An Unheard Cry From The Battlefield

Written for Kerry's Wednesday Challenge and posted for Today we scream on Imaginary Garden With Real Toads.

March has been set aside by Woman Scream International Poetry Festival as the month to raise awareness through poetry about violence against women.

Kerry's call for a poem based on Open Letters gave me the opportunity to write about something that has been pricking me for a while now, but for which I was having trouble finding the right format for expression. The idea of an open letter is the perfect vehicle to start a wider discussion on this issue.

I would like to talk about atrocities on women in war zones and regions of conflict by the military or law-enforcement agencies.

This has long been perilous ground to walk on. No one wants to undermine the sacrifices that soldiers  and police personnel make for their country and countrymen. Be it life or limb, physical or psychological, our soldiers have long defended us to the last no matter the cost to themselves.

However, it is imperative to question their actions and motives when they resort to sexual violence, inflicted on women and children already coping with conflict. Wartime rape and mutilation can take many forms - as psychological warfare, as reinforcement of ideas of superiority and control, as a weapon of torture for information  and punishment, as an outlet for anger and frustration, or as a celebration of victory and conquest. None of these forms justify violating the basic human rights of what are, in almost all cases, innocent civilians.

This is neither a new phenomenon, nor one that has escaped attention. The world has watched, mostly in silence, while women and children in war-ridden Bosnia, Africa, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, in parts of India like Kashmir and the Northeast of India, have been ravaged by "security" forces. 

Very little has been done to bring the perpetrators to justice, especially since war-time rape is unofficially legitimized as an effective war tactic. There are other fallouts of sexual exploitation in conflict zones, such as trafficking of women and children and sexual slavery.

Should we condemn the perverse actions of those who are charged with protecting us? Are they accountable for rape and slavery, even though they face the unspeakable horror of war themselves? Should they be brought to trial like any other person would be for the same crime? Are "rehabilitation", "independence", "free country" and "self-governance" hollow and hypocritical when weighed against "justice", "humanity", "dignity" and "life"?

The answer is clear and without doubt - Yes.

History is written by the winners. This is my attempt to write for the losing side.





Ladies and Gentlemen of the Free World
I use these words with contempt and derision
For I am not a lady, and they were no gentlemen
And my world is bound by chains that no one can break free

I have lived my life in terror
Fear for myself, my family, my village
I have known very little peace,
or joy, or prosperity, or any of those things

That were promised by the rulers and invaders alike
And delivered by none
Instead they took away what little I had
My body, my soul, my identity, my dignity

They ravaged my home
And my temple and my being
And the air in my lungs
And the blood in  my veins


What do you think, or say or do
When you pray for a bullet to kill you
Before they find you alive and cowering
And drag you by your heels into the open

Mounting with impunity
With self-serving authority even
My battered body
And my mother's and my sister's, even my baby daughter's and son's

Was it because my uncle or cousin or father or brother fought
For them, against them
Was it because their venomous snakes
Hadn't stung in a while?

Was it punishment?
I've already told them everything I know and don't know
But it hasn't stopped yet
And it has been more than a hundred times already.

Was it because they wanted to prove
Their manhood, their power, their place above all
Or was it just because they fed their souls
On flesh and blood and screams and agony

They lie all around me
They lie all around the world
Girls and women, boys merely children
Writhing with their loins speared and breasts slit

I am left with no home, they bombed it too
My fields are on fire, along with my body
My brothers lie in pieces, my dignity beside them
And yet they march onwards, to free more lands

Bitter irony makes me laugh
And brings bile to my mouth in equal measure
My protectors, my liberators
My rapists, my murderers

They are awarded and rewarded
For their courage and honour 
Their selfless bravery applauded
To the victor belong the spoils

Not one of all you honourable people
Sitting in your free world, shaking your head at my misery
Stood up for me, asked for me
When I lay face down in the mud, naked and bleeding

I hope this letter finds you
In the pink of health and prosperity
Don't worry about me, I am fine
As long as there's an army fighting for my body.



21 comments:

  1. How apt that your image should be the rape of the Sabines. This atrocity you describes is as old as civilization, and what does it say of our modernity that has still not been eradicated?
    Your post is hard-hitting and essential as a means to speak for those who cannot.

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    1. Very true, Kerry. Sometimes it feels that time stopped advancing a long time ago for some things that should have never seen the light of day to begin with.

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  2. This is so powerful. War really has no victory because of what it leaves behind. I thank you so much for your voice, your scream on the behalf of women, children, who are the victims of war.

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    1. Thank you for reading and sharing this Susie. This is such an under-addressed issue that should be right up there in the world courts with war-crimes and human rights violations, and strangely hardly ever is.

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  3. A powerful and heart felt share ~ I am with you on those victors ravaging the spoils while women lay with face down in the mud, naked and bleeding ~ Thank you for sharing your voice and words with us ~

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    1. Thank you for reading this Heaven. It is time we acknowledged that this heinous crime exists and is being perpetrated even as we speak by soldiers the world over. No one has the right to sexually exploit a woman, not a career criminal and equally not a soldier.

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  4. Nakedly bitter. Very powerful comibng right down to the sad pt!

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  5. Wow. This is a powerful powerful write on such an important and often overlooked topic. Thank you so much for speaking on behalf of the suffering - in their millions - that the "free world" rarely thinks about. Fantastic writing. Important work.

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    1. Thank you Sherry. This is a woefully overlooked, shamefully under-acknowledged malaise that needs to be addressed.

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  6. The whole world should read this. For women have always been taken for granted.

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    1. Thanks for reading and sharing this Chhavi. It is time to stand up for ourselves, time to speak up for all the voiceless women around the world.

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  7. Strong, thought-provoking, and consciousness raising! Your poem needs to be widely read.

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  8. don't stop, Mixi!

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  9. It is time for all of this to change. It is time.

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  10. An impassioned write on a topic that should shake the earth.

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  11. Man invents any excuse to release his pent up his sexual frustration. From Gujrat riots to Kashmir to Naxal problem, men have seen a woman's body to mark his victory. Who says we are civilized people.

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  12. Beautiful post Mixi dear:) The writing style of the poem was new and a welcome! Cool!

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    1. Thank you Bushra. After the Delhi gangrape, the protests died down, as expected. It is up to us, those who can reach people with our words, to carry on the torch.

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  13. Where are the tv cameras ... if people saw this on prime time television, things would happen. But "they" are too busy running after important celebrities and ridiculous politicians.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

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