Assault and Batteries
High-tech horror: Widespread cell-phone violence against women in Iraq and the Congo.
The downside of the 21st century's high-tech age is lower than you can imagine: Cell phones and cell-phone technology are prime culprits in a growing epidemic of rape, beatings, and murder of women in the Congo and Iraq.
A war over "coltan," a crucial ingredient in the manufacture of cell phones and other electronic devices, has helped cause the ongoing tragedy of rape and murder by the millions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC horrors far outstrip even Darfur as a tragedy, as I noted in June 2005.
Go to Seeing is Believing: Handicams, Human Rights and the News, the website of Czech-Canadian Katerina Cizek's documentary film series of that name, to read "Cell Phones Fuel Congo Conflict." . The series explains how the fight over coltan, only one of the treasures in the resources-rich Congo, is directly responsible for much of the savage war in which millions have died and hundreds of thousands, at the very least, have been raped and otherwise brutalized.
Eve Ensler, famous for the Vagina Monologues, is one of the few Westerners to latch onto the rampage against women in the Congo and try to publicize it. Incongruously, her monologue on the violence, gleaned from a trip there, can be found in Glamour. Here's the second paragraph of Ensler's in-your-face August 2007 article:
Meanwhile, in Iraq, cell phones as finished products are prime weapons — in a high-tech fashion — for brutalizing women.
Amanj Khalil, a young journalist for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, described on May 2 one recent incident in Iraq's northern Kurdish area:
Salma's just one of many Iraqi women being brutalized in a high-tech way by lower-than-low scumbags.
It's worse in the Congo. Natural disasters, like the cyclone that ravaged Burma, are one thing. Manmade disasters are another. And no manmade disaster is as unnatural as what's going on in the DRC, surely the rape capital of the world.
Here's a grim fact: In the Congo, "vaginal destruction" has become an official term of medical art used by beleaguered doctors and nurses to describe war-related injuries.
Western governments and the mainstream press usually, but not always, ignore the DRC. (Certainly, Western corporations don't ignore it the country's rich natural resources.) So you have to go elsewhere to find out about the situation. Thanks to the Web, the upside of high-tech, you can.
One of the best pieces, and I've referred to it previously, is Sarah J. Coleman's June 2005 article on Beliefnet, "Congo's Conflict: Heart of Darkness." Her lede is worth repeating:
The toll's up to an estimated 5 million now — that's the scope of the Holocaust. Read Stephen Lewis's April 12 speech at Ensler's V-Day Celebration in New Orleans.
Lewis really got down to it in September 2007, quoting from "The Shame of War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Conflict," a March 2007 major report from IRIN, the U.N.'s excellent and free global news service:
I won't apologize for the graphic nature of this, because we need to face the unexpurgated facts.
The Congo violence is the biggest war tragedy, but of course it's far from the only manmade disaster. Among the many battlegrounds of violence against women is Kurdish Iraq. That northern region of Iraq has long been thought to be the most civilized area of the war-torn country (aside from the increasing number of skirmishes between Turkey and the Kurd separatists). But Salma's story is far from unique.
Here's the intrepid reporter Khalil again to give the broader view of cell-phone-induced violence in Iraq:
Can you hear me now?