BEtween friends: The women’s conflict experiences PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 August 2014 12:26

By Fatima Pir T. Allian

“The real war happens after all the bombs and guns have been silenced. The real war begins when you start suffering from hopelessness because there is no money to buy food and medicine, or when all your hard earned properties were burned down by the military.”[1]
In 2009 we were given a chance to do a research on the effects of conflict on  Moro women in Basilan and Sulu. It was difficult for many of us  to hear  their stories of deaths in the family and  the trauma they have experienced. But somehow through their stories we sense their hope for a better Bangsamoro. They still dream of better days ahead filled with opportunities that were not available to them in the past such as livelihood opportunities, education for their children, free from fear especially during harvest season. Here are the stories of the women from Basilan and Sulu.
Recollections of how the situation in their place was before the conflict bring a wistful smile, especially to the older participants. According to one, “We were free to harvest our root crops, bananas and squash. Sometimes, we sell them and sometimes we just get them for food. But if there are a lot of harvests, we sell them so we can have money to buy rice and fish and sugar to eat with the piyutu (cassava cake). They remember an idyllic place where one was free to move around and partake of the bounties of nature, whether the forests or the sea. However, all these changed with the seemingly unending string of violence.
For many, the armed conflict is a series of incidents that they have learned to live with, thus, despite the volatile peace and order situation, many are “stayees”, while keeping a vigilant eye on possible increasing danger to their family. Besides, as they pointed out, they have nowhere to go. At times though, the violence escalates to a point with indiscriminate firing, strafing and aerial bombardment that they are forced to leave their homes temporarily, at most a year; others, permanently.
For many respondents, however, staying in their homes was no longer an option as they were burned down during the conflict. Likewise, there was a constant threat to their lives as either the military or the lawless elements have settled in their villages.
A number of respondents related how their entire villages were torched and how they witnessed some people hurt and even killed. However, while they consider the burning of their homes as a big loss, they are still grateful to Allah that their lives and that of their family members have been spared. Even their loved ones’ deaths have been accepted with grace, believing that it was Allah’s will.