16 Days of Activism: Meet Fatoumata Barry, from Guinea
Imagine having your life turned upside down at the age of 25 as a result of sexual violence ? This is what happened to Fatoumata Barry. Fatoumata Barry is a young Guinean woman well educated, well-spoken, and a lover of democracy, freedom, human rights and peace.
Her life has been turned upside down as a result of the sexual violence inflicted upon to her. Not only does she suffer physically but mentally as well; as she now lives in constant fear. Fatoumata was an educated university student studying for a Master’s degree in Economics and a politically active young woman, peacefully advocating for democracy. She had no idea that her participation in that rally would change her life forever, leaving her in constant pain, fear and shame and with HIV.
On the 28th of September 2009, thousands of pro-democracy supporters gathered peacefully at the main stadium in Conakry to protest Guinea’s military rule. They were calling for an end to army governance. The demonstration meant to be peaceful quickly degenerated into a bloodshed of violence when the army entered the packed stadium without warning, and open fired on the crowd. More than 150 people were killed, thousands wounded and hundreds of women suffered brutal sexual violence; “they were gang raped, with objects, including bayonets sticks, pieces of metal and clubs” by the security forces. “Young women were raped along with their mothers – it’s abominable,” said Ibrahima Baldé of the Centre Mère et Enfants, a clinic in the city where rape victims continue to turn for medical and psychosocial care. The scene of the massacre was indeed shocking for the International community but mostly for the Guinean population who has never witnessed this type of barbarism.
Here is an interview with Fatoumata Barry carried out by Guinee Press Info to mark the second anniversary of the stadium massacre. Please be aware that this interview was initially carried out in French, and has been translated as accurately as possible
“I am Fatoumata Barry. In Guinea, I was a student in third year of Economics at the University of Hafia to Labé. I arrived in Conakry two months before the massacre to spend the holiday.. I was in Conakry the day of this terrible event. As an activist and member of the UFDG National Youth Committee of the party, I was among those that mobilized people to go to the meeting of the opposition. I went to the demonstration with my niece, we were just standing below the podium with the political leaders Cellou Dalein, Sidiya Lounseny and Fall.
A few minutes after the arrival of Jean Marie Dore, the soldiers came into the stadium and began firing live ammunition at people. The first thing that struck me was the presence of all the security forces as if the order came from above as they are not all under the same command in principle: the police, gendarmerie, the red berets and the regular army. At the forum, three red berets came to draw bursts upon us. You could see people falling on the row below us. My little niece was crying and and asking for my help. I then asked the young people who were with us to help us get out of the stadium. They made us enter the tunnel that leads to outside. I let my niece go forward. When it came to my turn, the soldiers caught me. We (two girls and an elderly woman) ended up in the hands of the group that took us. We soon understood what they were going to do to us: in front of us, another group of girls were being raped on the lawn of the stadium, a place usually used for prayer. The old woman tried to beg. She received a terrible blow. Then they tore the clothes of the old woman. A red beret used his dagger to rip the dress of the girl following the contours of her breasts. She was bleeding according to the progress of the knife. Suddenly, two officers began to undress. My jeans were skin tight but they pulled my legs and dipped their hands in my pants. They tore off my pants and my underwear throwing them on the ground under my feet as illustrated in the picture. In the photo, you could see two security guards taking me to the place where I was raped.
A police officer, after raping me, decided to urinate in my mouth, as if it was part of their program. I received streams of urine all over my face. After, they used sticks to rape me again with these objects. Then, finally, one tried to stab me in front, on the private parts. As a gesture of reflex, I stirred deflecting the weapon that stood on the side, at the right kidney. You see the game? (It shows the trace of the dagger). The blood began to flow and I was so exhausted that I could not scream or cry. Then they lifted me wet with blood to put me into a truck filled with bodies. This is where a military objected, saying that it is not the time to do that with me. “She has suffered enough! Let’s go now! , “He said. I lay on the ground, another soldier was going to embark me but the nice military told him that I was still breathing and therefore they are not going to put me into the truck. A group of military men said they were “clear orders to rape and kill today. We must obey orders.”
Really? So, she will not die. Whatever the key, we die together here! “Said the military who was protecting me. I lying on the ground, vulnerable and naked. The military said in Pulaar (Fulani language): “Wait here next to me until the arrival of the Red Cross, if you do not want to die! “. He gave me my pants and told me to at least tie it around my waist. I was so weak and suffering that I was unable to wear my pants.
I would like to thank all the fellow countrymen who are fighting for justice and against the dictatorship in Guinea. But I want to express my great disappointment of the political class and civil society in Guinea. Out of our misfortune, they were offered the opportunity to replace those who were in control but nothing has changed in Guinea. Moreover, they shared positions and money without thinking about the victims and their families. We have seen political leaders who have been compensate up to 2 billion each for the massacre of September 28 without a word or support to women victims of rape to date. (Interview carried out by GuineePressInfo)”
Today, Fatoumata lives with the constant affliction of her wounds from the torture and rape, enduring the obstacles of being HIV positive. Fatoumata cannot return home for fear of her safety and the stigma that comes along with rape. She can never forget what happened as her image, along with the other faces of female victims living in Senegal, where she currently resides, were published in a widely circulated Guinean newspaper.
In the five years since the massacre, the case against the perpetrators of violence has yet to go to trial, despite the opening of a criminal investigation in February of 2010, by the Guinean judiciary. Meanwhile, politicking and a mass cover-up have allowed perpetrators to go free. According to Jeune Afrique, the International Criminal Court (ICC), which also found that crimes against humanity had been committed, claimed in April 2011 that the Guinean judges were handling the case satisfactorily and no transfer to the ICC was needed. Despite international human rights agencies calling for the sanction of the perpetrators involved in the massacre, nothing has actually been done. Those implicated by the international investigators have gone unpunished and many have been promoted within the army ranks.
Although the UN commission concluded, “the violence committed constituted crimes against humanity,” the same conclusion reached by the NGO Human Rights Watch, there is still no justice for the victims and their families. “While the mothers, fathers, spouses, and children of those murdered [two years] ago still grieve for their loved ones, the people who planned, perpetrated, and tried to cover up this atrocious act remain free men,” said senior West Africa researcher at HRW Corinne Dufka. The one and only way to break the cycle of impunity in Guinea is to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Still, despite her circumstances and the lack of justice she has received, she and many other women like her have shown great strength and resilience in continuing to pursue their hopes and dreams, while fighting for accountability and justice. It is hard for the victims to achieve peace of mind and even more, without the freedom to assemble peacefully, many of the victims will continue to live in fear.
It has been 5 years years since the massacre at the stadium and yet, Fatoumata has received neither justice nor been compensated for the violence and trauma she endured and will have to live with for the rest of her life . Where is the justice for Fatoumata Barry and other women raped at the stadium in Sept. 2009???
What happened to Fatoumata, could happen to any of us, to any young woman who aspire to Peace and Democracy. She went to the streets to peacefully demonstrate which is her full rights but instead she was raped. Her only crime was to stand up for values she believes in.
Fatoumata’s life will never be the same again, that why it is time for us young African women to stand side by side to end the culture of impunity and promote Peace and Democractic values in Africa.
What happened to Fatoumata could have happened to me, you. We need to ACT NOW to end this???
Click here to read the voices of Women and Girls that were victims of Sexual Violence in the Stadium massacre in September 2009.