Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo receive rights award at International Criminal Court

The Abuelas also gave recognition to Dutch journalists for reporting on the dictatorship during the 1978 World Cup

Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and Dutch journalists at two-way award ceremony. Source: CAFA

Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo President Estela de Carlotto on Thursday received recognition for the Grandmothers’ human rights work in a ceremony at the International Criminal Court’s headquarters in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

On behalf of the Grandmothers (Abuelas), de Carlotto also gave formal recognition to the Dutch journalists who braved the dictatorship to report on the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during the 1978 World Cup, in what the organizers described as a “two-way homage”. The recognition ceremony for reporters was at the residence of the Argentine ambassador in the Hague.

The Anne Frank Argentina Center for Latin America gave the Grandmothers the award “for their track record and commitment in the struggle for human rights in 40 years of uninterrupted democracy in Argentina”, the organization wrote in a statement.

Political journalist Jan van der Putten interviewed the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during the World Cup opening ceremony in 1978. Photojournalist Bert Nienhuis, together with reporter Frits Barend, also went to Plaza de Mayo and covered the mothers’ march.

The haunting video of van der Putten’s interview has gone down in history. 

“What’s happening?” he asks the mothers, who are clustered around him in the white headscarves that have become a symbol of the mothers and the human rights movement in Argentina. “We want our children,” one mother replies, her voice fraught with distress. “For them to tell us where they are, at least.”

“We want them to tell us if they’re alive or dead,” another chimes in. 

“My daughter was five months pregnant when they took her,” says a third. “My grandson must have been born in August of last year, but so far I haven’t heard anything about him. All we know is that the children are born, but they leave them in orphanages anonymously, and we can never find them.”

Dutch television broadcast the mothers of Plaza de Mayo’s march in split screen, alongside the bombast of the World Cup opening ceremony.

Barend even pretended to be a Dutch footballer so that he could interview Jorge Rafael Videla, the dictator at the time, after Argentina won the 1978 tournament.

“I’m a journalist and felt the obligation to write about what had happened in Argentina,” Barend said. “The World Cup started on a Thursday at 4 p.m. and I went to Plaza de Mayo to search for and speak with the mothers. I spoke to around ten mothers and they said, ‘thank you so much for coming to speak to us’, and they asked me to write. Then the police came and told me: ‘They’re whores, they’re whores.’”

Seven Dutch journalists and activists received recognition from the Abuelas of Plaza de Mayo on Thursday. Alongside van der Putten, Nienhuis and Barend, Freek de Jonge, a writer, participated in a campaign to boycott the World Cup. Politician Saskia Noorman-Den Uyl created a Dutch group to support the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. 

Professional footballer Oeki Hoekema included a paragraph in his contract saying he’d never play against the teams of countries living under dictatorships, and petitioned against the Dutch national side playing in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Theo van Boven was the director of the United Nations’ Human Rights Division at the time of the tournament.

De Carlotto is the Anne Frank Argentina Center’s godmother. When it opened in June 2009, she planted an offshoot from the chestnut tree that Anne Frank wrote about in her diary. The clipping had been brought especially from the Netherlands, and continues to grow in the center’s garden today.

Image: Courtesy of Anne Frank Argentina Center


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