Archive for the ‘violence’ Category


Gloria Sherman was 13 years old when Charles Taylor‘s soldiers came for her in 2001. Flushed from her hiding place in the bush outside her village in Lofa, northern Liberia, she was forced to watch as her father and brother were skinned alive. Then she was taken into a captivity lasting nearly two years: a conscript child soldier and a sexual slave in the former president’s army.

She is 18 now, but the memories are still raw. “We used to do bad, bad things that they told us to do,” she said last week. “Sometimes even if you were only 10 years old they would put guns and ammunition on your head to carry to the battle; you have to do what they said or they’d kill you. They killed many children, many girls. All the time many soldiers would have sex with you, every night they would come and have sex and beat you, and if you said no they would kill you or hit you with guns.”




Two years of systematic rape and beatings have left Gloria with jagged scars and internal injuries so severe that she has little chance of ever becoming a mother. When she managed to escape from her captors and make her way back to her village, she found that she was now an outcast.

Labelled a “rebel wife” and accused of collaborating in the violence inflicted on her village by drugged and ruthless soldiers during the war, she says that the only way she can survive is by having sex with men – NGO workers, government officials and businessmen – who often pay her in food, sanitary towels or soap.

“They say we are bad girls because of what we did in the war and what we do now,” Gloria said. “But they took me and I had no choice.”

This is an edited extract of an article on Liberia’s former child soldiers first published in The Observer on 12 July 2009. Click here to read the original article in full and to watch the video.


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The partially clothed body of Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa‘s acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found in a creek in a park in Kwa Thema, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Simelane had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. As well as being one of South Africa’s best-known female footballers, Simelane was a voracious equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema.

Her brutal murder took place last April, and since then a tide of violence against lesbians in South Africa has continued to rise. Human rights campaigners say it is characterised by what they call “corrective rape” committed by men behind the guise of trying to “cure” lesbians of their sexual orientation.

This is an edited version of a longer article investigating the phenomenon of “corrective rape” against lesbians in South Africa., which appeared on guardian.co.uk on 12 March 2009.

Click here to see the story as it appeared and watch the video

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Last year, in a village in the east of Sri Lanka, Selvi Ratnarajah opened her door to find three masked men pointing guns at her face. They pushed inside and screamed at her to turn off the lights. When she refused, they shouted for her husband, Ravanana, dragged him into the street and forced him at gunpoint on to the back of a motorbike.

“I went out of the house and ran and ran through the bush,” she said, fingering her husband’s tattered ID card. “I could see the lights of the motorbike ahead and I saw them stop by a bridge. Then I heard shots. I ran towards the noise and I could hear someone breathing. It was dark and there were no lights and I was screaming for him. When I found my husband, they’d shot him in the mouth. He was trying to talk to me. I tried to scream again, but no sound came out. Then he died.”

Ratnarajah says she has no idea who took her husband or why. “When they came to the house, all they said was that he was being taken for questioning, but nobody has ever told me why he was taken,” she says. “Everywhere there are men with arms. We don’t know who they are and what is happening with the fighting, and I don’t know who to trust. I saw him being taken from the house but nobody will listen to me. My husband was never accused of anything.”

As the Sri Lankan military mounts a spring offensive designed to eliminate the Tamil Tigers and end their bloody 26-year struggle for an independent Tamil homeland, the civilian population of the Tamil-dominated regions is terrorised, displaced and fears the worst.

As rebel soldiers melt back into the civilian population, and the number of those displaced by the fighting swells, tales of brutality and intimidation are legion. Meanwhile, people are simply disappearing.

This is an extract of a longer article on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka in the days before the government finally crushed the last remaining Tamil Tiger forces, which first appeared in The Observer on 5 April 2009.  Click here to read the article in full.

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Twenty-five years ago, Miguel Boyero was aboard the Argentinian warship the General Belgrano when it was sunk by torpedoes fired from a British submarine at the start of the Falkland Islands war.

Boyero survived; 329 of his comrades died. Last month, Boyero hanged himself just days after the start of the war’s 25th anniversary commemorations. He joins an estimated 400 Argentinian veterans who have committed suicide since the conflict ended.

For most Argentinans the belief that Las Malvinas (as they call the Falklands) belong to Argentina is as much a part of their national identity as Eva Peron, Maradona or the tango. But while the national preoccupation with their sovereign right over the Falklands has never dimmed, Argentina’s treatment of its veterans has been one of the most shameful legacies of the war.

This article was first published in The First Post in May 2007. Click here to read it in full.

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Neil Watson is in the middle of his busiest time of the year. The heady combination of alcohol and enforced family time over Christmas and the new year mean that for the next few weeks he will spend much of his time talking his clients out of confrontations, away from pub fights, and reminding them how well they have done and not to blow it now.

Watson started his charity, The Violence Initiative (TVI), a decade ago as a way of moving on from his own angry past. His clients are the stuff of many people’s nightmares. Wife beaters, pub brawlers, the ones who scream at strangers on the street, grab their girlfriends by the hair in public, and smack their children in supermarkets while shoppers avert their eyes.

“We help those people that society wishes didn’t exist,” says Watson. “I get so much grief for what we do here, even from victims’ groups, who say that our clients should be strung up. But 99% of them have suffered some immense moment or period of trauma, and something in them has switched over. I want to help them switch it back.”

Click here to read this article, which first appeared in The Guardian in January 2008, in full

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