Véronique Nahoum-Grappe is an ethnologist and anthropologist, a specialist in war crimes and conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Chechnya, and a member of the magazine’s Syria-Europe and Russia-Europe committees Mind. Host of 64 ‘of TV5MONDE, he formulates a precise and complete definition of rape as a weapon of war and genocide. In light of his experiences and her studies, he also explains why, for her, it is important that rape is considered torture and named as such.
Interview with Véronique Nahoum-Grappe
TV5MONDE: Do Russian soldiers use rape as a weapon of war?
Veronique Nahoum-Grappe : This rape crime, first of all, is torture. All rape is torture, all torture is rape. Then it is a crime of contamination, a crime in which the shame, the contamination, turns on the side of the victim: if I spit on you, it is you who must wash, it is you who are dirty.
Thirdly, it is a crime that presupposes a situation of extreme domination: soldiers, armed, males, numerous, facing unarmed civilian populations, exhausted by weeks of siege, with children and the elderly. Beyond physical strength, they have political strength: they are the representatives of the new power. They have the uniform. You can’t call the police for help, because they are the police. This presupposes an impunity from above which is terrifying. Many refugees told me ‘they could do anything’. And in ‘do it all’, you have a vertigo: impunity.
Finally, it is a crime that presupposes, in war propaganda, the construction of a collective enemy, which distinguishes the sadistic crime of a madman from an act that has political significance in a war context. It is not only the president of Ukraine who must be eliminated as a political enemy, but a collective enemy, namely children, grandparents, old aunts, history, language … This collective enemy against which we unleash a hatred that extends to the whole identity of this nationality, it is not just that we would like to destroy it and that it is gone, we would like it not to be born, that it never was.
Can we talk about genocide, as does President Zelensky or even Joe Biden?
In the juridical sense I do not comment, but I can give you the arguments that, in my opinion, allow us to identify a genocidal logic, from the moment in which the enemy is collective and we want to eradicate it, not only to destroy it, and which regrets being born. Many testimonies show that cemeteries are systematically bombed. Many testimonies show that Ukrainian school books on Ukrainian history are burned in the invaded areas.
What is in the center is this kinship tree where the roots are the Ukrainians as a nation, who were born there, and the buds are in front of us children. Look at the language: we violate a grave, we violate a cemetery, we violate a woman … Because after all, by uprooting the cemetery, transforming it into a meadow or a prison, the traces of the past are being removed, the roots.
By raping the woman who gives birth to the child, and in so doing the future of the nation, you are invading its future. Furthermore, there are Russian soldiers who have told the women ‘you will no longer have Ukrainian children’. And this meaning, which is not exactly political, but which is conveyed by a power and its war propaganda – it is in the words – gives the soldiers permission to do so. And if they are rewarded in addition, which is the case …
Putin made the effort to illustrate my thread on domestic violence tonight. “If you like it, if you like it, you have no choice but to support it, my dear”, was his phrase to evoke Ukraine in the face of the Minsk agreements. The expression clearly refers to rape
– Anna Colin Lebedev (@colinlebedev) February 7, 2022
You worked on the war in Chechnya, where the rape of Russian soldiers was already a reality against women, but also against men. This propensity of the military to rape is perhaps also allowed by the words of Vladimir Putin. In February, in a message to Ukraine shortly before the war, the Russian president did not say: “my dear, whether you like it or not, you will have to put up with it.” It’s a rapist’s speech …
Yes, Putin borrowed this language from the Leningrad thugs, manly, obscene, gang leader. He is playing political seduction by putting laughter on his side when he talks about killing terrorists “even in the toilet”. No one escapes war rape, not even men or the elderly.
What is different for women is that it is an ongoing crime. In traditional religious cultures, they are hunted by their families, sometimes murdered to redeem their honor. It is a continuous crime in a tragic perspective that is the daughter of the enemy. In Ukraine some girls are already pregnant. The crime of rape uses human sexuality, lovemaking to make hate. The idea of birth, of the small child, which is joy in most cultures, turns into hell here. That is why we must give this crime the name of torture to remove the notorious side of sexuality.