Friday, June 13, 2008

Raids and stuff

The police raided two other human rights group earlier today, so our office shut down in a hurry and forgot to tell the interns! David and I were working away on our respective projects until we noticed the eery silence. We left the room to find that all the offices were locked and most everyone had gone home except receptionists and one or two staffers, and there was a sign outside saying "Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is CLOSED until further notice." Luckily, I have a connection through Louise's parents with a partner at a law firm in the same building, so I just nipped up the stairs and am writing from their rather elegant, if small, library. I expect I'll work from home tomorrow. It's a bit much, I think, shutting down the office for fear of raids by the ZRP's Law & Order division (notorious torturers) and simply forgetting to inform the interns. Anyway, I'm safe and sound.

I met some Lefto revolutionaries who work with torture victims. And the heads of Doctors for Human Rights. All on the verge of nervous breakdowns, as you would imagine -- terrible, terrible reports from the countryside. Amputations, burnings. A friend of Louise's mother was arrested on a routine traffic stop and held in a cell for a little while, for no reason at all. While she was in the cell, police kept coming in and raping two girls held on shop-lifting. They're absolutely lawless right now, killing and raping just because they can. Truly, dogs of war.

The parties here are pretty fun. Liquor is hard to come by, so they're not especially well lubricated. The party yesterday was full of NGO types. UN, WHO, UNICEF, ZADH, ZLHR, Amani Trust, Amnesty, IWSHF -- it's hard to keep track of the alphabet soup. Ranging from a rather bewildered German undergrad doing his internship at the worst possible time to die hard revolutionaries who have been in and out of exile and are compiling lists of people to destroy in the event of government change.

Then there are a lot of local people of our generation, some of whom are also NGO types, but some of whom are just floating. Sabibi is typical -- one week he's smuggling fuel across the border, the next week he's trying to sell hot tubs to businessmen. Has no idea what he'll do or how he'll do it, but has vague plans in place to leave the country. Everyone seems bound for Australia or the UK with no firm plans once they get there.

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