Friday, 3 October 2008

Argentina: Disappeared Children

IPS has an important article (yet again... I love them!) on the search for the children of the disappeared in Argentina. Now, when you explain to people that during the Argentine dictatorship, military taskforces went into citizens' homes, abducted them, took them to secret locations without notifying any official authorities and then tortured them, and that very few of those citizens survived... well, people tend to think that was not a good thing, right? Some of those citizens were totally apolitical, some of them were left-wing and interested in social justice, and really, that was more than enough to attract the unwelcome attention of the ruling armed forces, and a small number were actually leftist guerrillas BUT the great majority of these last group were wiped out early in the dictatorship and even then, they did have a right to a fair trial, which they didn't get.

Now, on top of ALL THAT, when you hear that soldiers stole people's babies and gave them to military or associated families to be brought up, or that they held pregnant women until they have birth before murdering them and then selling the babies, it is quite mind-blowing. And for the past thirty years, a dedicated group of mothers of those female victims has been searching for the grandchildren they have never even met. And what is more, they are still finding them. It's thirty years on, the grandchildren are adults, the grandmothers are very old, but still they press on. DNA technology allows conclusive proof that an adopted child is in fact the offspring of 'disappeared' parents.

At this point, though, people's sympathies often waver somewhat. But, they say, wouldn't it be a horrendous shock to find out that your adopted parents were not the nice people you thought they were, but complicit with a brutal regime that tortured and killed your biological parents? (The answer is undoubtedly yes) What if you hadn't even KNOWN you were adopted? What if your adopted parents had been really nice to you? Would you have an identity crisis? Wouldn't it maybe be better to just let it go, live and let live, let sleeping dogs lie?

The Grandmothers are familiar with such arguments. You don't often see such a detailed consideration of them in English, however.

Many of the young people who the Abuelas have helped discover their real identities have found the experience especially traumatic, when they find out that the people who they regarded as their parents were actually involved in the disappearance of their biological mother and father.

"We are very respectful of how fast each person can process things. Many of the grandchildren who initially refused or were reluctant to undergo DNA testing, but later did so, stop by the offices of the Abuelas every day now," Alan Iud, assistant coordinator of the human rights group’s team of lawyers, told IPS.


Given the persistent refusal to undergo DNA testing by a number of young people suspected of being the sons or daughters of some of the dictatorship’s 30,000 victims of forced disappearance, federal judges in Argentina began in 2006 to order searches of their homes, to find combs, brushes, toothbrushes or underwear, in order to obtain DNA to carry out the tests.


"We are the only DNA testing centre in the world created specially to clarify crimes against humanity," said Belén Rodríguez, a biochemist who runs the BNDG, an internationally prominent centre that was created in Buenos Aires in 1987, during the presidency of Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989).


Iud explained that in the case of "young people who have resisted undergoing the DNA test, once the judge has informed them of the results, they generally want to meet their (biological) family, and most of them say they feel a huge sense of relief, that it took a weight off their backs."

The Grandmothers also work with psychologists to ensure that the found grandchildren can access professional help if they need it. Moreover, the Grandmothers argue that a family in which a child was illegally adopted is a family based on a lie, a lie which twists and corrupts the relation between parent and child. They claim that a person has a right to their true identity. They also have a good relationship with the majority of the, to date, almost a hundred found grandchildren. No one could say that discovering that your biological parents were murdered, possibly with the knowledge and complicity of your adopted parents, is an easy thing, but in many cases, the adoptees do come to terms with their history and sometimes become involved in activism with, for example, HIJ@S, the organisation of children of the disappeared. Where this is not the case, the tragedy of their story is not the fault of the Grandmothers, but the fault of the military who committed these crimes in the first place.

Full article: New Methods to Identify Dictatorship's Missing Children (IPS)

Also a perspective on found grandchild no.93, who didn't want to have her identity confirmed, by Argentina Reporter.

No comments: