In a Guinea Seized by Violence, Women Are Prey

Published on The New York Times, by ADAM NOSSITER, October 5, 2009.

CONAKRY, Guinea — Cellphone snapshots, ugly and hard to refute, are circulating here and feeding rage: they show that women were the particular targets of the Guinean soldiers who suppressed a political demonstration at a stadium here last week, with victims and witnesses describing rapes, beatings and acts of intentional humiliation.

“I can’t sleep at night, after what I saw,” said one middle-aged woman from an established family here, who said she had been beaten and sexually molested. “And I am afraid. I saw lots of women raped, and lots of dead.”

One photograph shows a naked woman lying on muddy ground, her legs up in the air, a man in military fatigues in front of her. In a second picture a soldier in a red beret is pulling the clothes off a distraught-looking woman half-lying, half-sitting on muddy ground. In a third a mostly nude woman lying on the ground is pulling on her trousers …  

… “Where could people get the idea to start raping women in broad daylight?” Mr. Touré asked, in an interview at his home here. “It’s so contrary to our culture. To molest women using rifle barrels. … ”

Captain Camara, asked in his office at the sprawling military camp here last week whether rapes had occurred, responded: “I wasn’t at the stadium. These are things people have told me.” He has repeatedly disclaimed responsibility for the killings at the stadium, blaming opposition figures instead.

He reiterated these disclaimers in an interview broadcast Sunday on Radio France Internationale, even as Mr. Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said in a radio interview that “group massacres aren’t internal matters.”

Opposition figures here said that they were discussing further ways of countering the government, and that they would not be stopped by last week’s bloody repression.

A diplomat here, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the subject, said Saturday that “the writing is on the wall for the junta, certainly vis-à-vis the international community, and I hope vis-à-vis the local community.”

Meanwhile, the sexual violence, along with the number of people unaccounted for after last week’s crackdown, continues to trouble many here.

“They especially tore into the women,” said another former prime minister, François Lonsény Fall, who was also at the stadium. “They were seeking to humiliate them.”

“We want a force of intervention to protect us from the ferocity of the Guinean Army,” Mr. Fall said. (full long 2 pages text).

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