When women are the invisible victims of terrorist acts

Three women founded the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) in 18981, then “Brotherhood of Relatives of Victims of Terrorism”: Ana Maria Vidal-Abarca, Sonsoles Alvarez de Toledo and Elizabeth O’Shea. Three other women formed the Collective of Victims of Terrorism in the Basque Country (COVITE): Theresa Diaz, Consuelo Ordonez and Christina Cuesta. They are a small example of the crucial female leadership in the civil resistance against ETA terrorism. However, the gender perspective has been totally forgotten in this field until today.

woundsprecisely, is the title with which the lawyer and researcher Irene Munoz Escandellconsultant and director of International Relations of COVITE has titled her report, unpublished until now, which shows the need to include new parameters that individualize care for those affected by terrorist and violent acts. In this case, it focuses on a fundamental one: the gender perspective. This report is presented this Friday in Madrid.

Perhaps due to the historical context, ETA terrorism left a 7% of fatalities women among the more than 850 murdered. Rarely were women targeted by the gang, as were the prosecutor of the National High Court Carmen Tagle or former ETA member María Dolores González Catarain, Yoys. For ETA, the dead were mere ‘collateral damage’or part of the group of people killed in indiscriminate attacks, such as that of Hipercor in Barcelona in 1987, among many others.

During the most violent years, in the 1980s and 1990s, Spanish society was very different from today’s and moved slowly towards an equality that has not yet arrived. There were hardly any women in the security forces, none in the Armies until 1988 (and they are still a huge minority), few were businesswomen or held high positions in politics or the Judiciary. However, terrorism has left a trail of affected women.

They resisted for everyone else: widows, mothers, daughters, sisters who raised their families and cared for the wounded in silence, but who hardly received help for their own injuries, physical and psychological.

In a statement to The country In a comprehensive report on women victims of ETA, the former Minister of Socialist Culture Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes (first general director of Support for Victims of Terrorism between 2006 and 2011), recalled how the victims of ETA went through four stages: one of denial and irrelevance, between 1969 and the mid-1980s; Then there was a phase social “compassion”, until the murder of Gregorio Ordóñez in 1995 and Miguel Ángel Blanco, in 1997 (“anyone could be the victim”, reasons Uribes); then came a phase of “solidarity” and “after the Islamist attack of March 11, 2004, the time of the victims rights whom society should recognize, protect, respect”. The victims finally had the “right to the truth”.

None of this would have been possible without the women who led the civil response against ETA, both on the streets and in offices and in their own homes. However, the report by Irene Muñoz Escandell highlights some bloody cases of invisibilitylike that of Guadalupe Redondo, who died together with her husband in an attack in 1979: the city of León dedicated a street to the couple with a sign that read, until a few years ago, Street of Gonzalo Rey Ámez and wife.

“One more window”… but necessary

In the words of the author of woundsthe introduction of the gender perspective is nothing other than “underlining the need to open one more window from which to look at reality, without giving up others already installed in the usual practice of Public Administrations, entities and social agents that deal with victims of terrorism”.

With the inclusion of a gender perspective, the aid, memory and tribute programs would be substantially differentuseful and would better fulfill their function: claim memory to move forward.

Because the underlying idea is demolition of stereotypes that can be an extra burden for both sexes: the woman only as mother and caregiver, in silence, and the man with a supposed hegemonic role due to social imposition, especially burdensome for those who were injured with some disability.

Traditionally, women victims of terrorism have been portrayed as heroines, brave, fighters, discreet, whole… Adjectives that normally hide loneliness, stoicism, resignation, administration of scarce resources, realistic vindication of their condition and, above all, efficiency with discretion.

This research is a first step on the long road to try to eliminate inequalities between women and men who, in this case, have suffered terrorist violence. Ultimately, the author claims that the victims are not seen as an object of attention, but as subject of rights. In other words, so that “the group does not go over the person and end up revictimize her“.


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