Subject: JT: East Timorese recalls wartime sex-slave experience

The Japan Times December 14, 2002

East Timorese recalls wartime sex-slave experience

By NAO SHIMOYACHI Staff writer

East Timor, the world's youngest nation, has a long history of hardship.

Marta Abu Bere

The island was subjected to more than 400 years of Portuguese colonial rule and a quarter century of Indonesian occupation that is believed to have claimed 200,000 lives.

A period of Japanese military occupation between February 1942 and August 1945 came as no respite -- particularly for women forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.

Marta Abu Bere, one such East Timorese, was in Tokyo this week at the invitation of a citizen's group to speak about her experiences as a "comfort woman."

"It was an embarrassing thing to talk about," said Abu Bere, about 70, at a gathering on Thursday evening. She does not remember her exact date of birth.

"I just wish you all to keep my story in your mind, not just in your head, so that such an incident will not occur again," Abu Bere said.

According to a 1996 survey by a local group, there are at least 700 East Timorese women like Abu Bere.

Her son and niece, who accompanied her on the three-day visit to Japan, did not know about her experiences until two years ago, when she testified at the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery, a citizens' trial held in Tokyo.

Abu Bere was a sex slave for Japanese soldiers for three months in the village of Marobo until she became seriously ill and was released. She said she was lured to the military brothel by an East Timorese man who worked for the Japanese forces.

During the period, she said she served about 10 men a night and was forced into hard labor during the day.

She said she was given almost no food. Her brothers delivered cassava, an indigenous root, to her quarters.

Kiyoko Fukusawa, associate professor at the Keisen Jogakuin College who has studied East Timorese affairs for 16 years, said the conditions appeared to be typical of such "comfort stations" in rural villages of East Timor.

Japanese forces lost naval and air control in the region soon after they completed their occupation, Fukusawa said, adding this may have exacerbated conditions in the brothels.

Former comfort women in East Timor have been omitted from all frameworks of redress.

After the war, East Timor came once again under the control of Portugal, which remained neutral during World War II, and the women were covered neither by the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty nor by the compensation agreement signed between Japan and Indonesia.

A private fund called the Asian Women's Fund was established in 1995 at the initiative of then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, but no discussions were held on redress for East Timorese.

Even after East Timor obtained independence in May, the former sex slaves in the country, including Abu Bere, have not demanded redress from Japan.


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