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In Colombia, two courageous defenders of women’s human rights urgently need your help

    February 14, 2013

    Yolanda Becerra and Gloria Amparo Suárez are amazing women.

    Yolanda Becerra in Toronto 2009Amidst an ongoing, vicious armed conflict in Colombia, a dirty war that the rest of the world has largely chosen to downplay or ignore, Yolanda and Gloria face fear on a daily basis yet steadfastly refuse to be paralysed by it.

    Via an organization known as the OFP (in English, the Popular Women’s Organization), Yolanda and Gloria have provided a haven for women whose families have been devastated by attacks, disappearances and killings – many perpetrated by army-backed paramilitaries. On behalf of these women, and knowing the danger of doing so, Gloria and Yolanda have worked relentlessly for truth, justice and reparations.

    Gloria and Yolanda should be applauded for these efforts, so urgently needed if women’s human rights and the rule of law are to become more than a pipe dream in Colombia. Instead they face persecution and a mother’s nightmare - the threat of harm to their children.

    On February 11th, 2013, an unknown man entered the office of the OFP asking for assistance. When Gloria attended him, he asked if she knew where her children were. He added ominously “we do” and showed her photos of her sons on his cell phone. He also showed her a photo of Yolanda and warned: “we know all of her movements ... stop this shit and be quiet because we do not want to have to fuck with you.”

    There is no doubt that this threat must be taken seriously. Community and social leaders in Colombia continue to be gunned down because of their work in favour of women's human rights and against violence.

    We can and must speak up in defence of Gloria and Yolanda – and demand that authorities take action without delay to protect them and their families from harm. During a visit to Canada some years ago, Yolanda told Amnesty members about the powerful impact of messages of concern from outside Colombia on a government sensitive to its international reputation. A flood of such messages is needed now.

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    Photo: Yolanda Becerra in Toronto in 2009