Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's a jungle out there!

On Tuesday morning, Luna chased a snake out of the dense vine that grows over one wall of our lakou. It struck at her, she hissed, it slithered around, I'm pretty sure I yelled and am absolutely sure that Mirlonde screamed and jumped around in terror. And then, of course, I grabbed my camera and followed it out onto the street for a photo op:
Mirlonde refused to go back out into the yard. She said that her neighborhood is better than ours, safer, because it's all concrete and the houses are so close together that there is no space for trees or weeds where snakes can hide. I didn't tell her that Ben picked up the snake and set it loose in our neighbor's yard (empty because their house collapsed in the earthquake).
Everyone says that there are no poisonous snakes in Haiti, but in Cameroon venomous snakes abound and a fear of snakes has been embedded into my subconscious since childhood. I am continually grateful to live in a rare Port-au-Prince neighborhood that is shaded by trees, with vines thick enough to harbor snakes, but am definitely watching my step in the garden these days.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Regarding MINUSTAH

One of the last things I did before I left MCC was co-author this position statement on MINUSTAH, the UN's peacekeeping mission in Haiti. If you're inclined to read it, get a cup of coffee and find a comfortable place to sit - it's lengthy. It draws from the analysis and research of many people, from former MCC service workers to MCC's Haitian partner organizations to research students and international human rights groups. For some reason the formatting of this blog didn't allow me to copy and paste the footnotes, so if you'd like a legit copy, complete with citations and the Appendix (Benchmarks for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal, as outlined in the August 2008 Report of the Secretary General), please let me know.

Submission to the UN Security Council
Recommendations for Future of the MINUSTAH Mission to Haiti
June 30, 2011

It has long been acknowledged that Haiti needs sustained commitment from the international community for socio-economic development, and this need has become more pressing since the devastating earthquake in January 2010. MCC and LAMP commend the attention being given to Haiti in this regard. However, we wish to highlight that insecurity in Haiti is not a result of warring groups or armed conflict, but rather a byproduct of poverty with deep historical and structural roots. We believe, along with the Haitian civil society organizations with whom we work, that stability, rule of law and socio-economic development in Haiti are not, nor should be, dependent on an international military presence. Therefore, we urge the United Nations to work towards the termination of the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti as soon as possible with a strategy that can build long-term sustainable peace.

In the upcoming deliberations concerning the renewal of Resolution 1944, we ask the Security Council to review MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti, addressing five specific concerns: 1) mission legitimacy, 2) the inappropriate use of military forces, 3) allegations of human rights abuses, 4) the need for greater mandate clarity, and 5) the feasibility of current benchmarks for timely withdrawal. Finally, we recommend that the Security Council to prepare a concrete timeline for the mission’s full withdrawal from Haiti.

1. Mission Legitimacy
MINUSTAH violates articles 8.1, 263-1, 98-3.3, and 139 in the Haitian Constitution, which affirm Haitian sovereignty and note that any international agreement, treaty, or covenant must be ratified by the Haitian National Assembly. MINUSTAH was authorized in 2004 by former Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, an unelected official, who did not seek the proper approval of the Haitian legislature for the mission’s presence. The lack of this legislative endorsement enforces the perception within the Haitian population of MINUSTAH as an unwelcome occupying force.

2.The Military Component
The military component of MINUSTAH’s presence is inappropriate in the current Haitian context for the following reasons.

Perception of MINUSTAH
With no warring parties, armed conflict, peace agreement to enforce, or threat of civil war, a military presence is unnecessary. The utility of MINUSTAH is countered by the perception by the Haitian population of MINUSTAH as being a heavily armed occupying force conjuring fear rather than a sense of safety. A well-trained police force of Haitians serving and protecting Haitians would be more effective and appropriate given the situation.

Relative Peace in Haiti and Comparable Countries without Peacekeeping Missions
There are countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region with much higher levels of insecurity that are not host to Peacekeeping Missions. In Jamaica, with a population of 2.6 million, there were 1428 reported murders in 2010. It is reported that approximately 700 homicides, out of a population of almost 9 million, took place in Haiti in the last year. Haiti has had a democratically elected government in place since 2006 and the recent peaceful transition of power to an opposition political party can be cited as further indication of the country’s relative stability. In fact, this fulfills one of the key benchmarks elaborated in 2008 for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal [see Appendix].

Government’s Request to Remove Chapter VII from Mandate
Prior to the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1840 in October 2008, President Rene Preval requested that reference to Chapter VII of the UN Charter be removed from MINUSTAH’s mandate , which would effectively eliminate the mission’s authorization to use force for reasons other than self-defense.

Responding to the Most Pressing Security Needs
A military component is inappropriate to meet protection needs of the most vulnerable in the Haitian population. An example of this is the persistent lack of preventative measures within the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Port au Prince. Lack of security and lighting has exacerbated gender-based violence (GBV). MINUSTAH itself has recognized that its mandate and the wider responsibilities of the international community require a reinforced effort to protect IDPs, including women and children, from their exceptionally vulnerable circumstances.

As of January 6, 2011, KOFAVIV, a Haitian grassroots women’s organization, documented over 640 cases of rape since the earthquake. SOFA, a Haitian Women’s Health Organization, documented 718 cases of gender based violence in their clinic from January to June 2010. Doctors without Borders reported 68 cases of rape in April 2010 at one of their clinics in Port-au-Prince. The vast majority of women living in camps who were interviewed reported being raped by two or more individuals, almost always armed and at night.

All of this occurs despite the presence of 8,651 military personnel and 3,146 UNPOL members on the ground. There is still a troubling lack of internal patrols within Haiti’s approximately 1,100 IDP camps. Since Human Rights Observers have started critiquing the lack of security in camps there has been in an increase in camp security. Currently there is a permanent presence of a 200-strong UNPOL force in 6 high-risk camps, in combination with daily patrols in 70 other priority areas. However, that leaves over 1,000 camps without any permanent presence or daily patrols. GBV in the camp is a much more real security risk than civil war, further highlighting the ineffectiveness of a peace-keeping force versus FPUs and civil police forces.

FPU’s as a More Viable Solution
Formed Police Units (FPUs) are more suitably trained for the security situation in Haiti than military forces. Military soldiers are not trained to handle the kind of civil unrest that frequently occurs in Haiti and this has been demonstrated time and again.

Most recently, during the first round of the 2010 presidential elections, MCC election monitors in the Artibonite were present in multiple voting centers when partisans stormed the centers, ripped ballots and stole ballot boxes while MINUSTAH soldiers stood by. A similar situation occurred in Cite Soleil. LAMP election observers in Soleil 19 were present when INITE party representatives took over a polling station and refused to allow non-INITE supporters to vote. A massive riot broke out, while dozens of MINUSTAH soldiers present were unable to respond. In such a situation, civilian police or FPUs would have had the training and experience to safeguard the election process. Military soldiers are not trained or equipped to make arrests, protect perpetrators and victims, investigate offenses, or submit police reports and fact finding papers that are the basis of criminal cases. It has been our experience that soldiers trained for combat actually pose a danger in situations of civil unrest. As such, we recognize that the military contingent should no longer be a part of the mission.

The perceived lack of legitimacy combined with the perception of the UN as an “occupying force” will persist so long as there is a presence of military personnel and equipment. Increasing the civilian police presence while decreasing the military presence would strengthen the PNH and allow them to begin taking over some of the roles currently carried out by soldiers and FPUs.

3. Human Rights Abuses
It is of additional concern that MINUSTAH soldiers have been implicated in human rights violations. We acknowledge that MINUSTAH’s mission is difficult and that causalities can occur, even when forces are attempting to protect a population. However, we believe that when unnecessary force is used, international agents in Haiti must be held accountable. LAMP’s co-founder and legal director first began documenting MINUSTAH human rights abuses in Cite Soleil in 2004 following the coup d’etat. Since then, LAMP has discovered and reported on abuses of power by MINUSTAH forces including use of excessive force to counter demonstrations. Other studies and reports have identified MINUSTAH soldiers as issuing threats of death, physical harm, and sexual violence. To date these allegations have not been investigated or addressed.

There have been numerous allegations of sexual exploitation perpetrated by MINUSTAH soldiers, none of which have been prosecuted by Haitian or international authorities. The Sri Lankan battalion was repatriated in 2007 after numerous allegations of transactional sex with underage girls and with the promise that Sri Lanka would pursue the case. To date there has been no information available on the prosecution of the battalion.

MINUSTAH soldiers in Haiti must respect Haitians’ human rights. Failure to investigate and prosecute human rights violations only delegitimizes the accomplishments of the mission.

On October 21, 2010, Haiti’s Health Ministry recorded over 1,000 cases of a cholera-like illness and 135 associated deaths in the Artibonite region. These were the first cases of cholera reported in Haiti in at least 60 years. By February 9, 2011, the Ministry of Health recorded 4,549 cholera-related deaths and 231,070 people infected. In early May, a UN panel linked cholera to a UN base in Mirebalais housing Nepalese soldiers. To date, no definitive responses have been carried out to address the violation of the Haitian population’s right to adequate water.

4. Mandate Clarity
Since MINUSTAH does not have a traditional peace-monitoring mandate, it has been difficult to determine specifically how the mission ought to operate. Similar peacekeeping missions in Africa have been implemented to monitor peace agreements. Such is the case in Sudan, where UNMIS ensured implementation of the country’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where MONUC was invited to observe the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. In the absence of such an agreement, MINUSTAH’s mission has been difficult to define and carry out.
The successes of MINUSTAH, such as decreased kidnapping rates and gang activity, have not hastened their departure, but rather expanded their role. The March 2011 Report of the Secretary General (S/2011/183) and current MINUSTAH mandate (S/RES/1944) describe the ever-increasing roles filled by MINUSTAH that are outside traditional peacekeeping and security-provision mandates, such as HIV/AIDS training and counseling programs, building dams and water catchment systems, managing cash for work programs, media campaigns for female legislative candidates, repairing schools, building roads, environmental awareness-raising on diaspora television stations in the United States, etc.

These are necessary objectives that will certainly affect sustainable growth in Haiti and that merit funding, but they do not require military personnel, and MINUSTAH’s highly publicized involvement in these efforts risks compromising the rest of the UN’s relief and development work in the eyes of much of the population. United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has programs in place to foster economic growth and strengthen the police and judicial systems such as the Rule of Law program to train magistrates and legal professionals.

MINUSTAH’s role in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and in reconstruction efforts, has been heavily criticized by aid workers in Haiti and Haitian civil society, who fear that the militarization of aid unfairly criminalizes Haitians. Globally, soldiers are not trained to carry out relief with tact and compassion but rather operate in the mindset of a conflict scenario. We would reiterate that a military response to social and economic problems often leads to increased violence and is ineffective in dealing with the root of structural problems.

As such, we question proposals to further integrate international efforts to reconstruct and develop Haiti with the existing mandate of the mission.

5. Benchmarks for Withdrawal
The August 2008 Report of the Secretary General (S/2008/586) outlines benchmarks for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal. Paragraph 74 of the August 2008 resolution states, “It is clear that if the benchmarks are met, Haiti will still need long-term support. However, they should help to identify a critical threshold of stability beyond which a peacekeeping presence could be progressively reduced and ultimately withdraw, and the country could contemplate reversion to a normal framework of bilateral and multilateral assistance.”

Despite the vague nature of the benchmarks, we are concerned that little reference has been made to them in subsequent mandates and reports. It would appear that there are currently no indicators by which MINUSTAH is measuring its effectiveness with the goal of eventual withdrawal from Haiti.

At this juncture it seems unclear whether or not all of these benchmarks need to be met before MINUSTAH can withdraw. MCC and LAMP respectfully question the appropriateness of requiring that socio-economic benchmarks be met by a military operation.

A MINUSTAH mandate that eliminates the military component of the mission and places more emphasis on police training and monitoring would create measurable indicators allowing the for the mission’s withdrawal.

Based on the above discussion, MCC and LAMP would like to make the following recommendations to the UN Security Council concerning the future of MINUSTAH.

Short-Term Recommendations:
  1. Address the absence of legal legitimacy for MINUSTAH’s presence by seeking approval for the mission from the Haitian National Assembly in accordance with Article 139 of the Haitian Constitution.
  2. Eliminate the Chapter VII Military Component of MINUSTAH and focus on police training and monitoring. 
  3. Separate the security and humanitarian components of MINUSTAH’s mandate, so that other UN agencies and NGOs can fulfill humanitarian and development functions independently from the mission and thus discontinue any further militarization of aid. 
  4. Respond to allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by members of MINUSTAH by investigating credible allegations and responding appropriately. 
  5. Improve security in the IDP camps, particularly against gender-based violence, through additional patrols of camps, installation of lighting and other security measures. 
  6. Re-evaluate and re-introduce benchmarks for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal into MINUSTAH’s 2011-2012 mandate.
Long-Term Recommendation:

Formulate an explicit timeline for MINUSTAH’s full withdrawal in coordination with the Haitian government. Close collaboration with the Haitian government will enable both parties to identify priority structural and capacity needs that must be addressed before MINUSTAH can be successfully terminated. Long-term sustainable development and peace is dependent upon the ability of the Haitian government to continue state-building activities in the absence of MINUSTAH.

About the Submitting Organizations:
MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) is the relief, development and peace building arm of Anabaptist churches in the US and Canada and has been working in Haiti for 53 years. MCC Haiti’s advocacy program seeks to address the root causes of poverty, injustice and violence in Haiti. MCC also supports partner organizations engaged in education, job training, literacy, conflict resolution and human rights.
MCC’s United Nations Liaison Office strives to be a voice for those with whom MCC works around the world.
The LAMP for Haiti Foundation Human Rights Program (LAMP) advocates for the respect and protection of basic human rights in the areas of greatest misery and poverty in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince. LAMP works at the cross section of human rights and medicine, housing both a human rights law office and a medical clinic in Bois Neuf, Cite Soleil, a slum of Port-au-Prince.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Saut d'Eau: Behind the Scenes

We go early, at 6 AM, to avoid the crowds, ra ra bands, and drunken afternoon revelry. While Ben takes pictures, I am perched on a rock overlooking the waterfall.

I revel in watching people take part in the festival. It's like watching a diorama, made up of a dozen flowing, shifting scenes, each separate but somehow all interconnected. There is something breathtaking about watching hundreds of strangers bathe together, communally worshiping by means of [what is to me] an extremely intimate act. And with such inhibition, too, because by bathe, I mean: sudsing up with soap and shampoo, scrubbing the callouses off of your feet, shaving your legs, brushing your teeth.

A Haitian friend likes to talk about the power of the Haitian collective. I've never seen that demonstrated so vividly. A woman at the top of the waterfall begins to sing and, collectively, instantly, the energy intensifies, rippling across the crowd and people are frantically praying, waving their arms, dancing... and then just as suddenly, they all stop. And a father picks up a bar of soap and resumes washing his baby, while the group of women next to him are gossiping and laughing, brushing their teeth, and occasionally breaking into song. Just past them, a young man is taking big swigs of rum as water from a cascade pounds his back.

Discarded clothes litter the waterfall. Empty bottles, candle stubs, broken kwi (the half-gourd bowls used in ceremony), and soap suds swirl together.
My pictures of Ben taking pictures:

Randomly, I am interviewed for television. My interview (in Creole) goes something like this:

Q: What is your name?
A [inciting confusion, always, since Alexis is a man's name]: Alexis
Q: When did you arrive in Haiti?
A: In July 2008.
Q: Do you live in Haiti?
A: Yes, I do, in Port-au-Prince.
Q: How long have you lived in Haiti?
A: For 3 years, since 2008.
Q: Are you here with your family?
A: Yes, I live here with my husband.
Q: And your children?
A: No, we don't have any children 
Q [incredulous]:You don't have children?
A: No, no children, [adding for approval]... not yet.
Q: Are you a doctor?
A: No, I'm not a doctor.
Q: What is your profession?  
A [stumbling]: Um, ah, I, um, work with an organization that, um, supports Haitian civil society and the Haitian social movement, advocating for human rights and...
Q [cutting me off]: What do you like about Haiti?
A [attempting to redeem myself]: There are so many things to like about Haiti! I like the people, I like the culture, I like the food, I like the art and the music, I like the language, I like the beautiful countryside - like where we are now, I like...
Q: Okay, thank you.

No kids, not a doctor. Why did I do feel like I am a disappointing interviewee? I have got to figure out to explain what it is that I do.
After last year's Saut d'Eau festival, Ben wrote this in an extended caption to accompany his photographs:

"Haitian pilgrims gather at the waterfall at Saut d'Eau on July 16th, the anniversary of the 1983 sighting of the Virgin Mary, alternately identified as the Vodou loa, or spirit, of Erzulie Freda, the Goddess of Love. The waterfall at Saut d'Eau is the site of the largest Vodou and Catholic pilgrimage in Haiti. A second sighting of the Virgin was reported during the American occupation. Each year, thousands of Haitian pilgrims make their way to Saut d'Eau to bathe in the sacred water and revel in the presence of the loa, particularly Erzulie and Damballah the Serpent, father of all life and keeper of spiritual wisdom, who is said to live in the falls. The water is believed to be curative and many women come to Saut d'Eau seeking fertility."
There is so much happening that I want to try to understand, but when I ask the people around me, they howl with laughter. What are the leaves that people are bathing with? - They're leaves. (Someone tells me that there are 7 different kinds. Basil is all that I recognize). What do they do? - They cleanse. Cleanse from what? (More laughter).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It rained last night.

And while we were sheltered inside with our generator, all I could think about were these families and our courageous friends that are mobilizing against the unlawful and inhumane evictions of displaced people.

"Just far enough to be forgotten": Follow this Amnesty International link to make sure that the 514 families of Sylvio Cator are not forgotten.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Now that we're back in Haiti

Ben's anti-social tendencies hit an all time high this morning when, after his computer crashed and we ran out of propane, he built a fire on our driveway to make coffee. To be fair, later we both braved rush-hour traffic on the motorcycle to get our propane tank refilled. We were 10th in line at the gas station and it only took 45 minutes.
We know have been so.bad at posting. We plead busyness and over-heatedness: the heat has been sweltering, resulting in multiple showers a day and restless nights.

We've both been working from home since I started my new job, which at the moment has me all tied up in research, interviews and editing for a very exciting project. Being at home all day is taking some getting used to and also has us using more electricity than previously. Sadly, our power inverter has not risen to the challenge.

We're actually feeling quite clever tonight, since it finally occurred to us to stoke up the portable generator that F&J gave us when they left Haiti. THANK YOU. Since it probably hasn't been used in a year, it took a few starts (okay, 2 hours) and a trip back to the gas station, but now we are happily recharging our feeble batteries so that we can keep sitting in front of our computers. And a fan.

We are glad to be back. Really.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Assignment

I spent last Monday and Tuesday shooting the beautiful empty beaches in the Southwest of the Dominican Republic.

My flight from Charlotte to Miami - incidentally, on the airline that paid me to take this trip - was delayed by 45 minutes because the luggage wasn't calculated when they loaded the plane. They had to re-calculate it while the pilot made a joke about his trigonometry being rusty. Because of the delay I made it to the gate in Miami as my plane was boarding, but then something happened to the engine next to me as we sped up to take off - there was loud bang and then the airplane stopped on the runway. The pilot said maybe a compressor blew out (whatever that means) but that we would be fine and not to worry. After ten minutes, he got back on the intercom to say that they had checked the book and we would be fine - it was just a problem with the autopilot and us accelerating too quickly - so they turned the plane around and took off successfully. The engine still sounded really strange and I've never been so sure that my flight would crash into the ocean.

I did get to the DR in one piece, rented a car, drove six hours to the Pedernales region, took a couple pictures, slept in my car next to a big lagoon in a national park and then took more pictures the next day of a bunch of different beaches, all hours apart. I filed my pictures by 3 PM and drove 6 hours back to Santo Domingo in time to have a beer at a gas station where I slept in my car again. I returned the car at 6am Wednesday morning, motorcycle-taxied, bussed and motorcycle-taxied again to the bus station. I bought my ticket to Port-au-Prince right before the bus boarded. 7 hours later, I arrived home to my beautiful wife, an indian meal and an avocado tree full of avacados.


I was hungry and in a hurry, so I bought this frozen pizza at a supermarket in Santo Domingo. At a military checkpoint, a fat soldier asked me for some and instantly produced a huge kitchen knife to cut himself a slice.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Livin' it up in Carolina

Prelude to a restoring and energizing (though not entirely relaxing) month of vacation, in which we:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why do we leave everything to the last minute?

On today's to do list:
  • Clean and pack away our camping gear, which we sadly do not have opportunity to use in Haiti
  • Clean and pack away Ben's mountain bike
  • Cut Ben's hair
  • Clean downstairs bathroom, post-haircut
  • Laundry, 3 loads
  • Drop our little diesel Rabbit off at my parent's house
  • Final internet downloads before we leave the land of fast internet
  • Take one last hike in the woods
  • Scour attic for Ben's health insurance information
  • Call my grandmother
  • Make lots of other calls
  • Pack
  • Weigh suitcases
  • Re-pack
  • Print flight itineraries 
  • Rest up for our 4 AM departure for the airport. Who ever thought 5:50 AM flights were a good idea?
We both fly out tomorrow, but Ben is leaving me to hand-carry motorcycle tires and smuggle a kombucha scoby into Haiti on my own. He's headed to the Dominican Republic for a 2-day photo assignment for American Airlines' in-flight magazine. I'll be cuddling with Luna and cursing mosquitoes and our slow internet connection by tomorrow afternoon.

Pictures of our fun vacation month coming soon...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Female Journalists & Researchers Respond To Haiti PTSD Article

GOOD magazine recently ran a piece written by Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland in which she details her disturbing experience in Haiti, subsequent PTSD, and her healing process. The crux of her story — that engaging in violent sex helped aid her recovery — is deeply personal, complicated, and unsettling. But so is PTSD, and recovery is never simple.

For all of its raw honesty, however, there's a real issue with the article: a lack of context. In absence of any real details about McClelland herself, it is all too easy to conclude that it was Haiti itself that pushed her over the edge. The dark and violent imagery she uses only serves to further that conclusion.

To 36 women who would know, that's a problem. Herewith, [our] open letter to the editors of GOOD.

To the Editors:

As female journalists and researchers who have lived and worked in Haiti, we write to you today to express our concern with Mac McClelland's portrayal of Haiti in "I'm Gonna Need You to Fight Me On This: How Violent Sex Helped Ease my PTSD."

We respect the heart of Ms. McClelland's story, which is her experience of trauma and how she found sexuality a profound means of dealing with it. Her article calls much needed attention to the complexity of rape. But we believe the way she uses Haiti as a backdrop for this narrative is sensationalist and irresponsible.

Between the 36 of us, we have lived or worked in Haiti for many years, reporting on and researching the country both long before and after the earthquake. We each have spent countless hours in the camps and neighborhoods speaking with ordinary Haitians about their experiences coping with the disaster and its aftermath. We feel compelled to intervene collectively in this instance because, while speaking of her own personal experience, Ms. McClelland also implies that she is speaking up for female "journalists who put themselves in threatening situations all the time," women who have "chosen to be around trauma for a living," who she says "rarely talk about the impact."

In writing about a country filled with guns, "ugly chaos" and "gang-raping monsters who prowl the flimsy encampments," she paints Haiti as a heart-of-darkness dystopia, which serves only to highlight her own personal bravery for having gone there in the first place. She makes use of stereotypes about Haiti that would be better left in an earlier century: the savage men consumed by their own lust, the omnipresent violence and chaos, the danger encoded in a black republic's DNA.

Sadly, these damaging stereotypes about the country are not uncommon. But we were disturbed to find them articulated in Ms. McClelland's piece without larger context, especially considering her reputation for socially conscious reporting.

Ms. McClelland's Haiti is not the Haiti we know. Indeed, we have all lived in relative peace and safety there. This does not mean that we are strangers to rape and sexual violence. We can identify with the difficulty of unwanted sexual advances that women of all colors may face in Haiti. And in the United States. And everywhere.

Unfortunately, most Haitian women are not offered escapes from the possibility of violence in the camps in the form of passports and tickets home to another country. For the thousands of displaced women around Port-au-Prince, the threat of rape is tragically high. But the image of Haiti that Ms. McClelland paints only contributes to their continued marginalization. While we are glad that Ms. McClelland has achieved a sort of peace within, we would encourage her, next time, not to make Haiti a casualty of the process.

In our own writings, we have gone to great lengths to try to understand and address the issue of trauma—as well as sexual violence—with sensitivity. As women who know and love Haiti, we are deeply troubled by Ms. McClelland's approach.


Lisa Armstrong, freelance reporter, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grantee

Amelie Baron, freelance reporter, RFI and Radio France

Pooja Bhatia, journalist and lawyer

Edna Bonhomme, PhD Candidate, Princeton University

Carla Bluntschli, Haiti activist

Natalie Carney, multimedia journalist, Feature Story News

Edwidge Danticat, writer

Alexis Erkert Depp, Haiti activist

Natasha Del Toro, video journalist, TIME

Isabeau Doucet, freelance journalist and producer, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, CSMonitor

Susana Ferreira, freelance journalist

Allyn Gaestel, freelance reporter, CNN, Los Angeles Times

Leah Gordon, artist and photographer

Michelle Karshan, Haiti activist and researcher

Kathie Klarreich, Knight International Journalism Fellow and author of Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Vodou and Civil Strife in Haiti

Sasha Kramer, SOIL

Nicole Lee, Esq., President, TransAfrica Forum Inc.

Carmen Lopez, filmmaker and journalist

Melinda Miles, Founder and Director, Let Haiti Live

Eleanor Miller, freelance journalist

Arikia Millkan, Community Manager of Haiti Rewired

Carla Murphy, founding editor, Develop Haiti

Maura R. O'Connor, freelance foreign correspondent

Leah Nevada Page, economic development consultant

Claire Payton, PhD Candidate, NYU, Haiti Memory Project

Nathalie Pierre, PhD Candidate, NYU

Andrea Schmidt, Producer, Al Jazeera English

Jeena Shah, LERN Fellow, Attorney at Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Alice Smeets, photojournalist

Alice Speri, freelance journalist

Maggie Steber, photographer, educator, curator, author of Dancing on Fire

Chelsea Stieber, PhD Candidate, NYU

Ginger Thompson

Emily Troutman, freelance writer and photographer, AOL, AFP

Amy Wilentz

Marjorie Valbrun, contributing writer at the and blogger at

Note: The views expressed in this letter represent those of individual authors and signatories and do not necessarily represent the opinions of their organizations.


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