Saturday, March 31, 2007

An Email to Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Dear Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,

I have been a resident in your district for five years. Earlier this month, I wrote to you about House Res. 121. I have started a petition to House Speaker Pelosi. It began as a petition of support from the American people, but has quickly turned into an international document of support for Surviving Comfort Women of WWII. In two weeks we have gathered 1096 international citizens who demand the Japanese government take responsiblity for their past actions.

I understand you are on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. I urge you to support House Res. 121.

As a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in 2001, I explored the stories and the lives of former Filipina Comfort Women of WWII, going with women to their sights of abduction and to the garrisons they where they were held for weeks, months and years, suffering under the Japanese Imperial Army's systematic raping and enslavement of young Filipinas. I have had the honor of getting to know 14 women and their families and have seen the effects that experience has made on their lives.

The recent remarks and false apology of Prime Minister Abe demontrate that he has not heard or understood the impact WWII and his army have made on these women's lives. It is unacceptable.

I'd like to offer my help and research to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, should you need it, to better understand the struggles of all 200,000 women taken hostage during WWII.

I invite you to visit the blog I have set up in support of the Comfort Women: and to view the ongoing petition at any time:

M. Evelina Galang
Assistant Professor, English
University of Miami

PS: United States citizens reading this post, please write your Congressperson and ask him or her to research the stories and to support House Res. 121. Do it for the women in your family. Do it for the lolas. Click the link under Activate Your Pen to find your representative's contact information. Thanks!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Make History, Prime Minister Abe

Dear Prime Minister Abe,

What an amazing opportunity you have to do the right thing. Sixty plus years after WWII, a war that you did not personally participate in, a war where the dignity of women and girls was taken from them through daily acts of violence and abuse and the consistent raping of little girls for the "comfort" of the Japanese Imperial Army -- that war -- has passed and that generation is now passing. What an amazing opportunity you have to do the right thing.

You have not responded to my question: Will you meet me in Manila this summer to sit at a table with the surviving Filipina Comfort Women I know, the women of LILA Pilipina, a tiny handful of the 200,000 women from that war? You can bring with you surviving soldiers from the Japanese Imperial Army if you like. Let us all sit down and let the old people talk. Let the men explain what was going on back then. Let the women show you their scars. Let them tell you what happened after the war. Some of their families would not take them back. Mothers told daughters through closed doors, "Better to go to Manila, hija. It's better for everyone." Husbands disowned wives. Or worse, they took them back reluctantly and made them pay for it for the rest of their lives. Some of the women kept it a secret and the secret grew so big and fat inside their bellies that it exploded into a thousand kinds of illness -- of the body, of the mind -- a dis-ease of loving or trusting again.

I would like to hear from the soldiers too. What do you think they would have to say when my lolas, the women of LILA Pilipina speak their mind?

Once you know the lolas, you will not be able to deny the stories. You will not be able to deny the wounds of the body. Some of the women went mad for a very long time. Some of them are still going mad. Lola Emeteria hides every time someone drops a plate or slams a door. Sometimes she slips under the table, but there are times when she runs from the house and her family cannot find her for days. She is too old and too frail to be hiding in ditches or up tree branches, Mister Prime Minister.

And you only need to meet one survivor. You only need to see what the comfort stations have done to her, what memories exist in her body, how they scar her mind. Dai Sil Kim-Gibson once said that once you hear their stories, they enter your bones and you cannot sit still.

And maybe that's what you need to do. Meet one woman face to face. Let her speak. Do not interrupt. Be respectful. Listen. And then you can make some of that wrong right. You can do the right thing. You can let the stories enter your body and then you will have no choice but to do the right thing -- for yourself, for your nation, for our 200,000 women who suffered that war, and for humanity.

What an amazing opportunity. Don't you think? You could make history.

Lola Narcisa and her sister Lola Emeteria. Both surviving Comfort Women from Abra. Lola Emeteria cannot hear loud sounds without running to hide.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Anastasia Cortes, Fort Santiago, Intramuros

Here is Lola Ashang's testimony. It is an English translation of the testimony she gave to the Japanese government and has been published in War Crimes on Asian Women: Military Sexual Slavery by Japan During World War II (Asian Women Rights Council, 1998).

The photographs were taken in May of 2001 at Fort Santiago, Intramuros in Manila. We walked among tourists, but for Lola Ashang it was anything but a light afternoon stroll.

In the photograph before the gate, she is showing us where the soldiers would discard the dead. She believes her first husband was thrown to the sea here.

We were brought to the Spanish quarters in Fort Santiago in Intramuros. There, I witnessed the torture my husband underwent. We were put in a cell where my husband was stripped naked, hanged upside-down and beaten with a 2X2 stick. And then, his head was shaved with a blade, scalp included. Blood was trickling down his face. His hands were also fitted in with steel between his fingers and then was pressed, this made the bones in his fingers crack. To add, his fingernails were pulled one by one. These were all done in front of me. It was as much torture to me as it was for my husband. I could not forget this incident up to this day.

My husband was placed in another cell and I did not know what happened to him after that. I just know from a Filipino janitor that they had killed him along with other prisoners.

My sexual ordeal started a month after we were taken. The commanding officer, whose name I remember as Mr. Fukishima, went to my cell and took me out to his room. There he used me. After that, he brought me back to my cell. A few hours after, another soldier came to get me and brought me to a small room with a cot and there I was raped again. The soldier then brought me back to my cell after the act. Days after, three to four soldiers will get me in my cell and bring me to the same small room waiting for each other's turn to use me. I stayed in Fort Santiago as a prisoner for 6 or 7 months. For five months, sexual molestation was repeated several times by three or more soldiers three times a week as a means to "comfort" them ..

900 Signatures!

As of 6:47 this evening (Miami time) we have 900 names on the petition asking House Speaker Pelosi to support House Resolution 121-1H.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Comfort Women House Resolution Petition Update: 800 and Growing Strong

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The petition to support Comfort Women House Resolution 121 is two weeks old and 800 signatures strong. Though it began as a United States petition to House Speaker Pelosi, we have received global support from citizens in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Australia, Germany, Italy, France, Singapore, Austria, Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan. If you go online you can read comments written by our international community, expressing concern, outrage, apologies, compassion, and testimonies from survivors of WWII comfort stations. It is turning into an amazing international document of support.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Abe said, “I express my sympathy toward the comfort women and apologize for the situation they found themselves in.” While this sounds like an apology, Prime Minister Abe is not taking responsibility for Japan’s Imperial Army’s action under the direction of the Japanese government. He is not apologizing for these war crimes. His statement falls short of a sincere apology.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs has decided not to take action on the Comfort Women issue until after Prime Minister Abe’s U.S. visit April 26-27. This gives the petition one month to grow and to truly support House Resolution 121. If it passes, Congress will ask Japan to take full responsibility for the systematic rape and enslavement of the 200,000 women and girls during WWII.

More importantly, the petition itself sends a strong message to surviving Comfort Women. It honors and respects their experiences and demonstrates to them that the global community hears them and believes them. Their experiences are a part of history.

I urge you to send the petition around. Continue to post the link on your blogs, continue to send out email blasts and to announce the petition to your friends, your colleagues and your family members. After all, this is about our women. This about how we choose to treat one another. Let’s aim for 1000 signatures at the very least. Let’s see if we can find 200,000 signatures for each of the women who suffered during WWII.

I thank you for signing and spreading the word. To sign the petition go directly to


M. Evelina Galang

Monday, March 26, 2007

Abe Stops Short of Apology: He Acknowledges

CNN Reports that "Japan PM apologizes to sex slaves." What do these words mean? Is this an apology on behalf of his government and his military or is he simply sorry for their pain and suffering? There is a difference. Here's what the report says, in part:

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, under fire for denying that Japan forced women to work as sex slaves during World War II, offered a fresh apology Monday but stopped short of clearly acknowledging Japan's responsibility for the front-line brothels.

"I express my sympathy toward the comfort women and apologize for the situation they found themselves in," Abe told a parliamentary debate, using a euphemism used by Japanese politicians to refer to former sex slaves.

"I apologize here and now as prime minister," he said.

Abe's apology was his clearest yet since the conservative leader triggered international furor earlier this month by saying there was no evidence that women were coerced into sexual service during the war.

Still, his remarks fall short of victims' demands for Abe to clearly acknowledge that the military forced the women into prostitution.

200,000 women and girls across Asia did not just "find themselves" in a "situation" they were abducted. They were imprisoned. They were systematically raped. It wasn't an accident. Nobody paid them. Nobody invited them. Nobody stopped when they said no. But somebody gathered them up. Somebody jailed them. Somebody abused them sexually, emotionally and mentally.

The Japanese government must take responsibility. It is not enough to say you're sorry they were hurt. We are all sorry they were hurt. The Comfort Women need for you -- on behalf of the Japanese government and its Japanese Imperial Army -- to take responsibility for these acts of abduction and the systematic rape and enslavement of a generation of women. 200,000 of them.

And where is the language of compensation? Of reparation?

We can read between the lines, Prime Minister Abe. You have, once again, stopped short of a sincere apology. That is not good enough.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Mural by Remedios Felias: Her Story of Abduction

Dear Prime Minister Abe,

You were looking for evidence. Here is a quilt that Remedios Felias embroidered for me the last time I was in the Philippines in 2001. When you first see the colors and the threads, you might think it's just a beautiful blanket. But look closely, Prime Minister Abe. See the fine detail. Notice the stitches -- the way she uses red, the way the black hair on the doll-like figure is thrown in disarray.

When I first came back from the Philippines, I pulled this little bit of evidence out of my suitcase. I shook it open just long enough for my three year old niece to catch a glimpse. When I saw her standing there I rolled it up. I didn't think she should have to know this story, not at the age of three. But you know what, Prime Minister Abe? She got it anyway. She saw the bayonets and the soldiers and saw the girl being dragged away. On the ride back home, she asked, "Mommy, if I'm pretty enough, will the soldiers leave you and Daddy alone?" She might have heard a snippet of our conversation. She might have noticed the way the figures were placed to tell a story without words, but how does a three year old understand this concept -- If I am pretty enough, will they leave you alone? Perhaps our collective memory is so strong, Prime Minister Abe, that no one can deny the truth, not even a three year old girl, too young to know war.

When you see these images, do you see coercion?

Still waiting to hear if you can meet me in the Philippines. The Lolas of Lila Pilipina look forward to speaking to you, I'm sure.