Rafael Trujillo was one of the cruelest dictators in the history of South America. In 1931, he was elected President of the Dominican Republic by public vote after a military coup. Over the years of his dictatorship, he refused to step down from his throne and ruled over the country for 31 years.
The upper middle class of the Dominican Republic supported Trujillo – they saw him to be “improving the economic development of the country and providing much-needed infrastructure”. The bourgeoisie ignored all of his murders and human rights violation. With the development of the economy came corruption and those who benefited the most were, of course, Trujillo himself, his close family and business people who chose to stay close to him.
Trujillo led in such a way that he was known as “El Jefe” (the chief). Due to his narcissistic nature, he re-named some cities, and even mountains, after himself. He had no tolerance for those who opposed him. Those who did were either imprisoned or murdered by unknown assailants. Trujillo was responsible for the murder of 50,000 people, including the Parsley genocidal massacre against the Haitians.
The leader was quick to suppress any sort of rebellion against his regime, yet the public began to secretly form solidarity groups and organisations to resist. One of these organisations was the “Butterflies”, formed by three brave women known as the Mirabal Sisters. These sisters and their husbands put up a strong fight for human rights and democracy by risking their own lives. They distributed flyers about the people murdered by the regime of Trujillo in order to inform the public. They were also in possession of arms, which they were preparing to use once the movement would become an open revolution. They were declared as terrorists and traitors by Trujillo, and were arrested many times under the charge of dividing the unity of the country. The state took possession of their land and houses.
On November 25 1960 as Minerva, Maria and Patria Mirabal were returning from a visit to their husbands in prison, Trujillo supporters beat them to death with sticks, shoved them in the back of a car and threw them off a cliff. The government declared these as deaths caused by a road-traffic accident.
Trujillo thought that he could get away with the murder of the Mirabal sisters, just like he got away with the murder of thousands of people. He thought he could extinguish the movement that these sisters had founded. However, instead the deaths fueled the spirit of revolution in the Dominican Republic. Riots increased and, six months later on May 30 1961, Trujillo was assassinated.
In February 1963, the Dominican Republic elected a democratic government for the first time in decades. Dedé Mirabal, who was no in the car with her sisters on that day, dedicated her life to telling the story of her heroine sisters, and founded the Mirabal Sisters Foundation and Mirabal Sisters Museum. Her son Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal was elected as Vice President of Dominic Republic on 1996 to 2000. He is now the Minister of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of Dominic Republic. Minevra Mirabal’s daughter Minou Tavarez Mirabal was the deputy foreign minister from 1996 to 2000 and she is currently the presidential nominee for the 2016 Dominican Republic general elections.
Since 1981, 25 November is remembered as a day to raise awareness on violence against women, with various rallies and congresses organised worldwide in commemoration. In 1999, the United Nations officially announced this day as “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”.
The regimes of dictators all around the world have worked in the same way throughout history. It supports those who ally them, and suppresses those who riot against them as traitors. These dictators, drunk on power, fear women the most. They fear women who are educated and brave, women who speak out and chose to resist.
Feminist “Butterflies” of Turkey
The same man has been ruling in Turkey for over 13 years. His title as the prime minister or president, it really does not matter. He is in power and is capable of causing a civil war between his party and that of the opposition in order to maintain his position. He has great supporters – those who are blinded by patriotic and conservative views, and those who are empowered by the fake stability of the economy. Ignorance in areas of human rights and freedom of speech is unsurprising, as people are convinced that the system (which they now benefit from) will never have a negative effect on their lives, as it has on the lives of others.
Yet what we see in the feminist movement in Turkey over the past 2,5 years is amazingly empowering. Women’s lives are the most damaged by conservative regulations and unequal human rights, therefore they resist the most. A cleric announced that “pregnant women should not walk the streets” (as it is seen as pornographic), so thousands of pregnant women filled the streets with their baby bumps. A politician proclaimed that “women should not laugh out loud in public”, so millions of women react with their laughter by posting photos of them laughing on social media platforms! A male politician says, “as a women you should shut up” to a female politician, and thousands of women shout loudly “as a woman I speak up!” Millions of women filled the streets of Turkey when Özgecan Aslan was brutally murdered last February – they united under the belief of “we do not want men who rape and murder women to get discounted sentences!” The law’s symbolic name is the “law of Özgecan”, and pro-government women’s rights organisations have started to support it. The law has been presented in the parliament and has gained support by pro-government women’s rights associations so it will probably pass and there will be deterrent sentences for the murderers and rapists.
Women of Turkey, the more the feminists speak up, the more they become aware of their human rights, and the more they react. They are not locked between the walls of their households. They are out on the streets, protesting and claiming their fundamental human right – the right to live!
It’s never too late to accomplish what the Butterflies had accomplished. Let’s remember what Patria Mirabal said: “We cannot allow our children to grow up in this corrupt and tyrannical regime, we have to fight against it. I am willing to give up everything for this, including my life.”
(This article has been edited by Aoife Mary Mangan and published on European Young Feminists Blog on 25/11/2015)