I’m in Peru and all is well.
Returning to Peru was strange because in some ways it was though I had never left and in others it was as though I had been gone for a very long time. The airport is pretty insulated and it doesn’t set in that you aren’t in Washington anymore until you actually walk out of the doors and are standing outside. International flights normally arrive at night to the airport and the smell of the sea air and the cool night breeze greet visitors as they exit the airport in Lima. Weaving through traffic in Callao and Lima, I arrived at my apartment and settled in. I took the next day to unpack, buy a few things and visit friends; then it was time to get down to work.
My first week with EPAF has been far more than I was expecting. The robust and dedicated staff is a credit to the work that has been put in here and the importance of the issue of The Disappeared in Peru. I’m blessed to be working with such a great team that has already taken the time to make me feel welcome and introduce me to the work that each of them do. I still have much to learn and I´ll benefit greatly from their experience in this complex and controversial field.
Controversial because, in the Peruvian context, many simply would like to forget the conflict. There are many who simply want to move on and forget a bloody and divisive war. Peru is a middle income country now, why drag us back into the dark days? There are some who believe that the abuses committed by their sides were justified and there are others who are intent on protecting their reputations and staying clear of prosecution. Whatever the reason, EPAF endeavors to ensure that the victims of the conflict (and their families) are not forgotten and that the cause of The Disappeared in Peru, and around the world, does not fade away. It’s an issue of memory, of justice and of human rights. It’s an issue of coming to peace with the past and finding the truth.
The major difficulty that human rights NGOs, like EPAF, face in Peru is the discourse inside of the country in relation to the topic of human rights and los desaparecidos (The Disappeared). The staff here has mentioned multiple occasions in social media where the comments to their posts or tweets have been filled with accusations ranging from calling them malcontents and troublemakers to linking them to terrorists. The difficulty of having an honest and reasonable discussion is plain from these examples. Much of this stems from the lack of an agreed upon narrative about why the conflict happened, what happened during the course of the conflict and what the role of humans rights NGO’s like EPAF should be.
Peru is a wonderful county with a complex past. My time here will be valuable on many levels and I have a lot of work ahead of me. Next week I’ll be in the Andes for EPAF’s Field School, documenting everything and learning about the real, on-the-ground work that EPAF does when conducting exhumations and working with local communities.
Stay tuned for more updates and check out EPAF on Twitter @epafperu
Posted By Thomas Bradley (Peru)
Posted Jun 10th, 2014