Flashpoints: Restevek girl on Hit List       Mar 8 04

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Restavek girl on Hit List for giving Aristide flowers

 March 8 04

One of Haiti's 400,000 restaveks (unpaid domestic servants) is in hiding in Northern Haiti after death squads targeted her after they looted her school where they found a photograph of her giving flowers to President Arstide. The girl, whose name has been withheld for her own safety, is 12 years old.

It is the words of Aristide that freed me and it is the words about Aristide that condemn me.

My mother died when I was a child and my father sent me to live with a family in Cap Haitian. I was four years old. Every day I got up and I washed the floor. I hauled water on my head. I went to the market and bought food and charcoal. I cooked the food and I washed the clothes. I did work all day and my back hurt. I felt that I was not a person, just a zombie walking around asleep. I was not allowed to eat at the table or sleep in a bed; instead I ate whatever food was left when others were finished. I slept under the table with the dogs. I was not yet alive. I had not been born.

President Aristide spoke about the restaveks on the radio and he said, "All the restaveks are people." I did not know who he was so it made me laugh because I thought he must be a fool to think I was a person and to say that the restaveks are the future of Haiti.

A woman who taught at the school for restaveks became friends with the family I lived with and they agreed to send me to the school in the evenings. I learned to read and write my letters. I learned to count, to add to and take away from. I learned to sew and tell the time and how to do needlepoint. I made many beautiful things.

My picture was taken with President Aristide when he visited and it was put in the front of the school office. The men came with guns and took the picture they said they will kill me.

I know now that I am a dead person. I am a dead person getting up in the morning. A dead person eating rice. A dead person listening to the news on the radio. Should I bother getting out of bed? Should I bother dressing or eating or opening my Bible? It is just a question now of when I will physically die because my body is already marked for death. I have not yet begun to live but I know that I will die and today I no longer cry. I have courage. I know truth. I do not weep anymore.

The truth is that I will die but they cannot kill every single person in the country. In the future the killing will have to stop and I talk to you now so that before my life is finished you know that there was a girl who lived in Cap Haitian who once gave flowers to President Aristide and who is now gone. That is the only thing I want, it is to be remembered. To be remembered is to be human. That is what it means to be respected and to have peace in your heart.