Posts Tagged ‘innocent’


This photograph depicts what it looks like to feel completely safe and secure.  The baby sleeps assured of protection guarding its life. 

This mother is not holding her head and screaming into space over the loss of her child, but gently supporting and tenderly gazing at the fruit of her womb.  So it is for her and so may it be for all mothers and their babies.  Amen


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Fun in Buea

This photo below is of children after school in Buea Cameroon. This is how children are supposed to look when they are safe, secure and happy: running ~ not from danger and bullets, but from play and joy.

Let us adults be mindful that the greatest gift is to fill a need unnoticed ~ meaning, let us keep the peace.  Otherwise, the children play with handicaps.

Amputees in Liberia

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Every day 1,200 people, half of them children, are killed in the conflict-hit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because of violence, disease and malnutrition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a report issued today.

“It is easy to be overwhelmed by what has happened in DRC because of the sheer scale of it. But we owe it to the children to give them the future they deserve and these elections may be the opportunity of their lifetime.”

UNICEF says that around four million people have been killed in the almost decade-long conflict in the DRC, making it the world’s deadliest, humanitarian crisis, but despite the scale of the suffering it has not received the attention it deserves.

“Children bear the brunt of conflict, disease and death, but not only as casualties,” said UNICEF DRC Representative Tony Bloomberg, who attended the report’s launch in London. “They are also witnesses to, and sometimes forced participants in, atrocities and crimes that inflict physical and psychological harm.”

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Who Me?

They say I have my grandfather’s eyes.

And that I have my dad’s laugh.

But, my dreams are all my own.

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Emmanuel at 1 day old

Emmanuel ~ Another Miracle

To babies, the ordinary is extraordinary. From the moment they are born, they are full of wonder. Like artists, they study each intricate detail of our face, discovering every line, pimple, freckle, or mole. They are seeing the world for the first time! Everything is fresh, new — everything is an object of wonder — even a piece of lint, a strand of hair, a button on a sweater.

Remember how you felt when you first saw the ocean? The blinking lights on the Christmas tree? A movie in 3D? When we see the world through a child’s bright, little eyes, we experience anew our own childlike sense of wonder.

Wonder is not reserved for children, but they do help us to re-awaken to it in ourselves and the world around us.

(Photograph of Emmanuel in Kenya, E. Africa at 1 week old by Sophia Asaviour)

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Continuing on the subject from yesterday, the following is only a small portion of an extensive report from Amnesty International USA. The complete report along with its references can be found at http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/document.do?id=34AA01C4A3274ECA80256EF900423197.

I would encourage you to read the complete document for yourself to understand that the practices of torture, rape, mutilation, murder, and human trafficking of women, girls, and babies is a world-wide epidemic and we can be silent no longer.

“Scarred bodies, hidden crimes”: Sexual Violence against women in the armed conflict


“A stick was pushed into the private parts of an 18-year-old pregnant girl and it appeared through [the abdomen]. She was torn apart. (…) They [army-backed paramilitaries] stripped the women and made them dance in front of their husbands. Several were raped. You could hear the screams coming from a ranch near El Salado [Department of Bolívar]…”(1)”

The girls spend their lives being intimidated and threatened by guerrillas and paramilitaries. They are accused of having relationships with men from the other side. Between February and March [2004] the bodies of three girls who had been raped were found in the area. They mark their territory by leaving scars on the bodies of the women. It is a terror without sound. Sometimes they punish women for wearing low-slung jeans but other times they make them wear low-cut tops and miniskirts so that they can accompany them to their parties”.(2)

All the armed groups – the security forces, paramilitaries and the guerrilla – have sexually abused or exploited women, both civilians or their own combatants, in the course of Colombia’s 40-year-old conflict, and sought to control the most intimate parts of their lives. By sowing terror and exploiting and manipulating women for military gain, bodies have been turned into a battleground. The serious abuses and violations committed by all the parties to the armed conflict remain hidden behind a wall of silence fuelled by discrimination and impunity. This in turn exacerbates the violence that has been the hallmark of Colombia’s internal armed conflict. It is women and girls who are the hidden victims of that conflict.

Men have also been the victims of sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict. But the sexual abuse and exploitation of women and girls have long been ignored, not only because violence against them has been perceived as belonging to the private sphere, but because fear and shame about sexual abuse have prevented many women from speaking out. Women and girls in Colombia are the victims of domestic violence and community-based violence. But the conflict exacerbates these forms of violence and the gender stereotyping which underpins them. With their bodies viewed and treated as territory to be fought over by the warring parties, women are targeted for a number of reasons – to sow terror within communities making it easier for military control to be imposed, to force people to flee their homes to assist acquisition of territory, to wreak revenge on adversaries, to accumulate “trophies of war”, and to exploit them as sexual slaves.

Sexual violence has thus indelibly marked Colombian women’s lives. Men and women have also been targeted for attack because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In Colombia, as elsewhere, official figures do not reflect the scale of the problem of sexual violence. Rape is thought to be significantly under-reported. Despite the often unequivocal evidence left on victims’ bodies, sexual violence is, for example, rarely recorded in autopsy reports. Few perpetrators are ever brought to justice for any human rights violation – and even fewer for crimes of sexual violence.

The terrible fate suffered by the individuals concerned is therefore exacerbated by this double invisibility. As this report shows, violence against women in the context of the armed conflict is widespread.Last year, over 220 women were killed for socio-political reasons outside combat – in the street, home or workplace – and 20 “disappeared”. The security forces were reportedly directly responsible for around 5% of these killings, army-backed paramilitaries for 26% and the guerrilla for 16%. In the rest of cases, those responsible were not identified.

According to figures from the 2003 UNDP Human Development Report on Colombia, El Conflicto, Callejón con Salida (Solutions to Escape the Conflict’s Impasse), the number of women killed for conflict-related reasons outside of combat increased by 20% between 2000-2001 and 2001-2002. During this period, women accounted for 6% of all deaths in and out of combat and forced “disappearances, 10% of tortures, 11% of all land mine-related deaths and 18% of kidnappings. Moreover, 17% of the human rights defenders killed were women, as were 16% of all trade unionists and 16% of people from indigenous communities.

Sexuality and the body

“…sexuality is a characteristic of all human beings. It is a fundamental aspect of an individual’s identity. It helps to define who a person is. The Special Rapporteur notes the abiding principles that have shaped international human rights law since 1945, including privacy, equality, and the integrity, autonomy, dignity and well-being of the individual.

…In these circumstances, the Special Rapporteur has no doubt that the correct understanding of fundamental human rights principles, as well as existing human rights norms, leads ineluctably to the recognition of sexual rights as human rights”.(15) In the report ‘It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women,’ published in March 2004,(16) Amnesty International described how the control of sexuality by the family, community, and state leads to violence and discrimination against women all over the world. In Colombia, ideas that deny women autonomy over their sexuality and reproduction persist and a whole host of social, cultural and religious rules which associate women’s sexuality with honour remain entrenched. This report shows that the ways in which gender-based violence against women has been used as weapon by all sides in the conflict violates women’s rights to sexual autonomy and control over their sexuality and reproductive capacity.

Women are at risk not only as individuals but as members of social groups – sometimes their sexuality or reproductive capacity is attacked because they are indigenous or Afro-descendant women or from other marginalized communities. At other times they may be controlled by their ‘own’ side. In each case the motive is the same, to control women as reproducers of the nation, community or social group. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women wrote the following in her 1998 report:”Perhaps more than the honour of the victim, it is the perceived honour of the enemy that is targeted in the perpetration of sexual violence against women; it is seen and often experienced as a means of humiliating the opposition.

Sexual violence against women is meant to demonstrate victory over the men of the other group who have failed to protect their women. It is a message of castration and emasculation of the enemy group. It is a battle among men fought over the bodies of women”. (17) The perpetuation of social norms that deprive women of autonomy encourages the notion that their bodies can be appropriated and their behaviour controlled. In armed conflicts, this appropriation and control can take extreme forms such as sexual slavery, sexual assault, and enforced contraception and abortions.

The imposition of rules of conduct on civilians – such as dress codes and curfews – which invade their most intimate privacy is a strategy adopted by guerrilla and paramilitary groups to control individuals, and is fomented by sexist and homophobic attitudes.(18) The armed groups therefore compete over who can most effectively eliminate those who are deemed “undesirable” or “strange”. The fact that guerrillas and paramilitaries have targeted the same groups – such as sex workers and homosexuals – in an effort to win “legitimacy” from society as a whole, suggests that discrimination against these sectors in Colombia is heavily entrenched.(19) Women’s ability to reproduce also means that their bodies have become a battleground in which the most brutal violence is committed.

This has sometimes reached horrific proportions, such as the tearing open of the bellies of pregnant women in order to rip out the foetus. “Don’t leave even the seed behind” (“No dejar ni la semilla”) – an expression that dates back to the atrocities perpetrated during La Violencia in the 1950s but is still used today – is a reflection of the extreme cruelty involved. Many men have also been castrated for similar reasons in the context of massacres and selective killings committed during the armed conflict.



Attacks against civilian communities, massacres and killingsAttacks on civilians by all the armed groups in Colombia have included rape, sexual abuse and sexual mutilation. The testimonies of survivors indicate that most such atrocities are committed by paramilitary groups. Over the past ten years, there has been an increase in the number of reported attacks on civilians involving sexual violence in order to punish them for their perceived collaboration with the guerrillas, to generate terror, or to force whole communities to flee a particular area of military or economic interest.Between 1 and 7 May 2003, soldiers from the army’s Navas Pardo Battalion of the Brigade XVIII, and wearing AUC armbands, reportedly entered the indigenous reserves (resguardos) of Betoyes – Julieros, Velasqueros, Roqueros, Genareros and Parreros – in Tame Municipality, Arauca Department.(37)

According to reports, on 5 May in Parreros armed men raped and killed 16-year-old Omaira Fernández, who was pregnant, before ripping open her belly. According to one source “They opened her up in front of everyone. The bodies of the girl and the baby were thrown in the river,”. During this incident, three members of the indigenous community were killed. In Velasqueros, three young girls were raped. According to witnesses, a contingent of men had been parachuted into Parreros from helicopters.

One source told Amnesty International “they were paramilitaries who live in the battalion [Navas Pardo] with the soldiers”. These killings, and other attacks allegedly carried out by the army and paramilitaries in the surrounding area, led to the displacement of over 500 people from Flor Amarillo, Santo Domingo and the indigenous communities of Betoyes to Saravena in Arauca Department.(38) Between 18 and 21 February 2000, over 300 paramilitaries from the Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá (ACCU), Córdoba and Urabá Peasant Self-Defence Groups, attacked the village of El Salado in the department of Bolivar, where they killed around 49 people.

They reportedly spent three days torturing, strangling, stabbing, decapitating, beating and shooting the local inhabitants. Women were sexually humiliated, forced to strip naked and dance in front of their husbands. Several were raped and subjected to various forms of torture. Testimonies from inhabitants gathered by Amnesty International also alleged that a pregnant woman was subjected to gang rape before having her sexual organs mutilated. She was subsequently impaled. The paramilitaries accused their victims of collaborating with the guerrilla.



Staying silent to survive: the stigma of sexual violence”Survivors are rejected, ‘look, look, she was raped’, one girl had to leave for that reason. Women who are raped during massacres [but who survive] are also stigmatized”.(77)” Many women are raped here but that never comes to light. They don’t want to be scarred for the rest of their lives”.(78)

In Colombia, the stigma of sexual violence prevents many women from speaking out. Survivors are often ostracized by those around them simply because of the type of violence that has been used against them. Surviving sexual violence is viewed as shameful or ‘dishonourable’. This makes sexual violence a particularly perverse crime.

When a woman survives rape, she is sometimes accused of not having resisted enough or even of having “asked for it”. In several testimonies obtained by Amnesty International, women and girls said they felt guilty for having survived. In an armed conflict, women have to contend with added forms of stigmatization. If a person has survived, the view is sometimes taken that he or she must have offered something in exchange for their life or been a willing victim.

Amnesty International has also heard testimony which appears to show how communities have been influenced by the way in which the armed groups themselves behave. For example, if sexual violence has occurred in areas in which such groups have imposed rules and punishments, instead of recognizing it as sexual abuse and condemning it, the community has said the person deserved it because they broke the rules. In some cases of sexual violence committed against members of a community in the context of a general attack by armed groups, it is the community that has decided not to bring to light the sexual violence for fear of “bringing shame” on the communities in question.


The consequences of sexual violence: state care for survivors

Sexual violence can have a devastating impact on the lives of survivors, especially when they receive insufficient emotional or social support from those closest to them or when they do not receive appropriate assistance to recover from the physical and mental damage caused by such abuse. Apart from the immediate physical injury and mental anguish, women who are raped run the risk of becoming pregnant or of contracting STDs, such as HIV/AIDS. There can also be an increased risk of developing other health problems in the long term, including chronic pain, physical disability, misuse of drugs and alcohol and depression. Victims may suffer traumatic consequences for long periods of time – even for the rest of their lives – if they do not receive appropriate help.

In terms of reproductive health, sexually abused women are more likely to suffer unwanted pregnancy and gynaecological problems and to develop serious problems with their sex lives. The undermining of their self-confidence can have a devastating effect on their day-to-day lives. Experiences of addressing the needs of victims of sexual violence around the world has shown that the following free services must be made available: immediate medical attention for injuries; medical monitoring to deal with the clinical consequences of the violent act; immediate provision of emergency contraception and prophylactic treatment to avoid STD infection; immediate psychological attention and crisis intervention for the victim and her family; specialist psychological support to address the trauma; forensic assistance; assistance from a social worker; and protective measures to keep the victim safe from her attackers.

In Colombia, however, free provision of these services by the state is practically non-existent. In some areas, rape survivors who have been able to obtain access to medical services and immediate procedures such as emergency contraception have done so through social and welfare networks run by women’s organizations and other private organizations. As a result of training and awareness-raising carried out by these organizations and inter-governmental bodies, such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), some primary health care providers are able to address some of the survivors’ immediate needs. In any event, the possibility of gaining access to certain services is seriously limited for economic reasons. The victims of such abuses face various expenses.

HIV and pregnancy tests and emergency contraception are generally not free. Prophylactic treatment to avoid STD infection, including HIV is practically unknown. Some forensic authorities interviewed by Amnesty International expressed reservations about providing these services because of the costs involved.


Justice denied: inaction, complicity and impunity

“The fact that torture generally precedes extra-judicial executions skews the statistics on torture. When information is gathered on massacres and selective killings, the victims are usually classified under violations of the right to life, with no mention of the violation of their right to personal integrity. In other instances, physicians omit to mention in autopsy reports the existence of signs of torture in the corpses examined”.(79)

Sexual violence is rarely reported by the victim. In those cases in which survivors muster the strength to do so, the authorities often seek to dissuade women from doing so:· In the neighbourhood of Acacio, in the municipality of Jamundí, department of Valle del Cauca, “Marta”, who was then 15, had an altercation with a person known to be a paramilitary. The paramilitaries beat her up. They then started to follow her around.

Towards the end of February 2003, they took her from her home and pushed her into a car where they raped her. Some people found her bleeding and took her to hospital. The Attorney General’s Office reportedly refused to process the complaint because they said that the paramilitaries were very dangerous and that they would kill her mother and younger siblings. “Marta” became pregnant as a result of the rape. The complaint was lodged in Bogotá. It was presented to the Human Rights Office of the Attorney General’s Office on 23 March 2003.·

“My daughter is 9 years old. The events happened two years ago. I was at home with her and they were talking about rape on TV. My daughter lowered her head.

‘Caliche touches me, he touches my vagina’. I was furious and I confronted Caliche. I told him I would bring an action against him. I went to the Attorney General’s Office but they would not accept my complaint because they said that if it wasn’t rape, they couldn’t… Caliche disappeared but on 31 October, my daughter saw him in Manrique.

He is from the AUC in Combo del Hoyo, he’s 19. He said that if I did anything to him, he would kill us.” Nothing further happened as regards the complaint.(80) Even if they persist the case is unlikely to be fully and independently investigated. The prospect of a conviction is virtually zero, especially if the alleged perpetrator is a member of the security forces, the paramilitaries or the guerrilla.

Every step of the process appears to be designed to block survivors’ attempts to seek truth and justice. In Colombia, the chances that victims of sexual abuse have access to the courts and secure justice, whether or not the offences in question are connected with the armed conflict, are small. Amnesty International has received numerous testimonies and data showing the arduous and usually fruitless journey embarked on by survivors and others who report such offences. Although changes have been made to Colombian law in recent years with regard to how sexual offences are to be dealt with, in practice little substantial change has taken place.

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The first time I saw this photo with a report of the casualties of war in the middle east, I cry profusely – to the point that I could not speak.  When I finally found my voice, I repeated to shouting —



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