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Sofia da Costa

Sofia da Costa, Baucau

Sofia da Costa has said enough.

When Sofia was 22 her husband was killed in a conflict between UDT and Fretilin. A year later Sofia began supporting the resistance through gardening and sewing, and also performed dances when they raised the Timorese flag.

By 1978, her brothers had been detained and she was forced to ‘marry’ an Indonesian soldier, with whom she had a daughter.

Another Indonesian soldier from a Special Forces unit advocated for her release. She later ‘married’ him for two years and had a son with him before he returned to Indonesia. She had little protection from further violence. She was forced, along with others, to ‘entertain’ Indonesian soldiers.

Every Saturday the military would come to our house and force us at gunpoint to go with them. If we protested they said they would kill our families. They forced us to do many things, whatever they wanted. Not only dance, but they also groped us and threatened us and took us to the forest to sleep with them… Wherever there was a big event, the posts, the forest, and the district military command – even on war ships – we were taken. This happened from 1977 up to 1985.

Many people called us “lonte” [prostitute] but we just resigned ourselves to it because it was war. We women are not stupid, but we sacrificed ourselves so that we could save our famliies.

Today, Sofia grows vegetables and bakes and sells cakes to support her family. She received an old age pension payment, but it was insufficient for her and her children. Sofia carries on despite the hardship, motivated by the need to support her family…

My tears do not dry when I remember the events of the past.

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