photo by Simona Ghizzoni / Contrasto
Hayat has suddenly appeared on the screen of the conference about Saharawi women at Pablo de Olavide University in Seville, Spain. Her young face, perhaps not yet in her twenties, was moved by conflicting feelings: anger, shame, a lucid awareness that hurts.
Hayat told us about one day in Laayoune, her city in Western Sahara, when she was coming home from school and four policemen stopped her accusing her of belonging to a subversive group affiliated with the Polisario Front. She denied, lying. The men tied Hayat’s hands and feet, covering her eyes with a blindfold and loading her by force on a car. They brought the girl in the desert out of the city, stopping in an isolated place. And there, Hayat was raped.
"They did things that I can not even pronounce" she told the audience in Seville. Those who know the invincible modesty of Muslim women in speaking about sexual issues, will perfectly understand the bravery of this girl’s testimony. As she told us: "I know many Sahrawi girls who have been raped by the Moroccans, but they do not tell: the shame is too big. But I decided to speak out because I can not stand this weight on my soul any longer. And because everybody has to know the pain we are suffering".
Hayat alternated an intense speach, almost shouted, with long silences in which she covered her face with her hands and tried to wipe away the tears that went on flowing on her face.
I’d been told by Elghalia Djimi, one of the women featured in the documentary JUST TO LET YOU KNOW THAT I'M ALIVE that I'm realizing with Simona Ghizzoni. Elghalia, who was victim of torture and today is vice president of the Saharawi NGO of the victims of severe human rights violations (ASDVH), had told me that no Saharawi woman would ever tell me about sexual violence. "Even for us it’s hard to work with this kind of issue", she explained. "None of these women is able - for mentality, for a deep shame - to tell about the rape."
Hayat has done it. After physical violence, the cops took some photographs of her. "I was completely naked, I was photographed in every part of my body. This killed me".
The short video that unfolded the pain of this girl was screened at the conference in Seville during the speach of Soltana Khaya, a Saharawi young woman who lost an eye during a demonstration in Marrakech. The day before, while I was screening the trailer of JUST TO LET YOU KNOW THAT I'M ALIVE, I watched Soltana sitting in the front seats, touched and moved by the faces and the voices of her friends: Elghalia, Soukaina, Mina, Leila.
In Seville, the documentary has received the patronage of the National Union of Saharawi women, housed in refugee camps in Algeria. They had sent to Spain the general secretary, Fatma Mehdi, as a representative.
Many others have pledged their support: Rocío Medina, coordinating a study group on Saharawi at Pablo de Olavide University; activists as Edi Escobar and Monica Mark (Asociación de Amistad con el Pueblo Saharaui de Sevilla), Arantza Chacón (Red de Apoyo a las Mujeres Sahrawis), Nieves Poyato (Group Jaima of Córdoba), the young filmmaker and photographer Paula Alvarez Cano who is realizing, she too, a documentary about Saharawi people. Its title is Hayati. Escape from hell 38 years later and mixes vintage images taken by the Algerian TV, when the Saharawi fled from Western Sahara under Moroccan bombs, with interviews shot today to whom was involved in that exodus.
You can find it at this link:
Any contribution, however small (we start from $ 10), will make the difference, allowing us to give voice, with most quality as possible, to Saharawi women victims of violence.