On this 25th of November, as we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Breaking the Silence Maritimes-Guatemala Network wishes to express our solidarity and support to our strong and resilient sisters in Guatemala who continue to work every day to create a more just and peaceful world. In particular, we wish to express our deep respect for the survivors of the Sepur Zarco military base and the organizations that have supported these courageous women in coming forward with their stories and seeking justice for the terrible violence they endured. As people gather on this day to demand an end to violence against women, we want you to know that we continue to stand in solidarity with you.
We denounce the sexual and domestic slavery and violence that Maya Q’eqchi’ women endured at the Sepur Zarco military base in the early 1980s as part of the genocidal campaign in which indigenous women were particularly targeted as the bearers of the next generation. We denounce these acts as crimes against humanity. We demand that justice be served for these crimes, and an end to the delays and obstructions that have characterized the case to date. We demand the elimination of gendered and sexual violence in all forms, including during armed conflict.
Although sexual violence was widely and systematically used to target civil populations during the armed conflict in Guatemala, this is the first time that wartime sexual assault and sexual and domestic slavery are tried as crimes against humanity in a Guatemalan court. We recognize the multiple barriers that the women survivors of this violence have faced in bringing forward a case of such historic and international significance, including the stigma they have faced in their own communities and the patriarchal bias and racism present in many Guatemalan state institutions which to date have been characterized by leaving these crimes in impunity. To come forward despite these enormous challenges has required tremendous strength, commitment, and resilience. We also commend the Breaking the Silence and Impunity Alliance (Alianza Rompiendo el Silencio y la Impunidad) made up of Women Transforming the World (Mujeres Transformando el Mundo), the Community and Psycho-Social Action Team (Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial), and the National Union of Guatemalan Women (Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas) for their important work in building alliances of women who have broken the silence about sexual violence at the local and national level, and for supporting these women for over ten years in their struggle for healing, justice, and truth.
This trial is one important step along the long and arduous road toward peace, justice, equality, and safety for all people in all parts of the world, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, or age. With admiration and respect for the strength and dignity of the survivors of Sepur Zarco, the staff at the organizations who have supported them, and all those who participate in any way they can in this important struggle, we send our love and a firm commitment to solidarity and ongoing support.