Sunday, November 7, 2010


A while ago, I read a book called Long way Gone; Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. It's the story of his life in Sierra Leone where he went from being terrorized by boy soldiers, to becoming one. Pray the Devil back to Hell reminded me of this book because it's a close up look at the children who go through the process of becoming child soldiers, and the atrocities they perform while in the "military." Unlike Beah's story, there is a happy ending for more than just one person, in fact because of strength and courage of these women the war was ended. The story is about the war in Liberia, and about the damage it caused and how a group of women (who traditionally have very little power) stand up and take control of their country again, or at least they do the best they can to control it.

The war broke out in 1989, and had been raging since then, with Muslim war lords controlling and terrorizing the countryside and a self-elected christian dictator controlling the city (Charles Taylor). The country had been at war for years, with both sides recruiting the male children they encountered in the villages they took over and drugging them with cocaine and weed. The boys are so brain washed, and drugged that they do whatever they want. They are handed AK-47's and are told to kill their enemies, anyone else they come across they can do whatever they like with. The children rape, murder and torture and perform horrible war crimes and crimes against humanity and they have no idea that they are doing it. To escape the children villagers run into the city and stay in a refugee camp that largely resembles what can only be compared to a World War II Jewish ghetto. There are no jobs, there is no food and no one can do anything about it. Despite the people crying out to the leaders for peace, nothing happens. 

Finally a group of christian and muslim women joins forces and day after day they silently protest the war. Camping outside the fish market and singing peace songs when the president's convoy passes. They all wear white and hold hands, and pray. They carry signs telling women to ask for peace, and to stand up and do something against their husbands, sons and nephews that are all fueling the war. After a long time of waiting, and protesting the Charles Taylor and the rebel War Lords finally give in to the women's protests and go to the peace meetings in Ghana, where Charles Taylor is accused of crimes against humanity. He flee's Ghana and returns to Liberia leaving his convey to continue with the peace talks in his absence. 

After a very long time it becomes obvious that the peace talks are going no where, and the women become upset and barricade the men inside the office and refuse to let them out until there is peace. They even go so far as to strip to force them into the peace talks. 

Eventually their plan works and a peace treaty is signed. A temporary government will take over and Charles Taylor will be exiled, but when the troops are told to turn over their guns, violence erupts once again and it is the women who take control and help bring the boy soldiers back to their senses.

This documentary is a shocking look into the lives of those who suffered during the Liberian Civil war. The footage of the children with dilated pupils and AK-47's proudly holding up skulls and shooting people with smiles on their faces was chilling. The footage is either from old news clips or are new interviews from the women who are describing what they went through and how they joined the movement. It strikes right to the core of a person's body to hear the stories the women tell, and in some cases see the footage that proves it. This movie was well put together, the footage moves from one horrific scene to another, then perhaps to a landscape shot or maybe the face of a child in the refugee camps. Then flashes to a scene of a grinning boy soldier and then to a screaming little girl, with sounds of reporters and people screaming in the background. It constantly reminds you that what these women did was incredible and what they had to put up with was atrocious. Every day that these women went out and protested they could have been killed, but instead the country caved under the pressures of it's mothers, sisters and aunts and even the drugged, half dead and brain washed soldiers gave in and handed their guns to these women. The story itself is empowering to all women, they used everything they had to stop the war. They gave up their jobs, they boycotted sex and they forgave the men that raped and tortured them and they won peace for their country. 

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