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Interview: We want stories of "comfort women" to be remembered forever -- rights group leader

Updated: 07 11 , 2016 14:27
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MANILA, July 10-- "Wartime sex slavery happened. The victims have come forward to tell their brutal stories. So, we want their stories, written or in art form, to be remembered forever," said Rechilda Extremadura, director of a Philippine organization for wartime sex slaves.

Extremadura, executive director of the Lila Pilipina (League of Filipino Women), a nongovernmental organization assisting the elderly former Philippine "comfort women," said her group, along with other support groups of former sex slaves from China, Japanand the Netherlands have jointly asked the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to include documents related to wartime sex slavery in the UN body's Memory of the World Register.

"These documents must be registered on the UNESCO list. This will preserve the official records and prove that Asian women were indeed forced into Japanese military brothels during World War II," she told Xinhua.

"We should not allow Japan to delete its wartime aggression in Asia. We did not make this up. Sex slavery existed and these documents will prove their existence in the Philippines, the Korean Peninsula, China and Indonesia," she said.

The group took two years to collate the necessary data. "The process was tedious and meticulous," she said.

Extremadura said the group has decided to keep the idea under wraps to make sure that Japan will not do anything to derail the plan.

"We had to do it very discreetly because we expect Japan to thwart our move. No announcements were made; no press releases. (Tokyo) only learned about it when we filed the application," she said.

Japan is a major donor to UNESCO. Last year, Tokyo threatened to halt or slash its funding to the UN body after UNESCO included China's documents about the Nanjing Massacre in its Memory of the World list.

Extremadura stressed the significance of the move, saying most of the victims are dying.

"Many of them are getting sick. Time is running out," she said, adding that many of the victims are now in their late 80s and 90s. "Many have passed away without seeing justice."

According to Extremadura, it's very important to preserve the memories of those women who suffered under the hands of the Japanese imperial army during WWII. If those documents will make it to the list then it will be accessible to those people interested in the subject.

"When these documents are registered, the memory of comfort women will last forever. This will ensure that these significant records will last even beyond the times of the Lolas (grandmothers)," she added.

Talking about the Japanese government's official and continuous denial of the existence of a "comfort system," Extremadura said: "After being victims of Japanese war crimes, comfort women are now being made victims of historical distortion."

Accusing the Japanese government of "sweeping the comfort women issue under the rug to deny their existence altogether," the director emphasized that people, especially parties concerned, cannot allow Japan to distort history.

"The scar of war is there. We cannot allow Japan to simply erase that scar and pretend the war crimes didn't happen," she said.

"There may not be many comfort women left to hear the apology or personally receive compensation should Japan, by a miracle, suddenly agree to it. But historical inclusion will give justice even to the Lolas who have died fighting for their cause."

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