Friday, February 29, 2008

Activists report on GI atrocities against Japanese

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Marianas Variety News Staff
January 28, 2008

AN activist group from Okinawa has released a report
compiling over 400 documented cases of gang rape,
abduction, beating, murder and other forms of abuses
committed by American soldiers against the Japanese
people from the post-war period until recent years.

The reports compiled by the Okinawa Women Act Against
Military Violence showed that only 29 cases had
corresponding records of convictions.

Most of the cases were never prosecuted and the
suspects were allowed to go scot-free. Others had
records of arrests but no charges were filed.

"Violence, human rights violations and sexual assault
on women are among the problems brought about by U.S.
military presence. We want to discuss these issues
with women in Guam to find a way to minimize the
problem," said Suzuyo Takazato, director of the
Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence and
chairman of the Okinawa Rape Emergency Intervention
Counseling Center .

Takazato, a former Okinawa council member and 2005
Nobel Peace nominee, will keynote today's forum on
women and human rights at the lecture hall of the
Jesus S. and Eugenia A Leon Guerrero Building at the
University of Guam .

* Relevant *

Takazato said the forum is particularly timely and
relevant to Guam as the island prepares for the
arrival of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa .

"I don't know how much the people of Guam realize the
impact of having a big military concentration in a
small island. Guam is half the size of Okinawa , where
we have 28,000 troops and 22,000 families. The
military presence is creating serious problems,"
Takazato said in an interview with Variety.

"As this region becomes the world front for the war in
Iraq and Afghanistan , we can expect more
aggressiveness to come," she added.

Besides the impact on the social landscape, Takazato
said the Okinawa population also has to deal with
environmental destruction and noise pollution brought
about by military exercises.

"Our government only sees the economic benefits of
having the U.S. military but we really have to think
about the problems that it brings. I feel that Guam
should be aware of this," Takazato said.

"Most people in Okinawa know Guam only through
(travel) advertisements. Most Japanese know Guam
simply as a tourist destination," Takazato said.

* Similarities *

What most Okinawans don't know is the similar
histories shared by the two islands, Takazato said.

Like Guam, she said, the island of Okinawa was
captured by a foreign government and battered by the
war. The continuing U.S. military presence gives a
constant reminder of the traumatic episode in history,
Takazato said.

Okinawa lost a quarter of its population during World
War II
. While suffering from the abuses of the U.S.
troops, Takazato said the Okinawans also feared the
Imperial Japanese Army.

"The Japanese troops were stationed in Okinawa to
protect the territory and not the people. The Japanese
soldiers killed the Okinawa people that they suspected
to be spies. Many families experienced the loss of
family members and many children became orphans,"
Takazato said. "Those experiences are seated deeply in
Okinawa people; this is why we have sentiments against
the military presence," she said.

Takazato said the cases of abuses committed by the
American troops during the postwar period were never
solved and those who committed them were never

After the war, Okinawa was placed under the control of
the U.S. military beginning in 1945. During which
time, Okinawa couldn't prosecute crimes committed by
military personnel. "It was only after Okinawa was
reverted to Japan in 1972 that military crimes were
brought to civilian courts," Takazato said.

* Nightmares *
While the people of Guam are still awaiting war
reparations and apology from the Japanese government
for the sexual enslavement of Chamoro women and other
atrocities committed by the Imperial Army, the people
of Okinawa have their own nightmares to confront
related to the abuses of the American troops.

The documented cases included incidents such as women
being gang raped in front of their husbands and

Women issues in relation to the military relocation
will be the focus of today's forum, which starts at
3:30 p.m.

The forum was organized by the Fuetsan Famalao'an, the
Women and Gender Studies Program and the Department of
Social Work at UOG.

Takazato's lecture will be followed by a panel
presentation from representatives of the Asia-Japan
Women's Resource Center delegation.