In the summer of 2014, Angelina Jolie and William Hague fronted a more than noble cause and campaigned to highlight the abuse, rape and sexual violence which have been used against young girls and women in every conflict in human history since records began. Hague himself, said that it was important that the survivors of these terrible abuses had the confidence to speak out, tell their stories, and where possible bring their tormentors to trial.
Sadly we have heard very little since then and a recent newspaper report written when Angelina Jolie and Hague were visiting a Congolese refugee camp earlier this year suggests that the campaign has made "little impact" and funding has in fact "dried up."
It is difficult to see why this campaign, supported by such high profile people has failed to grab the worlds attention and gain the necessary media coverage needed to bring to an end, as Hague stated, "One of the greatest injustices of our time."
Having spent the last eighteen months working with one such victim, I now wholeheartedly understand exactly why its easier to bury the truth than to suffer the additional pain of bringing the story to life again. 'The Devil Couldn't Break Me,' a book by Laura Aslan, published by Andrews UK, tells of the personal horrors the young woman suffered at the hands of two sides during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
Laura was just eighteen years of age when she fled her family home on the Serbian Kosovo border at the height of the troubles. Her father felt she would be safer in Kosovo, free from the rape camps, massacres and ethnic cleansing taking place on their doorstep, he'd heard the streets of the capital were patrolled by US peacekeeping forces and were relatively safe. Reluctantly she made the long journey through the mountains and eventually arrived in Pristina. Neither Laura or her father were aware she had entered a city one US delegate described, "as one vast crime scene." She had no idea what terrors lay ahead as she crossed the path of 'The Chief', a self professed freedom fighter in the Kosovan Liberation Army. On the face of it 'The Chief' claimed to be fighting a noble cause. Behind closed doors he was the mastermind of a huge operation dealing in organ harvesting, people trafficking and prostitution and his evil gang raped, tortured, maimed and killed at will. Laura had stumbled through the gates of hell.
Helping Laura write this book has been one of the most difficult tasks of my life as we Skyped through the tears of many an emotional session. At times she could not relive the horrors and I sat patiently in silence without saying a word, willing her to talk, waiting until the camera had been turned back on and the tears had subsided and Laura was able to speak coherently again. Eventually it all came together and when we met up in London to complete the 'rewrites' I held this remarkable woman in a tight bear hug and we both sobbed like babies. The sheer scale of the task we had achieved became all to apparent.
During a recent meeting I asked Laura whether it had been worth revisiting the pain and torment the second time around. "Probably not," she said. "I can't really get excited about the book because it's brought the nightmares back again. For years the only way of dealing with it was to shut it all out." She went on to say that the torment of reliving it all might just be worth it if it raises awareness and helps those still in need, giving them the courage and strength to speak out.
I think I've heard that somewhere before, in June of 2014 perhaps, from William Hague's lips.
I think it's time for Ms Aslan and Mr Hague to get together, who knows, she might be exactly what the campaign needs to give it a well deserved kick start. I'm not forgetting Angelina Jolie either, there's a role for her too and her task is a simple one and that's to produce a real life movie that will make the world sit up and take notice. It's right up her street, she's been there, done it all before and got the T-shirt.
'The Devil Couldn't Break Me.' Book trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSAFThEIgYA
Amazon UK link.http://www.amazon.co.uk/Devil-Couldnt-Break-Me/dp/1785382799/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1440598914&sr=8-2&keywords=laura+aslan