thought God had forgotten me.
To read Illuminee’s full story, click this link (opens pdf)
I am Charline Musaniwabo. I was born in 1976. My parents were farmers. I lived with them up to April 1994. My life completely changed during the genocide, having been married forcibly and losing many of my family members. I was born into a family of nine children, four boys and five girls. Five siblings and both my parents died during the genocide. Four of us escaped. I did not get a chance to marry a man I loved, because I was taken by force in 1994 by a neighbour who raped and married me. I live with the three children I conceived with this man.
In 1992, genocide took place in Bugesera. In Murama and Kanzenze, people were killed. Hutus burnt Tutsi houses, but in our area nobody was killed. They only ate cows belonging to Tutsi people. Despite all of this, when the 1994 genocide started I still
did not think that as many people would be killed as were indeed killed. The genocide mayhem spread everywhere.
When it began, my whole family left our house in order to look for a place to hide. I took my things and gave them to a friend of mine who was a Hutu girl so that she could keep them for me. After giving her my stuff, my sister-in-law and I went to hide at the home of our Hutu neighbour, who was a Pentecostal Church member. We stayed in his house for two days and on the third day we went to a nearby primary school, thinking that it would be a safer place. We spent two days in the school while the war violence increased. Men who were with us advised us to look for another place to hide because things were getting worse. Since we had nowhere else to go, we took refuge in a nearby swamp where, after four days, a club of Interahamwe found us hiding there.
To read Charline’s full story, click this link (opens pdf)
A Buddhist nun is beaten for her belief in securing Tibetan human rights. A 20-year-old soldier is captured and tortured for supporting the wrong side of a war in eastern Europe.
Two different locations, two different voices, but both linked by the experience of torture.
As part of a thematic issue on torture, its effects, and the rehabilitative services on offer around the globe, Al Jazeera digital worked with the IRCT and other human rights defenders to bring to light the prevalence of torture in the world today.
The issue – entitled ‘The Colony’ for its main feature on a secret torture chamber run under Chile’s Pinochet regime – included stories from survivors of torture, a feature on the history of torture, and included a study analyzing the hunt for Nazi war criminals responsible for torture and death.
As part of this torture-themed issue, the iPad magazine featured two stories from survivors of torture who have both received treatment from IRCT members.
Former nun Damchoe was arrested for peacefully protesting against Chinese government crackdowns on the rights of Tibetan citizens. In the summer of 1995, Damchoe joined thousands of others calling for recognition of human rights in Tibet in the nation’s capital, Lhasa.
She was caught by Chinese police, sentenced to six-years in detention, and was forced to accept her beliefs were wrong through regular beatings and ‘re-education’. Now 34 years old, Damchoe utilized the help of IRCT member Tibetan Torture Survivors Program (TTSP) and, today, feels rehabilitated enough to share her story (read her full story on the IRCT website).
The second story focuses on ‘AK’, who was only 20 years old when he was captured and tortured for his part in supporting the side of Armenia during the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994. Held in detention for over one year, AK was subject to beatings, threats of death, and humiliating rituals which involved eating raw eggshells. (Read his story on the IRCT website.)
AK – not his real name – has now moved on from his torture, but it took years of therapy from IRCT member FAVL to get him to a point where he felt like the past was finished with.
“I am such a proud father now,” said AK. “My eldest daughter is fascinated with language she is such a smart young girl who I am sure will be a linguist of some description. My youngest daughter is really into dancing and wants to be a famous dancer when she grows up. Both of them are full of such energy and excitement. It makes me glad I survived my experience.”
The issues covered in the magazine are pertinent in the world today but too often unknown by most. Thanks to the work of Al Jazeera and, of course, torture rehabilitation centres like FAVL and TTSP, , the voices of torture victims can reach the biggest audiences possible. Only that way we can fight for a world without torture.
To enact our vision of a world without torture, the torture rehabilitation movement is led by the human rights defenders on the front lines – figures who may hail from the medical field, the legal field, and right through to activists and anti-torture advocates.
But the core voice from all this work comes from the survivors of torture and the families of the victims. Guided by their experiences – and by providing a space for their experiences — the IRCT methodology of holistic rehabilitation can flourish.
So today we are launching a new space to share their stories and amplify their voices. A new Testimonies Wall will serve as a platform for survivors of torture, their families, and the global torture fighters to speak out against torture with the ultimate aim of ending torture across the globe.
Fourteen stories launch the wall, including two new in-depth features with two survivors of torture from very different locations.
The first is Veli Sacilik whose harrowing story of a prison siege in Turkey is still very much in the European spotlight today. After losing an arm in the siege and subsequent torture, Veli and his fellow inmates have gone on to campaign to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for compensation and justice in their disturbing, shocking case. Sadly, now over a decade later, the case for compensation and justice is still being deliberated, but Veli’s continual campaigning is not only yielding results but is demonstrating the violence that exists in the Turkish prison network.
The second story comes from Carmen Kcomt, a former judge in Peru who was met with violent harassment and intimidation when trying to rightly expose the paternity of a young girl revealed to be the secret daughter of the future president of Peru. Carmen boldly applied the law and listened to her legal training at all times, despite sustained intimidation and torture both physically and mentally from a variety of sources. It is a story of exposing the truth, escaping fear and rebuilding a life in a new country.
The testimonies page will be updated with new stories over time so check back for these unique and insightful insights into torture, rehabilitation and justice.