Is there any way to identify the meaning of the word ‘torture’? I grew up through a dictatorship and I heard unbelievable stories about torturing and methods of torturing, then after the dictatorship and all the cases came to the courts we saw pictures of the victims and their bodies, we heard detailed descriptions and we saw it in their eyes. I even have a friend who went through that during those dark days.
But then I have another friend whose father used to beat his mother and lock him sometimes for a whole a day inside a dark closet. My friend in his early fifties and he still has nightmares of that time and when he left home at sixteen he never returned, he never spoke to his father again and, according to him, the best day of his life was when his mother left his father. Isn’t this torture? What’s the difference or what’s the distance between the two cases? I know I have too many questions but honestly I don’t know the answers. For me is just inhumane!
I have seen with my own eyes what torture means in Sudan and Sierra Leone, I saw torturing in South Africa and I saw victims of torturing in Chile. One night a very good friend of mine, a lecturer in the University of Buenos Aires, who was a political prisoner during the dictatorship, opened her heart after a few drinks and started telling me what she had gone through. In the beginning there were tears but after a bit the tears became sobs and then when she started telling me about the rapes the sobs became silence. Then I was in tears. Her words were torture for me who was just listening, who never went through the same things.
When I was fourteen the dictatorship’s police arrested me as a suspect – you see on top of everything I had long hair something that didn’t go down too well with the ethics of a dictatorship – for two hours I lost every sense of where I was and what was happening to me and the only sensation I had left was the taste of blood in my mouth. My crime? I was walking in a street at the wrong time! I’m serious, that was my crime and straight away I became a suspect, that’s how dictators think and until my family found out and until they come to save me I had two broken bones and a face you could hardly recognize that it was mine. And I was just …fourteen! That’s how dictatorships think!
For years a family friend lived in real hell with a husband who never touched her in the sense beating her but living in constant sentimental blackmails that reached her life and the life of her own kids. The worst part was that she could never talk about them, just having to live her hell, full of threats and mental violence. Is that torturing? I don’t know and the longer I’m thinking more and more cases coming to my mind. I can only sense that torturing is not only the visual but there are many kinds even the sentimental or the blackmail, it’s all torture and it’s all inhumane and painful.
Oddly 2,500 years ago Aristotle pointed that any confession coming through torturing should not stand in any court, 2,500 years ago and in 1987 the United Nations signed a treaty against torturing to get a confession. In the year 2008 we have Guantanamo!!! We obviously learned nothing! And did they use torture all through history? The states did, the kings and the lords did, the bandits did and criminals did, dictators and warlords, even the churches did. The Inquisition, they made torturing science. In a museum in Spain I saw for the first time an iron maiden, not the rock group, and only the sight of it was enough to scare you so much to confess just anything not going through that.
And there are states that still practice torturing, George W. Bush's administration has even legalized them in Guantanamo, I’m not joking, the water torture is consider a normal practice to make terrorism suspects to confess. Aristotle didn’t know anything about George W. Bush back then, he only knew about democracy, poor chap! What remains? For me to apologize to my ancient compatriot, if he was still alive most likely he would be victim of torturing as well!