Anonymous from Nicaragua: the Pain of Being Alive
Testimony of a young student who was raped and tortured by Daniel Ortega’s paramilitary…right in front of her city’s mayor.
“They began abusing me…and more than 15 men raped me. Leaving me alive was the worst thing they could have done.”
By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – I baptized her with the name “Anonymous”.
Despite her courage in confronting the repression of the paramilitaries in the streets of her city and in surviving her abuse, she still seems innocent. Sweet and trusting, she agreed to give me her real name, as well as the alias that she used while fighting to maintain the roadblocks. She even thought that we could show her colorful tattoos in the post.
I told her no. Then we had to think about what to call her so that the coward that still governs her city can’t encounter new pretexts to go after her family, it seemed logical to me to call her “Anonymous”, since she was going to do the interview wearing the mask of Guy Fawkes, made famous by the hackers from the group “Anonymous”, as well as millions of people around the world when they protest.
With that mask on, she cried, and I cried with her. But let’s not leap ahead.
I had to make an agreement with her not to mention the name of the beautiful place where these sad events occurred; this will only be referred to as “my city”. I would also not mention the country we held the interview in, and so I only call it “here”.
Prior to April 18, 2018, she was “a student, a daughter, working full time and attending the university at night. I was just one more student and citizen.” Like almost all of us.
When the April Rebellion broke out, she found it impossible not to get involved. She felt that “it hurt my soul to see how they were killing the students, the youth, who were protesting peacefully because they wanted a change in Nicaragua.”
Her presence, marked by her charisma, didn’t go unnoticed at the roadblocks, and she soon had to take on a leadership role, together with her companions in the rebellion. While it’s true she was aware of the risks that this could imply, she never expected that what occurred would happen to her.
I didn’t ask her about her time at the roadblocks, because this wasn’t intended as a story of adventure. But I did ask her about the moment she was captured and the terrible torments that came later.
“How can they do this to me?”
Her ordeal began in June of 2018, when several paramilitaries abducted her and took her to one of the head offices of the Sandinista party in her city. There, they began interrogating her about the April 19th Movement. They wanted to know how many were involved, what they did, where they slept…
When they saw that she wouldn’t answer them, they tortured her for over seven hours. They put strips of cloth over her face to simulate suffocation. They also applied electric shocks to her ribs.
“These were anguished hours, when the question came to my head of how these people could do such things to us, with so much hate. Months have passed, and now I have more strength to talk about it. I asked them if they didn’t have mothers, if they didn’t have daughters, then why were they doing this to me,” she recounts.
A fear of imminent death coursed through her when she saw the mayor of her city, one of those eternal figures that “govern” some of the municipalities of the country in the name of the Sandinista Front.
He was “right in front of me while they were torturing me, without doing anything; my pain and suffering didn’t matter to them.” Because of this, she thought that they wouldn’t leave her alive, so that she couldn’t denounce him or the paramilitaries whose faces she saw.
But they didn’t kill her. Instead, “they began to sexually abuse me. I’m going to tell you what they said: ‘Give it to her in the…’ and more than fifteen men raped me. Leaving me alive was the worst thing they could have done.”
She cries, and I cry with her. I’m crying as I transcribe this interview.
Carlos Mejia Godoy’s moving song from the 70s goes: “The little country girl, was dishonored right there, while in the poster Tacho [Anastasio Somoza] laughed from the earthen wall.” I’m sure that this time it wasn’t Tacho who was laughing from a poster, and that it also wasn’t from an earthen wall.
“I was there crying, yelling..”
After torturing her for hours trying to get her to divulge the names of her fellows, sticking her telephone in her face trying to get her to unlock it, and seeing that they got nothing out of her, one of those leading the operation said: “Get her out of here, take her away.”
Contrary to what it might seem, this “news” didn’t bring happiness or relief. Her body was so beat up, her nervous system so worn out, that at the time she didn’t feel any of those emotions.
“My flesh, my body itself couldn’t go on anymore. I couldn’t even get up off the floor,” she stated. Two men grabbed her hands and dragged her out of the Sandinista party seat where she was being held, until she reached the corner of the block.
There, they told her to get up and put her hands on her head. Her first reaction was to think: “They’re going to kill me.” The next was to ask forgiveness of God, her mother and her grandmother, because she couldn’t stop thinking: “This is as far as I go.”
“Anonymous” isn’t ashamed to admit that “I begged them at that moment: ‘don’t do this to me. I’m a young, I have a whole life ahead of me. Don’t do this.’”
Luckily (?), they weren’t planning to kill her. Not this time. Instead, they kicked her in the ribs so that she’d put her hands on her head and begin to walk, and they told her: “Tell those sons of bitches that what we did to you is nothing compared to what we’ll do when we get ahold of them. Now get going!”
She was still dubious. While she was deciding whether to run or stay, one of her captors hit her in the ribcage with the butt of an AKA rifle, and she ran. A few seconds later, they shot at her but for whatever reason they didn’t hit her, so she ran and ran and ran.
“Those were the shortest blocks of my life. I felt that my feet didn’t even touch the ground, even though I was barefoot. I had peed on myself, I was scratched up, beaten up.” A short time later, she arrived at the corner of the city’s park, where a taxi driver helped her to get to the closest roadblock.
There she found some of the young people, who were surprised and asked her what had happened to her. They didn’t know she’d been abducted. They took her to a place that they called “the heart of the barricades,” where two young women helped her change clothes and asked her what had happened. “I was there, crying, yelling, I was out of my mind. I still hadn’t really thought through what they’d done to me. I was in shock.”
They decided that she couldn’t go home because of the risk of reprisals from the mayor, so she spent more than 45 days in safe houses. During that time, she denounced her aggressors, with their full names, before human rights institutions. That caused problems for her and her family, and the person who received the complaint was also threatened and had to leave the country.
After taking refuge in Costa Rica, she had to flee again
The family of “Anonymous” realized that they had to send her out of the country. Like tens of thousands of her companions, she thought she’d be safe in Costa Rica, but she was mistaken.
Last April, she accompanied a Nicaragua friend, also exiled, to the Immigration offices. While her friend went off to get some photocopies she needed, Anonymous felt someone grab her from behind and hold something sharp against her neck.
She couldn’t see all that, but she could see the person who got in front of her. She saw his face, his white hair and heard his Nicaraguan accent. The one holding her by the back said: “Aha you son of a bitch. Get up!” And he called her by her name.
The memories of her kidnapping, torture and horrendous rape came back to her. And she once more gave herself up for dead. By good luck, (because those waiting outside the Immigration offices watched without doing anything), just then her friend came back and intervened.
Her friend got cut on the arm and blows to her side, while they continued strangling her. Finally, the workers at the nearby electric station came out to help them, yelling “Leave her alone!” which caused her captors to flee.
They decided to go to a police station to file a report, but the response from the uniformed figures astonished them: “So? Are you going to be coming here every day to denounce that someone is trying to abduct you?” Their “you” referred to the Nicaraguans, she explained.
That reaction told her that she had to flee once more, and she did. She travelled again, and in another country found a Nicaraguan community that sheltered her and gave her back a little of the peace she needed to cure the damage to her soul.
For now, she’s merely waiting for news that Daniel Ortega has left Nicaragua. Though that wouldn’t be enough to make her forget her tragedy, at least she could then return to the cobblestoned streets she grew up on, and embrace her mother, her friends and her family.
She could begin anew the attempt to reach new and old goals… goals that the mayor of her city and over a dozen cowards wanted to rip away from her on one terrible day in June.