The director of an NGO from New York brought to the art gallery at the Julio Mario Santo Domingo building of the University of Los Andes the issue of female victims of war who have been neglected by the government. The exhibition, “My Body: A War Zone,” will be exhibited there for the next month and denounces the atrocities of wars; those wars whose tormented beings have no age, nor race, nor gender, nor color.
At the opening, representatives spoke from entities such as the United Nations Populations Fund and the Presidency of the Republic. The Dean of Anthropology of the University of Los Andes was on the panel, and took the opportunity to read to us part of an extensive academic study. These experts on the sexual abuse of women referred to policies of development, with honorable but empty discourses full of theories without purpose, while in the front row seven unnamed women, victims of war, sat united with the cold of fear and shame, crying and trembling without consolation. They, as many others, are insulted, used, violated, and victimized every day by all of the actors of this armed conflict, and, as if that were not enough, are then judged by their own environment.
The exhibition, organized by Leora Kahn and her organization PROOF, displays photographs and testimonies of women from areas of armed conflict all over the world. Of Colombia in particular, it shows the wretched manner in which the last 50 years of history has been written with the blood of those forgotten and collateral human beings affected by war. Here there are no heroes, just fragments of life held within the agony of an experience beyond any limit, without solace or escape from their own memories.
Seven women were our witnesses; victims of all of the humiliation and mistreatment made by the sectors of armed groups, arriving from the department of the Magdalena for two fleeting moments of two days to Bogotá to show us the true face of pain and daily suffering that their bodies carry as a geography of war. Every day they are raped and enslaved. Every day they are kidnapped, every day they are used, every day they are killed inside as their husband is murdered and their daughter is raped in front of a squad of 11-14 armed beasts that utilize force to leave a trace of their sexual fantasy. While all of this happens every day, we become used to the news.
Leora Kahn, who organized this exhibition, is a woman for whom this issue is not simply another job, but a reason that leaves her restless before this situation of feminine violence: she is the founder and Executive Director of PROOF: Media for Social Justice, an organization born out of the intention that various photojournalists had to combine their experiences and abilities to create an impact in the world. Kahn has worked for The New York Times Magazine, Time, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and US News and World Report, amongst others. She has also curated exhibitions for the Ford Foundation, ABC Television, Amnesty International, Women’s Refugee Commission and the Holocaust Museum in Houston. She was a fellow at the Genocide Studies Center at Yale University, where she conducted investigations on both rescuers and rescuer behavior. She participated in the realization of the award-winning documentary, “René and I,” which narrates the story of a woman who, as a child, was utilized in the experiments of Josef Mengele during the Holocaust. The above mentioned are just some of the many achievements and works accomplished by Kahn regarding the subject of victims.
These women, victims abandoned by the state, when united, seek aid and protection: at the district attorney’s office, for example, they are grouped together and are called to out loud: “let the rape victims come in,” to see what we do with them. The state does not consider the most human and vulnerable feature of these women victims; they are women witnesses outside of the conflict, who are fundamental participants in the development of the social fabric.
- Ana María Escallón
This blog, originally written in Spanish, has been translated. For the original, please visit: http://www.las2orillas.co/que-pasen-las-violadas/