27 June 2012

Rape of Rwanda

The Lucifer Effect by Zimbardo, 2007, Excerpts

A racial distinction had arbitrarily been created by Belgian and German colonists around the turn of the twentieth century to distinguish between people who for centuries had intermarried, spoke the same language, and shared the same religion. They forced all Rwandans to carry identification cards that declared them to be either the majority Hutu or the minority Tutsi, with the benefits of higher education and administrative posts going to the Tutsi who were taller and lighter-skinned and had more Caucasian features.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, a Tutsi and a former social worker who lectured on women’s empowerment, was the only hope for a Tutsi village against the onslaught of the Hutus. However, she was moved by the widespread sense of the lower status of the Hutu women compared with the arrogance of the Tutsi women.

Pauline supervised a terrible trap, promising the Tutsi people that the Red Cross would provide food and shelter in the local stadium. Instead, armed Hutu thugs were awaiting their arrival, eventually murdering most of the innocent sanctuary seekers. Pauline gave the order that “Before you kill the women, you need to rape them.”

A young woman, Rose, was raped by Pauline’s son. Shalom announced that he had “permission” from his mother to rape Tutsi women. Rose was the only Tutsi allowed to live so she could deliver a progress report to God as the witness of the genocide. She was then forced to watch her mother being raped and twenty of her relatives slaughtered.

A UN report estimated that at least 20,000 women were raped during this brief period of horror, many of them killed afterward. Some were penetrated with spears, gun barrels, bottles or the stamens of banana trees. Sexual organs were mutilated with machetes, boiling water and acid; women’s breasts were cut off. Making matters worse, the rapes, most of them committed by many men in succession, were frequently accompanied by other forms of physical torture and often staged as public performances to multiply the terror and degradation. They were also used as a public way of promoting social bonding among the Hutu murderers. This shared emergent camaraderie is often a by-product of the male group rape.

How do we begin to understand the forces that were operating to make Pauline a new kind of criminal: one woman against enemy women? It became easier to encourage the mass murders and rapes of Tutsis by being able to view then as abstractions and also by calling them by the dehumanizing term “cockroaches,” which needed to be “exterminated.” Here is a living documentary of the hostile imagination that paints the faces of the enemy in hateful hues and then destroys the canvas.

Intended Consequences tells the stories of some of these women, victims of the sexual violence used as a weapon of war against them. Some 20,000 children were born as a result. Photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik photographed and interviewed 30 women and their families, and has produced a piece of incredible complexity.

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