Home World “I was ...

“I was 12 Years Old when I was Raped” : Survivors of Wartime Rape Break the Silence

0
FILE - Bosnian Muslim women from Visegrad hold a peaceful protest of the U.N. war crimes tribunal's failure to include counts of rape in indictments against Bosnian Serb cousins Milan and Sredoje Lukic, Sarajevo, July 18, 2008. VOA

Africa, July 3, 2017: “I was 12 years old when I was raped. I did not understand what was happening.”

Nelle is now 36 years old. But in 1993 when war broke out in Burundi, armed men came to her village near the capital, Bujumbura. They killed her mother and father and six siblings. She was raped, but she survived.

“I saw people were killing each other. They were running away and killing each other. I hid myself under dead bodies for five days,” she said.

Difficult story

Nelle’s story of survival was long and difficult to tell. After living through years of instability, she told VOA that she left for South Africa in 2004 when a new government came to power in Burundi.

“I was scared,” she said. “I was afraid war was coming and I did not want to go through the same thing as in 1993. I did not want to be raped again. So, I quit the country and became a refugee in South Africa.”

Nelle is one of 25 rape survivors from South Sudan, Mali, Colombia and 12 other conflict-affected countries around the world who attended a four-day retreat this week in Geneva.

They came to share their experiences and to devise strategies for the creation of a global movement to end rape as a weapon on war.

“These 25 women have suffered unthinkable things and developed remarkable powers,” said Esther Dingemans, director of the Mukwege Foundation.

ALSO READ: Exclusive: Why Gorkhaland for Gorkhas?

“They have experienced the cruelest violence. But the perpetrators did not succeed in breaking them,” she said.

The foundation is headed by Denis Mukwege, a renowned surgeon from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who has treated thousands of survivors of sexual violence in Congo.

“We hope that this week will be the beginning of a large long-term movement that leads to a global platform of survivors,” said Dingemans, “and that their voices will finally be heard.”

Wartime atrocities

In 1992, after the atrocities committed in the Bosnian war, especially against Muslim women, rape, for the first time was recognized as a weapon of war by the United Nations Security Council.

In 2000, the Security Council adopted resolution 1325, which was the first formal and legal document that required parties to a conflict to “protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict.”

It also was the first U.N. resolution to specifically mention women.

Ulrike Lunasek, vice president of the European Parliament, who spoke at the ceremony honoring the 25 women survivors, said it is “important to break the vicious circle of shame and silence” that women usually feel when they are raped.

She said women raped in war must be supported, helped to heal and then “be encouraged to speak up, but also to tell the truth about what military conflict and war means for women.”

Women did speak up at this conference. Several survivors presented searing testimony about their ordeals.

Solange Bigiramana, who survived the horrors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, now lives as a stateless person in South Africa.

“My situation of being a survivor, that comes from a situation of war. It happened for me to face rape. I know what rape means,” she said.

“And I am here with a story of hope,” she said. “I once was under a shadow. I want every survivor to be out of the shadow and to be into the light.”

Yazidi girl

Another survivor, Farida Abbas-Khalaf, a Yazidi girl from the Iraqi village of Kocho, described the torment to which she and other members of her community were subjected by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in her book The Girl Who Beat ISIS.

She spoke movingly and in agonizing detail about being raped, beaten, insulted, and forced to pray and read the Koran.

“Young boys were brainwashed and sent to ISIS training camps to become ISIS fighters while women and young girls were taken as sex slaves and sold at slave markets,” said Abbas-Khalaf.

She said that she was able to heal because of support from her family, her community and her spiritual leader who she said made a statement “that the surviving girls are an important part of the Yazidi community and that what happened to them was against their will.”

She added, “It is time that survivors break the silence. But mostly it is time for the world to hear their voices.” (VOA)

Next Story

COVID-19: Infections Spike in Russia, Brazil, India as Lockdown Eases

Countries have eased lockdowns worldwide in order to restart their economies

0
Brazil
COVID-19 patients are treated inside a municipal field hospital Gilberto Novaes in Manaus, Brazil, that has become the world's third worst-hit county with more than 250,000 infections despite limited testing, May 18, 2020. VOA
Coronavirus cases are spiking from India to South Africa and Mexico in a clear indication the pandemic is far from over, while Russia and Brazil now sit behind only the United States in the number of reported infections, according to COVID-19 Information & Resources.

The surges come as much of Asia, Europe and scores of U.S. states have been easing lockdowns to restart their economies as new infections wane. U.S. autoworkers, French teachers and Thai mall workers are among hundreds of thousands of employees back at work with new safety precautions.

Russia reported a steady rise in new infections Tuesday, and new hot spots have emerged across the nation of about 147 million. Russia registered nearly 9,300 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to almost 300,000 infections, about half of them in Moscow. Authorities say over 2,800 people with COVID-19 have died in Russia, a figure some say is surely higher.

Some experts argue Russian authorities have been listing chronic illnesses as the cause of death for many who tested positive for the virus. Officials angrily deny manipulating statistics, saying Russia’s low death toll reflects early preventive measures and broad screening. Nearly 7.4 million tests have been conducted.

In Russia’s second-largest city of St. Petersburg, a virus hot spot, all burials now must be with closed coffins as a precaution, irrespective of the cause of death. Previously the measure applied only to COVID-19 deaths.

moscow
Russia registered nearly 9,300 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to almost 300,000 infections, about half of them in Moscow. Pixabay

Russia’s caseload is second only to that of the U.S., which has seen 1.5 million infections and over 90,000 deaths. The country’s prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, resumed work Tuesday after a bout of coronavirus.

Cases are still rising across Africa, where all 54 nations have seen confirmed infections for a total of over 88,000 cases and 2,800 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Africa has the highest number of cases at over 16,400 and nearly 290 deaths. Infections have increased dramatically in Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province, which now accounts for 61% of South Africa’s total.

Latin America has seen more than 480,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 31,000 dead. The highest number of cases is in Brazil, which became the world’s third worst-hit county Monday with more than 250,000 infections despite limited testing. Hospital officials reported that more than 85% of intensive care beds are occupied in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Some countries have seen encouraging signs reverse: Iran reported a steady drop in new infections through April, only to see them rise again in May.

But there is new hope after an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus yielded encouraging results, though in a small and extremely early test. Stocks rallied Monday on the news.

In a surprise announcement, President Donald Trump said he has been taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against the virus even though scientists say there is no evidence of its effectiveness against the disease and his own administration has warned it should be administered only in a hospital or research setting because of potentially fatal side effects.

face-mask brazil USA
In a surprise announcement, President Donald Trump said he has been taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against the virus even though scientists say there is no evidence of its effectiveness against the disease. Pixabay

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has declared that a partial economic shutdown imposed in late March helped slow the outbreak and prevented the nation’s health care system from being overwhelmed. A week ago, he ended the nationwide lockdown.

He has given Russia’s 85 regions a free hand to determine how they will ease their own lockdowns, but some have been struggling. The mostly Muslim southern province of Dagestan has reported a spike in infections that left its hospitals overflowing.

In India, coronavirus cases surged past 100,000, and infections are rising in the home states of migrant workers who fled cities and towns during a nationwide lockdown when they lost their jobs.
India is now seeing more than 4,000 new cases daily. States including West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Gujarat, the major contributors of India’s migrant labor, are showing major spikes in infections as the country’s lockdown rules have eased. More than 3,100 with COVID-19 have died, according to India’s Health Ministry.

And in densely populated Bangladesh, where authorities reported a record number of new positive tests at over 1,600, thousands of cars were on the streets of the capital, Dhaka, despite a lockdown. Authorities have relaxed some rules and allowed shops to open ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

In Latin America, intensive care units in the Chilean capital of Santiago have been beyond 90% capacity for days, and officials warned that intensive care staff members are reaching their limits.

“They can’t keep going forever, no matter how many beds or ventilators there are,” said Claudio Castillo, a professor of public policy and health at the University of Santiago.

Infections are also increasing in poor areas of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where authorities relaxed strict lockdown measures last week, allowing some businesses to open and children to walk outside on weekends.

covid19-
India’s migrant labor, are showing major spikes in infections as the country’s lockdown rules have eased. Pixabay

Colombia struggled with an outbreak in Leticia, a city on the border with Brazil, where hospitals were overwhelmed and patients were being sent to commandeered hotels. Colombia has recorded about 16,300 confirmed cases and close to 600 dead.

In Europe and in the United States, which has seen 36 million Americans file for unemployment, economic concerns dominated the political landscape.

Unemployment claims in Britain jumped 69% in April, the government reported Tuesday. European car sales collapsed by an unprecedented 76% last month.

Also Read: These Books Can Drive Boredom Away in Lockdown 4.0

An experimental vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. triggered hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers. They were found to have antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Much bigger studies on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness are planned. Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are in or near the first stages of testing.

More than 4.8 million people worldwide have been infected and over 318,000 deaths have been recorded, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts believe is too low for several reasons. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s your Virtual Trip to South Africa

Now you can have a look at breathtaking views of South Africa at your home

0
Virtual South Africa
South Africa can now be explored virtually. Wikimedia Commons

As the coronavirus pandemic brings the world to a standstill, and everything becomes virtual, people are increasingly turning to their screens for everything from family gatherings to board meetings, cooking lessons to daily workout routines, and even for touring the world.

The Rainbow Nation of South Africa has been asking travellers to stay home now, so that they can travel later. In the meanwhile, those who want a glimpse of the breathtaking nation in their living rooms, can partake in many virtual tours.

Kruger National Park

South Africa is home to numerous game reserves, each offering its own distinctive brand of game viewing. However, the world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. It is South Africa’s most exciting African safari destination and offers a variety of experiences such as wilderness trails, self-drive adventures and safaris.

Kruger National park, South Africa
Kruger National park, South Africa has the most amazing African safari. Wikimedia Commons

Given the lockdown, virtual LIVE safaris have been made available to viewers from across the world. This virtual show also enables you to interact with an expert game ranger in real time! Safari vehicles, guides on foot, drones, balloons, rovers and remote cams all roam the terrains of the national park, to bring the best possible safari viewing experience to homes.

LIVE safari tours are available twice a day – sunrise safari at 9:30 am and sunset safari at 7:00pm IST, and can be viewedon WildEarth’s YouTube channel.

City of Cape Town

The Western Cape – flanked by the stunning Table Mountain on one side, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on the other – houses the captivating legislative capital of South Africa: Cape Town. Rightly known as the Mother City, Cape Town is as diverse as it is enchanting. It is where travellers can feel perfectly in tune with the pulse of new South Africa.

The main attraction of Cape Town is, of course, the famous Table Mountain, a natural plateau that rises over 1000 meters over the sea level and literally hangs over Cape Town, creating a lively background and this very special pleasant climate. It is a symbol and a calling card for the city – featuring on its flag. Also, one constellation in the South Hemisphere is named after it!

Catch an aerial panoramic tour of the cityat www.airpano.com

South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa, is the famous Table Mountain. Wikimedia Commons

Robben Island, near Cape Town

Nelson Mandela spent 18 immensely challenging years in prison on this little island situated less than 5 miles off the coast of Cape Town and yet emerged from it filled with forgiveness instead of hatred. Robben Island is now a World Heritage site and museum. Although from the 17th to the 20th century the island was a place of imprisonment – today it is a beacon of hope and a place where visitors can gain some insight into the life and times of Nelson Mandela and fellow freedom fighters.

Google offers a narrated tour – complete with a visit to Mandela’s 6.5 x 6.5 foot cell – led by Vusumsi Mcongo, an anti-Apartheid activist who was imprisoned on Robben Island from 1978-1990.

Catch it on Google Arts and Culture.

Read More: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS): Providing Service to Mankind Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), Gauteng

Since opening its doors in 1915, JAG’s Lutyens home on the edge of Joubert Park has remained at the epicentre of the Johannesburg’s art establishment. JAG boasts the largest public collection of modern and contemporary art on the sub-Saharan Africa.

Johannesburg
Springtime by Claude Monet from Johannesburg Art Gallery. Wikimedia Commons

It houses collections of 17th-century Dutch paintings, 18th- and 19th-century British and European art, 19th-century South African works, a large contemporary collection of 20th-century South African and international art, and a print portfolio containing works from the 15th century to the present.

Current primary curatorial focus is on contemporary African and South African art. Catch it online on Google Arts and Culture. (IANS)

Next Story

COVID-19 Has Caused a “Natural State of Disaster”: South Africa

South Africa: 'National State of Disaster,' says President Cyril Ramaphosa due to coronavirus pandemic

0
COVID-19
South Africa has declared a “national state of disaster” because of COVID-19. Pixabay

South Africa has declared a “national state of disaster” because of COVID-19. This is the latest breaking news around the world.

“Given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday.

COVID-19
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address in Cape Town amid COVID-19. VOA

South Africa has 61 cases of the disease.  Ramphosa said 50 of the cases were contracted by people who had traveled abroad, but the rest were contracted within South Africa.  “It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus,” he said.

The president said the disease could have a “potentially lasting” effect on South Africa.

Also Read- New Samsung Foldable Smartphone “Galaxy Z Flip” To Be Available on Amazon Soon

In an effort to limit South Africans’ exposure to the COVID-19, South Africa has imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries.  Those countries include Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China.  The ban will begin March 18, the president said.

In addition, South Africa closed 35 of its 53 land ports Monday. (VOA)