Subject: Natercia Martins: "We’ve had enough conflict"
TIMOR-LESTE: Natercia Martins, "We've had enough conflict"
NAUMENARO, 1 December 2009 (IRIN) - More than 150,000 Timorese were displaced in the 2006 crisis, and several thousand more in a second round of political violence in 2007. Because of her husband's political affiliation, Natercia Martins, 34, was driven from her home in Ermera District in June 2007, only to return six months later to find it in ruins.
Reintegration for her and thousands of others remains a challenge almost two years later. The mother of nine told IRIN about her experience:
"I will never forget when they came. There were 60 of them - men from my very own community - looking for my husband. From outside our home they shouted his name, waved sticks and knives and demanded that he come out. But he wasn't there; he had fled to Dili days earlier.
"When they started throwing stones, all the windows in our house shattered. There was glass everywhere and the children began to cry. We were terrified and I knew we had to leave.
"I took the children and fled into the jungle from where we made our way to Dili. When we arrived, we met my husband and settled into Jardin camp. Many had fled with only the clothes on their backs. And though it wasn't our home, at least we were safe and we received help.
"Those first few weeks were tough; the atmosphere tense. We wondered whether we would ever be able to return to our homes and what we would find once we did.
"But after some time, things became calmer and we were told we could return. Of course we were hesitant, but we knew we had to. The government gave us around US$1,500 to help us but when we returned, we soon learned it wasn't enough.
"After we fled, our home had been ransacked and looted, while others found their homes burnt to the ground. How could we ever rebuild?
"And then of course there were our neighbours; the same ones who came to my home that night for my husband and who somehow I would have to live with again. How could we live in peace?
"After we arrived, a nahe biti boot, [a traditional Timorese peace and reconciliation ceremony called by village elders] was held and everyone from the community was invited.
"Strangely, we were supposed to feel happy about this, but I felt resentment. In addition to having to pay for the party, we also had to give small amounts of money to some of the very people who had threatened my family - from the money the government gave us to rebuild.
"I see these people every day. Naumenaro is a small community. When I look at them, I see the shame in their eyes, but I no longer feel threatened. All of us face much bigger problems and need help. My husband is a simple farmer and can barely provide for us.
"I remember that day vividly, but I also know it's time to move on. If we are ever to find true peace, we need to move forward and think about the bigger problems we all face like food, water, schools, health and jobs.
"We've had enough conflict."