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Peru: emotional family reunion after 23 years

19-10-2004 News Release

Evita Orihuela just couldn’t stop asking how much longer it would be before she got to Cochahuasi, the hamlet two hours south of Lima where her brother Salvador lives. After an eight-hour journey from Huancayo to the capital, she was about to see him for the first time in 23 years.

 



Evita and Salvador Orihuela are reunited after 23 years, thanks to an NGO in Junín department, the Peruvian ombudsman and the ICRC. ©AFP/Jaime Rázuri
  Watch the video on the ICRC Spanish web site.
 
The story of Evita and Salvador began in 1983 when Evita was 13. The Shining Path arrived in her village of Tastabamba in Ayacucho and Evita was forced to join the group, along with other young people. She managed to escape, but after travelling alone through the mountains on foot she was arrested by the military on suspicion of belonging to the Shining Path. Evita maintains that she was subjected to severe ill-treatment in an Ayacucho barracks. She was later abandoned in another part of the country.
 
During 23 years of forced separation, Evita believed all her family to be dead. Two decades of armed conflict had destroyed many towns and villages in the centre of the country, including Tastabamba.
 
But on 15 October, Evita and Salvador were to be reunited. Like his sister, Salvador was nervous and excited. He hadn’t slept the night before, wondering whether he had only dreamt that his sister was alive and would soon be home.
 
Their reunion was an emotional one. Salvador could hardly believe it. Oblivious to all around, he hugged Evita tightly, declaring their reunion a miracle. “You’re never going to be alone again. We’re your family. We’re never going to leave you.”
 
Out of a family of eight brothers and sisters, only four survive. The parents are dead, but their bodies have never been found. Evita’s name appeared along with that of her father on the list of missing persons drawn up by the commission for truth and reconciliation, which has registered over 10,000 cases.
 
The reunion between Evita and Salvador Orihuela was made possible by the joint efforts of a human rights NGO in Junín department, the Peruvian ombudsman and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which organized the search and the reunion itself.
 
Since the list of missing persons was published in January 2003, only four cases have had a happy ending.