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Ayotzinapa enforced disappearances anniversary: Testimonies

    September 23, 2015

    Released 23 September 2015 at 00:01 Mexico time (05:00 GMT)

    Omar García – Second-year student at the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos “Ayotzinapa”, in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.

    On the night of Friday 26 September 2014, 24-year-old Omar García was writing a paper when he received a desperate call from one of his friends who was in a bus in the nearby town of Iguala.  

    His friend told him police officers were indiscriminately shooting at a group of students who were crossing the town on their way to a demonstration in Mexico City to mark the anniversary of the 2 October 1968 Tlatelolco massacre of unarmed students.

    “I was shocked and alarmed. I ran out of my room calling my friends. ‘Our friends are being shot at in Iguala, we have to go!’ I shouted. Everybody was upset,” he said.

    “Around 30 of us went to Iguala. When we arrived we started visiting hospitals, the courts, the prison. We asked people everywhere if they had seen our friends. But everybody said they had not seen them.

    “People were scared, very scared. No-one wanted to have anything to do with it. We could tell they were scared to talk. ‘They are not here, we don’t know anything’ – that’s what people kept telling us. But 43 people had gone missing, how come no one would say anything?

    “We thought they were being held in a prison and that we would go and get them the following day. We never thought about an enforced disappearance, we had only heard about that in history books and from stories coming from Ciudad Juárez and other places. We had never experienced something like that ourselves. The outlook was terrible. The relatives were desperate.

    “On the 28 [September] we realized they had been disappeared. We know it was police officers who took them.

    “So far, the government’s response has been shameful. I think we are targeted because we make them feel uncomfortable. They want to use us as an example so other activists do not speak up.

    “I’m not afraid. We are stronger because of the solidarity we receive from people from around the world; we cannot give up. Many of the students are still traumatized about what happened but we will not stop until we find them.”

    Melitón Ortega – Uncle of Mauricio Ortega, one of the forcibly disappeared Ayotzinapa students.

    Since he learned about the enforced disappearance of his nephew Mauricio on the night of 26 September 2014, Melitón has embarked on an epic procession. He has marched the streets of Mexico City holding a picture of his nephew in hopes of finding him and has met with endless government officials, including Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, to demand effective investigations into the tragic events.

    For Melitón it is as if time froze the night Mauricio disappeared. His brother, Mauricio’s father, called him in desperation after hearing that Mauricio and other students had been arrested by the police in Iguala but that no one knew where he was.

    “It was an extremely sad day. When my brother called me I went straight to the school. We thought [the 43 students] had been arrested or were hiding. We were sure we were going to find them. But then the days passed and here we are, nearly a year later and we still do not know where they are. This is torture,” he said.

    “The government has tried to make everybody forget about what happened, but we will not allow them. We will not stop until we find our kids, until justice is done and until a proper investigation is conducted.

    “The tragedy of Ayotzinapa forced the world to open their eyes to the human rights situation in Mexico and the lack of justice. Ours is not an isolated case, we have seen it after all those mass graves that were found. Mexico is suffering from a massive human rights crisis with thousands of disappearances. Ayotzinapa has shown the level of abuses and corruption in Mexico today.

    “The government wants to silence us, but they will not be able to.”