By Andres Romero Molano
Bogota, Jun 15 (EFE).- Elmira Ramos says the poem she wrote about the suffering and abuse she endured during Colombia’s armed conflict has been crucial to her healing process.
Her work and those of 34 other female victims of sexual violence during the Andean nation’s decades-old civil war are now on display as part of an exhibition in Bogota titled “Desamadas” (Unloved).
The artistic process “is liberating,” Ramos, known as “Linda Mur” in the southwestern department of Huila, told Efe with tears in her eyes. “I don’t wish this on anyone.”
“Linda Mur” refers to a mythical phoenix bird that was reborn from its ashes, which is how she describes her own process of recovery and healing from her unspeakable horrors.
Ramos says her participation in the exhibition at the Fragmentos museum of art and memory in Bogota’s historic center is a means of “freeing myself from that burden.”
In “Desamadas,” these 35 victims of sexual violence are able to experience some level of healing through actions of symbolic reparation, most notably via a poem they collectively wrote with the assistance of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo.
Those accounts handwritten on the walls of the Fragmentos museum are a “beautiful rendering of the atrocities they experienced,” the director of the Investigation and Accusation Unit of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), Giovanni Alvarez, told Efe.
The JEP, an institution created as part of the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group, has a mission to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for the most serious human rights violations committed during the armed conflict in Colombia.
Alvarez said he is satisfied at the results of this project that was five years in the making and now wants to “ensure that the victims who have suffered throughout the conflict … believe in justice, believe in this new transitional justice that exists” and of which the JEP forms part.
He said he hopes the exhibition encourages other victims to “lift up their voices so the rest of Colombians and the entire world know what happened to them and understand that together we can rebuild this society that was wounded over more than 60 years of conflict.”
Monica, who was not only a victim of sexual violence but also of forced recruitment by FARC guerrillas when she was just nine years told told Efe that “you experience terrifying things, extremely terrifying.”
She says she feels that some of her wounds have healed but not all of them, adding that along the way she lost her family and knows she can never be reunited with them.
Monica said she suffered constant abuse in the jungle until finally escaping at age 17 and then having to carve out a life for herself without any support.
She added that it was only recently that the government began providing her with assistance.
“We want them to hear us, to become aware that we exist,” Monica said.
“I’m easing my burden,” she said with a big sigh about her participation in the exhibition, adding that her healing process continues and that her biggest fear is that her children will suffer similar horrors.
Many women are wary about talking about their ordeals, Jenny, a resident of Tulua, a city in the southwestern department of Valle del Cauca, told Efe, recalling that all of the combatants in Colombia’s decades-old armed conflict employed sexual violence.
“There are terrible stereotypes where the woman is practically the bad guy, the one who asked for it. It happened to her for some reason,” Ramos said, adding that women and their bodies are used in the conflict like “spoils of war” and are synonymous with power.
Monica said she has experienced rejection for having been in the armed conflict and that she and her fellow participants in the exhibition now are asking to be treated not as a “things” but as survivors. EFE