Recently, the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition International (TASSC) has designated the month of June 2007 as Torture Awareness Month. Yesterday, Monday, June 26 was the U.N. International Day in Support of Torture Victims and Survivors.
The following is from the U.N. press release:
This year’s observance of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture also marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, one of the largest humanitarian funds in the United Nations.
To mark the day, Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Dr. Jose Quiroga, Medical Director, Programe for Torture Victims in Los Angeles, California, will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, 26 June in Room III to launch the book Rebuilding Lives, which presents the experiences of torture survivors and the efforts of those who work to rehabilitate them.
Rebuilding Lives - available in English, French and Spanish - focuses on the work of the Fund and the efforts of the non-governmental organizations it has supported over the past twenty-five years to assist and rehabilitate victims of torture. The book includes five illustrated articles on current victim support projects in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Pakistan and Rwanda, contributed by both local and foreign journalists and photographers.
Excerpts from the book:
“Mustafa worked at the Coca-Cola plant on the outskirts of Sarajevo before the war broke out. He and his neighbours were held in a school, a garage, a sports hall and an army barracks. They were tortured, including through sexual abuse. They beat us with everything they had: rifles, metal bars and small sacks of bullets. Sometimes I feel the pain today in my legs and knees.” – Bosnia and Herzegovina
“Marie, now a 34-year–old mother of two, fell into the hands of the Interahamwe in western Rwanda. Each day, as the sun turns its back on Rwanda, Marie’s memories return…she is plagued by debilitating stomach pains and headaches. She still hears the drone of the transistor radio messages of the Hutu militia calling for violence. Over a period of three months, she was repeatedly raped by five contemptuous, brutal and insolent Interahamwe.” – Rwanda
“One night in 1996, while living in Kabul, Haider was dragged from his house by representatives of the Taliban and held prisoner on the grounds that he was Tajik and an alleged communist. After nearly two months of severe beatings and torture, he was taken to a hospital …Haider would walk on his toes, since it was too painful for him to place his soles on the floor. There was numbness in his calves, his muscles were weak and his kidneys were damaged.” – Pakistan
“I was tied up and blindfolded. When an official took the blindfold away…I saw Luis, my boyfriend. He and four other friends were hanging from a beam, with their arms wide open and their hands tied. They each looked like Christ, hanging on the cross. In front of them, the soldiers stripped me and they raped me.” – Chile
“One of the attractions of resettlement in Australia is that it is remote from the origins of the victims’ trauma. On the other hand, the distance means that they are separated from the support of family members and friends. Many victims consequently feel isolated and overwhelmed by the daunting task of rebuilding their lives.” – Australia
The book also examines the legal and medical definitions of torture, how and why it happens, the impact it has on victims, what makes torture different from other human rights violations, as well as ways in which it can be effectively treated and combated.
Please take time out today to educate yourself more about this abomination that remains part of human civilization. Donate to your favorite organization fighting torture, or show support for those individuals and blogs that are trying to publicize this struggle.