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14 November 2019Bilbao Campus

Debate on the victims and the recent memory of violence in the Basque Country: "Society needs to know to be able to recognise it"

Memorial Day is held on 14 November. To mark this occasion, and in the framework of the agreement between the Basque Government and universities, the University of Deusto, in collaboration with the Human Rights Institute, held a roundtable on 13 November on the victims and the recent memory of violence in the Basque Country. In order to contribute to coexistence, the day was devoted to making a reflection based on the reports conducted by the Institute of Human Rights and the Center for Applied Ethics as part of the coexistence and human rights plan.

With this aim in mind, the conference, moderated by Gorka Urrutia, Director of the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute (Deusto) was attended by the victims of violence who have participated in memory processes for coexistence and two of the authors of the reports.


José Ramón Intxaurbe, from the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute, spoke of the reports that, at the request of the Basque Government, were carried out by the Institute with the aim of transferring elements of judgment to society to build a memory report. "It is a right and an obligation because the memory should be fair and have the guarantee of non-repetition." Thus, he recalled reports on people threatened by ETA, threats to the group of Basque regional police force (Ertzainas) and family members and another on how prison policy had affected relatives of prisoners. In all these cases, the University made a first quantitative approach aimed at raising society’s awareness of some facts and helping it reflect on that violence suffered.

The University supplemented these reports through the Centre for Applied Ethics, with more qualitative studies through the voice of people who suffer because "memory is either restorative or not." In this regard, Izaskun Saez de la Fuente referred to the report on extortion of entrepreneurs by ETA, whose objective was to give greater visibility to the silent suffering of more than 10,000 people. "The crime they suffered went unnoticed and, in fact, talking about it was considered taboo." It was an extortion that, in some cases, was inherited from parents to children and about which society did nothing. Professor Saez de la Fuente talked about another work carried out by the Centre, a methodological guide that provides tools to allow institutions to work on their past, and also about the book published by Deusto, "Memoria y reconciliación" that reconstructs the University’s history from the perspective of human rights violation and its commitments.

According to Mari Carmen Hernández, these reports by Deusto make the issue of memory widespread across society, and they are very important for history to be known, above all, for young people who have not experienced it. They offer a critical reflection that serves as learning because it delegitimises violence and suffering. In her case, she values very positively the "Restorative Encounters" in which she participated in Glencree because knowing the stories of suffering of others helped her to leave aside stereotypes, seek rapprochement and empathy.

"I am mentally exhausted." This is how Iñaki García Arrizabalaga began his presentation, who explained his experience as a victim that began when his father was murdered while he was at University. He went through moments of great hatred and resentment for what he had lived, until one day in which, thanks to the support given by Gesto por la Paz, he decided to change, leave hatred behind and start working for memory and coexistence. "The 'restorative encounters' marked my life. Today I work in the Adi-Adian programme. And although I often think that I would like to recover my normal life, we cannot allow ourselves to forget more than 50 years of our life. "

In his opinion, we must continue working because there are still many questions and things to do. He is uncertain about whether society is interested in working for memory and believes that these issues are of no interest to youth. He thinks, however, that "memory serves to delegitimise the use of violence for political purposes." In this regard, Professor Itxaurbe defends that society "need to know to be able to recognise."

Izaskun Saez de la Fuente recalled how it took society a long time to realise what it gained from the end of violence. They were years of silence and looking the other way that changed in the 90s, with the murder of Miguel Ángel Blanco. "Society did not speak out against it instantly." Hence, when asked whether memory events like this should still be held, her answer is yes since "we must insist that the present and the future cannot be constructed by forgetting the past." And she adds that youth’s ignorance about this issue is not due to their disinterest but rather because their parents and grandparents have not transmitted it; they have decided to forget it. "It is like a blanket of silence, before for fear and now, to turn the page." In her opinion, it is a mistake because "memory and its narrative construction is an issue that concerns us all. We must discuss what has happened to us. It is a duty towards the new generations, "she said.

Along these same lines, Mari Carmen attaches great importance to initiatives such as the one held at Deusto so that students can know what has been suffered in recent decades, "Society as a whole must be involved because when wounds do not heal - as is the case of the Civil War - they remain open. " She recalled when she lived the violence of persecution and murder of her husband for being a councillor of the People’s Party (PP); her loneliness and abandonment of her neighbours themselves. "Listening is very important because it helps not to tag people."

Fortunately, things have changed a lot, and now universities play a major role in creating and disseminating knowledge, conducting research ... Everything is well worth it, and it should be widely ensured that if work is done on this memory, violence will no longer be repeated in the future. "We have to change the way in which we have interpreted what happened in the past, and the University’s role is very important in this regard, insofar as it provides an account of this narrative. It is a great challenge”, the speakers concluded.


13/11/2019 - Mesa redonda “Memorias para la convivencia”