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Survivors in Indonesia recall being 'comfort woman'


08-15-2014 14:47 BJT

Some historians estimate that as many as 200,000 women, many from China and South Korea, but also including Indonesia, were forced into sexual slavery in the Imperial Japanese Army’s brothels during World War Two. Over 60 years later, these women who have endured an unimaginable horror are still looking for closure. 

It has been 69 years ago, but for Ichi the scars are still fresh.

"I was so scared. I remembered crying every night. I just wanted to die. I felt so helpless," said Ichi, an Ianfu survivor.

Ichi is one of thousands of women in Indonesia that were taken from their homes and were forced into the Japanese Military’s sex slave system during world war 2 or “ianfu” that literally translates into "comfort women".

"I was kept in a small shed in the back with other women, the soldier would come and threw me onto the bed. He stripped me and i would scream. He’d hit me. There was nothing i can do. Everyone else just stood there." Ichi said.

She was 15 at the time. The rape continues until the Japanese finally left Indonesia in 1945. She became barren ever since. Now blind, she lives in this remote village with her adopted daughter.

This was the place where the Japanese soldiers used to keep the ianfus, in this small building here they house around 30 to 40 women from the area like herds. And when the Japanese came by the truckloads, they came in and brutally raped these women.

This is Eka, she is part of a movement that advocates for ianfu survivors. She’s been working with women like Ichi for 15 years, the aim is to help these women to get justice.

"These women suffered an extreme case of human rights violations that has robbed them of normal lives, they’re sexually traumatized and almost all of them can’t go back to school because of the stigma attached to them. So this horrific event has literally destroyed their whole lives," said Eka hindrati, Indonesian Ianfu researcher.

That stigma was also felt in full by Umi Kulsum. When the Japanese military occupied the building. She was 11 and fearless. She was bringing food home when she was taken by 2 soldiers.

"Two guards at the building grabbed me and stripped me. I can’t even scream. I didn’t know what was happening," said Umi Kulsum, an Ianfu survivor.

By chance, she managed to escape. Her two sisters though, were not so lucky, and were took by the Japanese soldiers as Ianfus. Her life has never been the same ever since.

Her whole family was stamped as Japanese whores, with no one wants to get anywhere near her. She was forced to marry her cousin.

While the current Japanese government position has been unclear about the issue with contradicting stances over the years. There are thousands and thousands of eye witness accounts and documents that corroborates these women’s claims.

"It’s our job to push this issue, only International pressure can be a catalyst for Japan as a government to finally openly admit and apologize and starts to rehabilitate these women." Eka said.

And for women like Umi and Ichi who has been a fighter all their lives, the hope is that these grandmothers can finally have some closure.

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