|Sissi Abascal Zamora sentenced to six years in prison for 11J protest|
On International Women Human Rights Defenders Day it is important to recall the role Cuban women played in the resistance to the dictatorship in Cuba, and the high price paid.
During the 11J protests it is known that at least 195 Cuban women were arbitrarily detained, of which at least 67 remain jailed in Cuba today, according to Cubalex. Women have led during these and prior protests and paid a terrible price for their dissent.
I met a woman who, after learning that her son had been jailed for participating in the protests, walked to the police station to demand his release. She was immediately interrogated and strip-searched, exposing a shirt with the pro-freedom slogan “no more hunger.” The police tore off her shirt, handcuffed and beat her, then forced her to walk almost naked in front of the other officers. “They beat me mercilessly,” she told me. “So many blows that I wet myself.”
Following the attack she did not receive adequate medical care and was told quietly by medical doctors in Cuba that if she wanted to get better that she would need to leave the country.
|Injuries suffered by Sirley Ávila León.|
On March 8, 2016 she arrived in Miami and began a course of treatments over the next six months during which she was able to walk once again although still limited due to her injuries. She returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 only to find her home occupied by strangers and her attacker free and bragging that he would finish the job. She moved in with her mother and within a short time a camera and microphone were set up across from her mother's home on a post. The Victims of Communism interviewed her and produced the video above.
I have been the victim of several acts of aggression on the part of the Cuban authorities, especially by the agents Yuniel Monteagudo Reina and Eric Aquino Yera. They have beaten me into unconsciousness on the pavement, as took place most recently this past March 7 in Santa Clara. The hits to the head, neck, and back have caused me serious health problems that I have not been able to recover from. In addition to beating me, they have threatened me with death on various occasions, these agents have told me that they are going to rape me, and have shown their genitals during arbitrary arrests.
|Yris Pérez Aguilera shows cyst, result of state security beatings. (Photo: Yoani Sanchez).|
"The brutality of the police and state security agents, including women members of these bodies, against women dissidents, is supported by the state, which exemplifies the institutionalized violence as a means to repress women opposition activists. Arbitrary detention is one of the methods to prevent them from exercising their rights to speak, associate and demonstrate. In detention centers agents use violence, sexual assault and insults as means of repression. The cells enclosed in unsanitary and sometimes sanitary services have no privacy or are not appropriate for women, even having them share prison cells with men. In some cases, they forced to strip naked or forcibly stripped, obliging them to squat to see if they have items in their genitals and claims that have been reported that they have introduced a pen into the vagina, under the justification of seeking recording objects."
She fell suddenly ill and died within a week on October 14, 2011 under suspicious circumstances that a Cuban medical doctor described as "painful, tragic and unnecessary." This took place within days of the Ladies in White declaring themselves a human rights organization dedicated to the freedom of all political prisoners, not just their loved ones.
"They broke my mouth trying to make me swallow the leaflets that members of my group had distributed throughout Havana. Afterwards I spent three days brutally besieged, imprisoned in my own home with my two children, with no water, no electricity, no food, no cigarettes. We heard what the huge speakers never stopped amplifying, allegorical songs to the country, the necessary punishment of traitors, and anyone who wanted to could shout at me, organized, of course, the slogans they pleased: Comrade worm, we are going to execute you by firing squad!"Cuban women continue to lead the struggle for human rights and freedom in Cuba and on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day we honor them.