Ladies in white

Article

October 17, 2021

The Ladies in White (Spanish Movimiento Las Damas de Blanco, "Laura Pollán") are a group of Cuban women who advocate respect for human rights in their home country. The women's group of the Cuban opposition came into being in 2003 as an association of relatives and partners 79 journalists critical of the government, opposition politicians and human rights activists (the so-called "Group of 75") who had been arrested as part of the Cuban state violence of the "Black Spring" and sentenced to long prison terms and for their liberation the group fought with the Cuban government. As a result of this publicly fought, especially internationally much-noticed fight and the sometimes violent persecution suffered by the Cuban state organs, the women in white became Cuba's best-known human rights group. With the release of the last of the political prisoners arrested in 2003 in March 2011 and the temporary departure of a large number of its original members, the group has not ceased its activities, but continues to protest against human rights violations by the Cuban government in public demonstrations. In honor of their spokeswoman, who died in October 2011, the ladies in white added Laura Pollán to their group names a few days later.

Activities

The largest group of women in white marches every Sunday in the Cuban capital Havana with gladioli in hands along Quinta Avenida after attending mass in the church of Santa Rita de Casia in the Miramar district. Similar but much smaller and less noticed activities are carried out in other parts of the country. The women in white wear white clothing, which symbolizes both peace and the innocence of the men and sons arrested. Until they were released, the women carried pictures of the prisoners with them to publicly draw attention to their fate. Over the years, the immediate relatives of the political prisoners have been joined by numerous sympathizers - the so-called Damas de Apoyo ("support ladies") who take part in the silent marches. To avoid infiltration of the group by Cuban secret service employees, however, the Damas de Apoyo are not involved in the decision-making process of the actual women in white, who are made up solely of life partners and direct female relatives of those arrested in spring 2003 The first representatives joined the Sunday meetings of the mothers' committee "Leonor Pérez" (see separate section below) in the Church of Santa Rita from March 30, 2003 and encouraged other members of the "Group of 75" to do so. The name Damas de Blanco was used from around June 2003 after it was introduced by an independent journalist in a report on the women's demonstrations. Only about three or four of the women in white had been critical of the government before their husbands or male relatives were arrested. Many of the women first met in or on the outskirts of the secret service headquarters, where those arrested were interrogated. By March 2011, the 79 opposition activists arrested in 2003 and subsequently sentenced to long prison terms were released early on parole. The greatest number of them and their relatives left for Spain immediately, which was suggested to them by representatives of the Cuban and Spanish governments and the Catholic Church of Cuba. In Spain, the majority of the original women are now in white, who also maintain contact with the rest of the group who remained in Cuba

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