Photo: San José de Apartadó
The Colombian town of San José de Apartadó has been nominated for the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, for their “resilience and dedication to the high values of peace and justice.”
In the underbelly of war-ravaged Colombia there is a community of peasant farmers that rejects violence and demands freedom and liberty for their people. The rural town of San José de Apartadó lies in an area where guerrillas and paramilitary groups abound, consistently battle and systematically bully civilians they accuse of supporting the “other side.”
The eighties and nineties saw the small community ravaged by paramilitaries, who massacred the town’s elected officials time after time, and for the better part of the nineties controlled the road that leads to the town, setting check points to restrict food access. The paramilitary also monitored lists who came in and out of the town, creating lists of adversaries. People that were on those lists were assassinated.
Since 1997, San José de Apartadó has been dedicated to becoming a violence-free community committed to peace and justice, in an environment of brutality and destruction. At the entrance to the town, a sign prays “We don’t participate in war, neither directly nor indirectly,” “We don’t carry weapons.” “We don’t manipulate or provide information to any side.”
The entire San José de Apartadó community is one of three finalists for the prestigious 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought Award. The award is named after Soviet scientist Andrei Sakharov, who was internally exiled in the Soviet Union for his opposition to the USSR’s nuclear program and repressive policies. Ironically, last year’s winner Guillermo Fariñas was prevented by Cuban authorities from attending the award ceremony in Strasbourg.
The other two nominees are the “Arab Spring” movement, represented by five activists from across the Arab world, and Dzmitry Bandarenka: a Belarusian civil activist and member of the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
The winner of the award will be announced Thursday. For more information on the history and current state of San josé de Apartadó, visit http://www.colombiasupport.net/sanjose/whatis.html