Gervasio Sánchez: “It is not the same to be a woman than a man in a war”

  • The photojournalist collects in his last book 90 shocking images of women and girls captured in 25 conflicts throughout his long career

  • The presentation of the work coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

“It is not the same to be a woman as a man in a war,” says photojournalist Gervasio Sánchez. “In an armed conflict there is very specific violence against women,” he adds. Sánchez knows it very well, first-hand, because he has lived closely, on the ground, part of the tragedies that the world has suffered in the last four decades, always with his camera and notebook in tow.

Author of several books and laureate of the most prestigious awards in journalism, Sánchez now presents, coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the work ‘Violences, Mujeres, Guerras’, a volume with 90 shocking photos of women and girls victims of wars, military dictatorships and humanitarian crises. The first photograph dates from 1984, in Guatemala. The latter capture the rescue of refugees in the Central Mediterranean.

Edited with the help of Aragonese Institute for Women, the author takes us to 25 conflicts: nine Africans, seven Latin Americans, five Asians and four Europeans. Women and girls raped, mutilated by the explosion of bombs or mines, victims of diseases typical of extreme poverty or displaced persons or war refugees. There is also no shortage of mothers who have spent decades searching for their missing husbands or children and “that after so much searching they end up forgetting their own lives“, says the photojournalist.

Names and surnames

“It has been a very laborious and selective work. I have had to choose between more than 500 photographs”. Each of the images -many of them in portrait format, where the protagonists appear looking at the camera- is accompanied by a text which brings the reader even closer to the tragedy experienced by the protagonists. “I like to personalize the stories, give first and last names to the people I photograph, contextualize the images,” says the author. “The media tend to talk about numbers of victims, and the more zeros that figure has, the more relevance is given to the information. But behind that number there are people with names and surnames, who have a story behind.”

Sánchez regrets the “superficial” monitoring that the media makes on armed conflicts. “Afghanistan recently became fashionable, with the takeover of the Taliban. And they all seemed to know the country and the conflict very well. These ‘experts’, many of them have not even been in the country, they have not stopped talk about the tragedy suffered by Afghan women, “she explains. “They seem to have forgotten that 42 years ago Afghanistan it is at war, since the Soviet invasion, and Afghan women have always been victims. “Wars do not end when weapons are silent.

Crimes against humanity

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It also emphasizes the passivity of the international community in the face of all kinds of abuses suffered by women in situations of extreme violence. Since 2010 the UN demands the prosecution of those responsible for rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict zones, acts that constitute crimes against humanity. “Just a decade ago that this resolution was adopted, when it has been a common practice throughout history “, recalls the photojournalist.

“When everything falls apart and the bridges of coexistence are cracked, the insatiable thirst for violence of the human being appears”, the author writes in the prologue entitled “Get my body out of war”: Specific violence against women, commonly used as a weapon of war, is part of the great tragedy. This book helps not to forget it.

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