Those In Darkness Drop From Sight

In armed conflicts women are normally portrayed as victims or sufferers,
sometimes as angels, who help the victims in their bitter times.
There are women around the globe, who play an active role in armed conflicts,
as fighters and heroes, as devils and villains.
But those in darkness drop from sight …

 

Comandanta Ramona (Chiapas), 2011

As a leading figure in the Zapatista revolution against the Mexican authorities, Comandanta Ramona commanded the capture of San Cristóbal de las Casas. She was considered the first advisor to Subcomandante Marcos. The term “comandanta,” which actually does not exist in Spanish, was coined for Ramona to emphasize the “presence” of women in the male domain of “war.” She died at the age of forty-seven as the result of renal cancer.

 

Sarah Ginaite (Lithuania), 2013

Sara Ginaite escaped with a group from the Vilnius ghetto in 1943. In the forest, she and her future husband Misha Rubinsonas founded the partisan group “Death to the Occupiers.” In the following year she liberated another group of resistance fighters from the ghetto and was involved in the liberation of the city of Vilnius in 1944.

 

Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova (Chechnya), 2011

The seventeen-year-old widow of a leading Chechen partisan fighter was one of the two suicide bombers who killed forty people in an attack on the Moscow underground in 2010. With this act, she sought revenge for the death of her husband who had been shot in an exchange of fire with the Russian military. Women suicide bombers bearing revenge motives are known as black widows.

 

Simone Segouin (France), 2013

French resistance fighter Simone Segouin, also known by her battle name “Nicole,” was a member of the resistance in the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans group during the entire Nazi occupation in France. Among other things, she was involved in the explosion of a strategically important bridge. According to reports by American journalists, during the capture of Chartres, alone, she shot twenty-five German soldiers. After the liberation of Paris in August 1944, she was awarded the “Croix de guerre.”

 

Anonyma (Liberia), 2011

In the course of the Liberian civil war (1989-2003) a questionnaire was carried out for the first time among women soldiers under the age of thirty-five searching for the reasons that they had taken up arms. For the majority of those asked, the answer, along the lines of “kill or be killed!,” was that they did it to protect themselves and the other women from rape and murder. Frequently women in hostile camps joined together against men. Nonetheless, even after the end of the civil war in Liberia, exploitation and abuse of women are everyday occurrences.

 

Phoolan Devi (India), 2011

Phoolan Devi was well-known and notorious throughout all of India as the “Bandit Queen.” Under the name Phool Singh she led her own gang and saw herself as the incarnation of the good yet simultaneously punishing goddess Durga. After being held in prison for eleven years, she was pardoned. She then worked as a human rights activist. Devi made use of her “Robin-Hood image” as a politician in the Indian parliament, where she represented the Samajwadi party in 1996 and 1999. She was murdered in 2001.

 

Anonyma (Myanmar), 2013

According to Amnesty International,there are more under-aged soldiers in military groups in Myanmar than in any other country. Forty percent of these soldiers are women. They are often deployed for particularly dangerous tasks, such as mine reconnaissance, or they take on jobs as spies and spotters. Young girls, especially,are exposed to sexual exploitation. This young woman joined the armed women’s unit of the Karen National Liberation Army at the age of fifteen after the National Army burned down her village.

 

Leila Khaled (Palestine), 2011

At the age of twenty-four, in 1969, Leila Khaled was one of the first women involved in a skyjacking under the name of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). While she was ranked as a top-terrorist in the West, she was celebrated as a heroic figure in the Arabic world. She is currently a leading member of the PFLP and lives in Jordan.

 

Comandante Maria (Columbia), 2011

Comandante Maria founded the first women-only combat battalion of the Columbian FARC guerilla movement (Columbia’s revolutionary forces) and reached the top ranks of the hierarchy. In 2006 she was shot during combat operations. In cotrast to the right-wing paramilitary movement, in both of the major left-wing guerilla groups, FARC and ELN (National Liberation Army), women are treated as equals by their male compañeros. According to the movement, the share of women is between 30 and 50 percent, whereby they are deployed not only as fighters but also as commanders of individual units and areas. In the upper levels of the commando structure, however, women are entirely absent.

 

Marina Ginestà Coloma (Spain), 2013

Marina Ginestà Coloma fought in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 on the barricades of Barcelona against the troops of the later fascist dictator General Franco. Parallel to this, she worked as an interpreter. Among other things, she translated a conversation between a Russian envoy and Buenaventura Durruti, the leader of a Republican elite convoy. This nearly cost her her life as Stalin was not pleased with the result of the talks. Ginestà died 2014 in Paris.