Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Many of the wives, mothers and sisters of the “rojos” (reds) during the Spanish Civil War had their heads shaved, were insulted and humiliated. In the majority of cases it was not anonymous members of Franco’s forces that committed these outrages but their neighbours who up till then they had considered their friends.

In Andalucía the provinces of Cádiz, Sevilla and Huelva saw these acts carried out first, they were repeated later in Málaga and Almería. Now the regional government has carried out a measure to recognise these humiliated women.

These dreadful acts were all performed in public places – the plazas, markets or even in the churches of villages and towns – locations where people gathered in large numbers. The women had their head shaved, were placed on the backs of donkeys and paraded in front of their neighbours.

As a result they were marked and indeed scared for life. Hence the Andalucía government has decided to pay compensation of 1,800 euros in recognition of the moral damage they incurred - to those that are still alive to tell the tale that is.

January 13 marked the day when those women who suffered in this way had to make themselves known to the authorities. In the event 106 have had their applications accepted. The vice counsellor of the Andalucía Government and Justice Ministry, José Antonio Gómez Periñán, said he had received well over 200 applications but not all of these had met with the required conditions.

All the women who have survived had to be able to demonstrate they were victims of this abuse with photographic or documentary proof. They also had to be currently living in Andalucía. Around 27 lived outside of the region and over 100 have died and it was their families that presented their applications.

They all, says Gómez Periñán, received a document that expressed the regional government’s regret for the physical, verbal and moral violence they had suffered.

The years when the most number of these acts took place were between the start of the Civil War in 1936 and 1950. Gómez Periñán says society is in debt to these women – they are the victims of the repression but up till now they have received nothing.

Often the women would be required to work for free for the very people who had murdered their men folk. They were also made to clean churches and often were raped. Although 106 will now be compensated the Asociación Andaluza de Memoria Histórica y Justicia believes there are many more.

Needless to say organisations on the right in Spain have called this action a pre-election gimmick. As they are the political heirs of those who committed these outrages there is little surprise in that.

However given that a socialist government has been in power in the autonomous region of Andalucía for so long one can only wonder why these suffering women were not honoured earlier. Indeed these atrocious acts were committed throughout Spain yet at a national level the socialist governments since democracy returned have not acknowledged these women’s sufferings. Needless to say the centre-right Partido Popular just wishes the legacy of the Civil War and Franco era would go away.

What leaves me befuddled is the sum of 1,800 euros. Did some civil servant in the Andalucía capital of Sevilla think this up as suitable compensation? What is 1,800 euros – around 1,500 pounds? It hardly fits the crimes these women and mere girls were made to suffer and who have been marked out in their communities ever since.

Let’s be frank, there is no adequate sum to repay them – and it certainly isn’t 1,800 euros.

(The following article appeared in The Morning Star on Monday February 7 2011)