Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo Refuse to Deny Genocide in Argentina

Madres in 2006 by Roblespepe

In my recent article in Armenian Weekly and my own post I outlined how Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal) and his co-founders of the Republic of Turkey began to re-write history as soon as they took power in 1922. By the time the new alphabet was created in 1928, the deportations and massacres of 1915-1922 that were later understood to be genocide by the rest of the world were denied to have occurred. Turkey’s Official Version of History still denies the facts today. Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) in Argentina refuse to deny history, too.

Death in Argentina

In Argentina the period of 1976-1983 was known by the military dictatorship under Jorge Videla as the Dirty War. Anti-communist, anti-socialist, right-wing death squads kidnapped and killed anyone they believe opposed their views: left-wing guerrillas, and political dissidents and activists, including trade unionists, students, and journalists. An estimated 30,000 desaparecidos (the disappeared) were tortured and buried in mass, unmarked graves, though some dissidents and their families were detained at detention centres and secret concentration camps. Hundreds of children born during captivity were illegally adopted by associates of the regime. The Oscar and Golden Globe winning film, The Official Story, told this story through the experiences of one woman’s search for the mother of her adopted daughter.

In December, Argentina’s current president, Mauricio Macri, stated that he was not going to debate whether the number of desaparecidos were “9,000 or 30,000”—the former number being the acknowledged number compiled early on by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons. Denialists use the lower number as the only valid list, though human rights groups and other sources indicate the total was about three times higher. Macri also used the term favoured by the military dictatorship, “dirty war”, though the Supreme Court of Argentina ruled in 2009 that “the dictatorship’s killings between 1976 and 1983 constituted ‘crimes against humanity within the framework of [a] genocide’.” His use of this term and the lower number is the first time “denialism” has become part of the political discourse. It’s something that worries historians and human rights groups.

La Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo

Las Madres, in their signature white scarves, are marching today, April 30 for the 40th time. Their first march was on April 30, 1977 when mothers whose children were believed to have been kidnapped and/or killed by government agents protested in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Since the May 1810 revolution that eventually led to independence from Spain, the plaza has been the centre of political life in Argentina. As long as the Madres exist, Argentina and the world will not allow the Official Version of History to deny the events of those painful years.
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Photo by Roblespepe, 2006.

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