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Review: Weapon of War (2009)

Directed by: Femke van Velzen, Ilse van Velzen | 59 minutes |

“If you wanted to have sex with a woman, you lost all control and immediately looked for one.” The documentary “Weapon of War” by sisters Femke and has a very heavy theme as its starting point, women who are victims of rape by soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 1996 several wars have ravaged Congo. Some 30,000 soldiers in the National Army and 50,000 rebels were active, with a total of 150,000 women and girls raped. Sexual violence is seen as a weapon of war, a way to demoralize your enemy, and that is precisely why this “tactic” is used by many.

Captain Basima, pastor in the army, educates soldiers about sexual violence. He himself raped six women when he was younger, has left that life behind and now wants to point out the irreversible consequences of such acts. It becomes clear that it is a great idea, but does not work everywhere. When Basima tells his story to a group of rebels, they don’t want to know about him because they are not on the same political line, but come back in times of peace with him. With more than sixty armed groups in Congo, each with their own political and ideological views, it is difficult to reach a majority, but the initiative can only be applauded.

The is made up of interviews with Congolese soldiers, in which the open attitude of a number of soldiers is particularly striking. They are willing to tell the stories of their actions in the hope that they will no longer be haunted by the nightmares that haunt them. Soldiers visit doctors to ask for medicines for this disease, they slowly go mad. It is almost as if they are victims, and in fact they admit it. They are victims of the war, in the heat of the battle they did not think about anything and could no longer distinguish the difference between good and evil. A soldier’s mother points a finger at the war. “I think the sound of the bullets drove my son crazy.” Of course she hates his actions, but it is and remains her son.

Not only the soldiers are discussed, raped women also tell their story. They talk to some extent about the event that changed their lives forever, the rest is kept silent because she doesn’t want to relive it again. The pain written on the face chills the heart. The ends with the encounter between a soldier and the woman he raped, an extremely emotional encounter in which the woman tells that she has actually lost her entire life because of it, has been stigmatized. Her parents blamed her for what happened and her fiancé ran away because she was no longer a virgin. The soldier cannot look at her, stares at the table, asks for forgiveness and gives her a pig as a kind of satisfaction. Although she eventually forgives him, he will still have a long and difficult road to go before he can let go of himself. “Weapon of War” brings to light a very difficult to discuss subject, in which the stories about the horrors are not shunned. Nevertheless, everyone must have seen this documentary. Horrible, but a story that must be told.

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