On September 28, security forces in the West African nation of Guinea cracked down on unarmed civilian protesters in the capital’s national stadium, stripping and raping dozens of women – if not more – in broad daylight. The total number of victims is unknown because many women are too scared to come forward.
Guinea’s military leader, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in a coup in December 2008. The demonstrators had gathered to protest his plans to run in the country’s presidential election next year. Camara says the brutal assaults were carried out by rogue soldiers; the International Criminal Court is investigating the incident for possible crimes against humanity. Human-rights officials estimate that 157 people were killed and hundreds wounded. Cellphone photos depicting attacks on women are circulating, fueling rage in the traumatized community.
NPR interviewed some of the women who were at the stadium that day. You can listen to the story here or read it here. Many of the women have kept their horrific ordeals secret from their families out of shame and even guilt.
One woman was repeatedly gang-raped by men in uniform. As they assaulted her they told her:
A woman’s place is in the home. If you want political rallies, we’ll show you political rallies. We’ll show you who’s in command in this country.
Another woman said soldiers ripped her clothes off and stuck a knife into her. She witnessed men raping other women as well.
When they do that to the women, they took the gun again and fire the women inside its privates, she’s privates. Yes, I saw them. That is why I’m not able to sleep.
A doctor who treated some of the victims said:
I have never seen such violence in my life. I swear that this is the first time in Guinea that we have witnessed women’s bodies being treated as if they were battlefields. It goes against our culture and traditions. I’m horrified. We’re all horrified.
She said she and her colleagues fear retribution for treating the victims, who risk being infected by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Amnesty International is calling for an international commission of inquiry to investigate, and for immediate halt to all supplies of security and police equipment to the Guinean government until it has brought those responsible to justice. Guinea’s military must be held accountable for the murders and sexual violence.