By Rebekah Hunt
[Trigger Warning: factual reporting of sexual violence, abduction, and abuse; graphic first-person account of sexual violence.]
Today in the wayback machine, we visit our 2009 title Speaking Out: Women, War and the Global Economy, which includes classroom exercises, and a DVD copy of Diamonds, Guns, and Rice, a documentary containing rare footage and heart-wrenching personal testimonies from the Sierra Leone civil war, the reparation efforts, and the survivors of the events.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s four years old, however. This book, like a fine wine, has gotten better with age. In fact, it’s more necessary than ever as an awareness-raising tool for people in western countries, where the idea of the suffering women are subjected to worldwide often seems far-off and vague.
Here is just one example of why we need this book: In 2009, Morgan Tsvangirai was elected Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, a notorious blood-diamond hub in Africa, defeating long-time Zimbabwean leader and genocidal thug, Robert Mugabe. However, Tsvangirai and the opposition movement were terrorized into stepping back from their demands that Mugabe acknowledge the election result and step down, and instead signed an absurd power-sharing agreement with Mugabe. But that’s only part of the story.
During the 2009 elections, ZANU PF (Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front, the Mugabe loyalists) members terrorized Zimbabwean women with abduction, beatings, and more than 380 documented gang-rapes, exposed in a 64-page report by international humanitarian organization AIDS-Free World. According to the report, many of the women were also infected with AIDS.
“All of the women said their rapists were clearly identifiable as ZANU PF supporters,” the report says, “Many arrived at the women’s homes late at night wearing [ZANU] party T-shirts or singing [ZANU] party songs. Sometimes they were in mobs of up to 200 men who terrorized locals.”
In acts of incredible bravery, however, some of these women spoke out against the violence and terror visited upon them and their daughters. The stories are heartbreaking in the extreme. One woman from the capital, Harare, told interviewers, “When the 10th man finished raping me they said they were going to rape my daughter … My daughter was 5 years old. During the rape my daughter was crying and trying to resist but they kept pushing her down. I was confused and in shock and had no strength to say or do anything or even move.”
Fast-forward to now, and the situation remains the same for Zimbabwean women and for women like them all over the world. As this article is published, Zimbabwe will hold its election tomorrow. An election which AIDS-Free World calls a “sham” and states that “reports indicate that Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party is getting ready to intimidate, cheat and compel its way into another electoral victory.”
Mugabe has made threats toward homosexuals as well, stating in campaign speeches that homosexuals are “worse than pigs, goats and birds,” and that “If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads.”
The global situation for women may not seem like it directly affects us here in our comfortable western democracies, but as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Our best defense against the systematic terrorization and oppression of women around the world is the education and awareness of people everywhere. This book continues to be a vital tool in that fight.