Nepal: women from opposing sides of the conflict
06-03-2012 News Footage Ref. V-F-CR-F-01119
When Nepal's armed conflict ended in 2006, some 17,000 people were dead and families had reported 3,100 to the ICRC as missing. Today, while the fate of many is known, over 1,400 people are still on the ICRC's list of missing persons.
Footage available from the ICRC Video Newsroom (www.icrcvideonewsroom.org)
TV news footage transmitted on Eurovision News from 11.45 GMT, Tuesday 6 March 2012
For more information, please contact Nicola Fell, ICRC Geneva, e-mail
The vast majority of missing people in Nepal, and in the world, are men. Their wives are left in a state of anguish and uncertainty.
Laxmi Devi Khadka has not known the fate of her husband for over nine years. In 2003, Maoists came to her house in Bardia, Southern Nepal and took him, saying they wanted to speak to him for a few minutes. He has never been seen again.
Laxmi Devi Khadka says: "I have few hopes but there is still hope until you see something. He was taken during the night, in just five minutes, and when the dogs bark at that time at night, I think, it was at that same time he was taken away, it could be him coming back."
In Laxmi's district of Bardia, more disappearances were recorded than in any other district of Nepal. The tree outside Laxmi’s house stands as a daily reminder of her husband. She planted it the year he disappeared. It now stands tall, towering over her house.
Beyond the anguish of not knowing the fate of her husband, Laxmi, and families of missing persons everywhere, face many practical problems. Economically, they have often lost the breadwinner. They also face a multitude of legal and administrative problems.
Laxmi Devi Khadka explains: "There is a small amount of land in the name of my husband. To transfer ownership of land, you need to show a death certificate. However, I cannot be sure my husband is dead, so I can't get a death certificate."
Under international humanitarian law, families have the right to know the fate of missing relatives. Parties to a conflict have a responsibility to search for the missing.
The ICRC works with the authorities to ascertain the fate of the missing persons. It also tries to help the families cope with the ambiguity. This includes providing legal, administrative, economic, social, and psychosocial or psychological support
Laxmi Khadka met and befriended Devisara Wali at one of the ICRC's support groups. Devisara Wali’s husband also went missing after being arrested by State security forces, who claimed he was in league with the Maoists. She also cannot move on and mourn until she has proof of his death. For Devisara, the support groups have really helped.
"Before that, I was thinking we cannot do anything," says Devisara Wali. "After I met the other women, I started to think that now we have to do something, we have to move forward for justice."
Although Devisara and Laxmi are ostensibly on different sides of the conflict, the two women, who are both 40, are now allies – united in pain.
"For days, we walked alone," explains Devisara Wali. "Now, we are walking in search of justice as victims from both sides of the conflict. This is equally beautiful. We share grief with each other."
Laxmi Devi Khadka agrees: "You console my heart and I console yours. We should not lose hope. We must move ahead."
The problem of the missing spans the globe. Wherever there is an armed conflict, people go missing. As ICRC women and war advisor Maria Teresa Garrido Otoya says, "This is a global problem. It happens in Colombia and we are now receiving questions about missing people in Libya."
Nepal: facts & figures
- The ICRC has received 3,819 reports from families regarding the disappearance of a relative in relation to the conflict.
- The ICRC publishes updated lists of missing people in English and Nepali here www.familylinks.icrc.org.
- Currently, there are around 1,400 missing persons on ICRC records. This is not a comprehensive list of everyone who went missing during the conflict; it only includes people whose families have approached the Nepal Red Cross or the ICRC looking for information about a missing relative. Each name represents the missing person, his or her family, the suffering of that family, the statements the families have provided to the ICRC, and the ICRC’s repeated representations to the authorities.
- All over the world, the ICRC speaks to the relevant bodies on behalf of families seeking information on the fate of their missing relatives. It encourages the authorities to address the needs of the families enhances national forensic expertise and boosts the capacity of national agencies to carry out exhumations and identify remains.
Location: Bardia, Southern Nepal
Production: Maximillan Jacobson-Gonzalez
Camera: Maximillan Jacobson-Gonzalez
0:00 GVs landscape
0:06 GVs military personnel
0:12 GVs streets
0: 50 Laxmi walks past children
1:12 Laxmi shows photo of husband
1:22 SOUNDBITE: Laxmi Devi Khadka (in Nepalese):
"I haven't been able to find my husbands body, not even any remains. Until I am able to see the body, I nourish hopes that my husband may be somewhere and may come home."
1:35 "I have few hopes but there is hope until you see something. He was taken during the night, in just five minutes, and when the dogs bark at that time at night I think it was at that same time he was taken away, it could be him coming back."
1:57 Photo of Laxmi and husband
2:09 Various of Laxmi cooking
2:39 Laxmi waters tree and prays
3:14 SOUNDBITE Laxmi Devi Khadka (in Nepalese):
"There is a small amount of land in the name of my husband. To transfer ownership of land, you need to show a death certificate. However, I cannot be sure my husband is dead, so I can't produce a death certificate."
3:27 Laxmi walking
3:50 Laxmi meets Devisara Wali
4:39 Laxmi and Devisara arrive at ICRC therapy session
5:17 Devisara enters her home
5:33 Photo of Devisara and husband
5:36 Devisara cooking
5:50 Devisara and cows
6:29 SOUNDBITE Devisara Wali (in Nepalese):
"Before that, I was thinking we cannot do anything," "After I met the other women, I started to think that now we have to do something, we have to move forward for justice."
6:53 Devisara and Laxmi walk together
6:57 SOUNDBITE Devisara Wali (in Nepalese):
"For days, we walked alone. Now, we are walking in search of justice as victims from both sides of the conflict. This is equally beautiful. We share grief with each other."
7:10 SOUNDBITE Laxmi Devi Khadka (in Nepalese):
"You console my heart and I console yours. We should not lose hope. We must move ahead."
7:22 Laxmi and Devisara laughing
Date: 29th February 2012
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Production: Nicola Fell
Camera: Louis Mouchet
SOUNDBITE: Maria Teresa Garrido Otoya, ICRC women and war advisor (in English):
7:28 "Beyond the anguish of not knowing where they are, there are the day-to-day problems these women have to face, meaning by that administrative problems, legal problems, they can't get credit or sell the house or these kinds of things. / This is a global problem. It happens also in Colombia. We are receiving now demands in Libya for example for missing people."
- Interview with Syulvie Thoral, head of the ICRC's Nepal delegation, on women and their missing relatives
- ICRC news release
For further information, please contact:
Robin Waudo, ICRC Kathmandu, +977 9851034638 or +977 1 4107285
Dorothea Krimitas, ICRC Geneva, +41 22 730 2590