Colombia: Former FARC members report cruel, forced abortions

Colombia: Former FARC members report cruel, forced abortions

By Dialogo
October 19, 2013

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Just 20 days ago, Paola Díaz left her old identity
behind at a camp run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Díaz, who had used an alias during her time at the camp, joined the terrorist
group when she was 14, becoming part of the first ring of security for a FARC
“I joined the guerrilla organization because they told me I would be able to
study, I would be paid and I would get ahead in life – none of which happened,”
Díaz, now in her twenties, said. “During the 10 years I spent there, it was one
tragedy after another. I came close to dying several times.”
Conscious of the false promises, Díaz remained with the FARC out of fear.
But the pain of losing her second child through a forced abortion ordered by
her superiors gave her the courage to flee.
She was unaware of the government program that
provides assistance to demobilized fighters. Inside the FARC, the only
thing she was told was the Army would kill her if she turned herself in.
“The situation on the inside is so harsh that you’re even willing to face
that risk to escape that hell,” she said.
Díaz first became pregnant when she was 15. She told the leaders about it,
but they let time pass. When she reached eight months, they forced her to abort.
“My son was born alive. I held him in my arms, but then I fainted. They took
him from me and drowned him,” she said.
Her second abortion was induced last year using drugs mixed into a beverage.
From that point, she planned her escape.
The FARC’s regulations state its members are not allowed to have children,
Díaz said. However, “women with power,” including the significant others of FARC
commanders, are granted the privilege, she added.
“As a woman, the thing you most want is to have a child, but I didn’t meet a
single, female guerrilla at the lower levels who was allowed to have one,” she said.
“They took children away from all of them, so the equality they talk about is a big
In addition, FARC leaders use their high rank to force female guerrillas to
have sex with them, using a variety of threats, Díaz said.
“We (guerrilla fighters) also are their victims,” she said. “I don’t believe
that I could forgive them. In my opinion, it would be fitting if they paid with jail
time because it wasn’t just me they hurt. They’re doing the same thing to the girls
who are still there. It has to stop.”
With the support of the Colombian government, Díaz hopes to study, find a job
and finally have a chance to be a mother.
Marcela Gómez, who also used an alias while serving as a mass leader
conducting propaganda campaigns for the FARC, demobilized a month ago after two
decades with the group.
“The treatment toward women inside guerrilla organizations is based on
humiliation and cruelty,” she said. “I saw forced abortions carried out on girls
without anything for the pain. They would remove the babies, piece by piece. It’s

Gómez added the most difficult moment during the years she spent in the
mountains of Colombia was seeing her brother killed alongside other children, shot
for no reason.
“The FARC speaks beautifully to the international community, but it does
unspeakable things internally,” she said. “I saw members shoot young men because
they ate a can of sardines, or other insignificant things like that.”
Gómez called upon her former colleagues to believe in the opportunity for a
better life.
“All of the young people being deprived of liberty should demobilize since
the government is providing significant benefits, security and opportunities to
study, work and rebuild their lives together with their families,” she said.

A return to womanhood

The government sees the role of women within these illegal groups as
fundamental, according to Cpt. Ronal Romero, who leads the strategic planning office
of the Ministry of Defense’s Humanitarian Care Group for the Demobilized (GAHD).
Demobilizing the female fighters is part of the government’s strategy to
weaken guerrilla groups.
“We’re depriving the FARC of their nurses, their radio operators, their
female companions. And when a woman crosses over and has left a partner behind, she
can talk to that partner so they cross over, too,” he said.
The frequent abortions – which can reach as many as five for a female
guerrilla fighter – are the main reason for desertions, Romero added.
Between 2012 and 2013, 244 demobilized female fighters reported 43 abortions
to GAHD.
“This organization doesn’t carry out abortions at two or three months,” he
said. “These are abortions at six, seven, eight months. These cases are absurd. You
could call it a slaughter of the unborn.”
Through the government’s demobilization programs, an increasing number of
women are finding the path to fulfillment as wives and mothers, recovering their
ability to give life and care for their children, Romero said.
From a total of 26,704 demobilized FARC members since 2002 when the
demobilization program started, 5,138 were women (19.2%), according to the Ministry
of Defense.
So far this year, 261of a total of 774 demobilized fighters are women.
“Now, one out of four who demobilize is a woman,” Romero said. “If a woman
chooses to demobilize with her partner or if she has a child, she can have a special
home. They will be given the amenities needed to start a new life and become what
they were forbidden to be.”
After the nine-month adaptation process, these women are included in the
government’s reinsertion program, which features psychological assistance and
educational guidance, as they receive the job training needed to support themselves.

*Editor’s note: To protect the demobilized guerrillas who spoke with, their names have been changed.