This year was my first time at the Edinburgh Book Festival and the first time that I’ve been asked to be part of the Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers series.
I was there on the 30th August which is the International Day of the Disappeared (#DayoftheDisappeared) and was asked to speak about a tiny few of the 30,000 or so people who were kidnapped, tortured and disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War (from roughly 1974 to 1983) and the people they left behind who are still looking for them.
The activist group ‘Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo’ was formed by mothers of these victims. At first they didn’t know for sure that their sons or daughters were dead although some had seen them taken away and beaten up.
One mother said her son left the house saying he was just popping out and would be back in a few minutes but he never came home. The mums must have been so desperate. In April 1977 twelve of them agreed to protest on a Thursday afternoon at half past three at the Plaza de Mayo opposite the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires.
‘We were so frightened.’ But they met up anyway only to see the police heading towards them because groups of 3 or more people together were
Quickly the mothers separated and joined hands and linked arms so that instead of being all together they walked 2 by 2 around the square.
The next Thursday afternoon more mothers joined them and the week after that still more and they told anyone that would listen what had happened. In December of that year they published a newspaper advertisement with the names of their missing children but their sons and daughters didn’t come home. They continued to march in the square every Thursday afternoon at 3.30 for the next thirty years and still continue to march for other causes today. They wore white head scarves and held up pictures of their disappeared children and as they marched they chanted: ‘Bring them back alive.’
The poem below is by 22-year-old Carlos Alberto Rincon who was detained and disappeared on the 5 April 1977. It’s from an anthology of works by disappeared writers called ‘Palabra Viva’
I see the persona of love
I am who I am in this moment
a fall, infinite suffering,
let me lift you up.
in this world for to me there is no life.
I love you, Mother.
‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Martin Luther King, Jr
Amnesty are continually working to protect men, women and children wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. They’ve long been trying to help with the current refugee crisis:
Photo of me and my mum on the beach. Love you Mum xxx