December 18, 2014
A shining moment in a long struggle
From Where I Stand
With each recovery the wounds to country’s psyche are gradually healed
Certain scenes from the 1976-83 dictatorship are seared in my memory.
I continually revisit in my mind the first meeting that I had with the founding members of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. I took with me Derek Wilson, the correspondent of the BBC, because I wanted the world to know about those courageous women and their sacred mission and, in that way, provide them with some protection. We had reported their existence in the Herald and published a letter from them. I told as many correspondents as I could about them and Derek volunteered to come with me to see them. We met in apartment of one of the grandmothers. On the way there we realized we were being followed. Afterwards, thugs wearing black leather jackets set out to intimidate Derek, knocking on the door of his apartment in the early hours of the morning, making threatening telephone calls and dogging his footsteps.
I write these words to illustrate just how brave these wonderful women were. It was known by then that the founding members of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo had been kidnapped and we learned later that they had been tortured and then murdered in the hellish place that is today called simply, ESMA.
The grandmothers, like the mothers, ignored the danger they faced. They overcame fear and came to personify the cause of human rights. In doing so they made democracy possible.
Their struggle was long and difficult, but they made the world know about them and admire them as they found or were found by the grandchildren who were secreted away by the dictatorship. It still chills me to the marrow to think that Argentina was in the grip of men capable of what I think is one of the greatest crimes imaginable. How, I often wonder, was it possible that military officers, supposedly men of honour, could arrange for young women prisoners to give birth, kill them, and then give away their babies?
With each grandchild found by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the wounds inflicted on the Argentine psyche during the dictatorship are being gradually healed.
The recovery of the long-lost grandchild of the president Estela Barnes de Carlotto is indeed a shining moment, drawing attention to the extraordinary work of the grandmothers in protecting human identities. Estela graciously emphasized the part that geneticist Victor Penchaszadeh played in harnessing science to the task of restoring identity and reuniting families.
I think that the work of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo merits international recognition. I have signed a petition nominating this exemplary human institution for the Nobel Prize, whether it should be for advancing peace or under the category of science, I think, is irrelevant.