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‘No jeans or high heels for me’

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© Marielle van Uitert

Niver (33), joined FARC at 17. 'What am I going to do when I return to society? The question should be what we can give back to society. I want to educate people about Che Guevara, our liberator Simón Bolivar and Marx. When I joined FARC, I was a poor farmer and had nothing to lose. After all these years I have learned so much that I want to give a lot to the people. A better Colombia is not a better car or a bigger house – it’s a Colombia where there is food and education for everyone.'

Marielle van Uitert

Marielle van Uitert

Johana (25), joined FARC at 14. 'I could barely read or write before I joined FARC. Here I learned all that. It took some time to get used to living in the mountain as a guerrilla soldier: washing in the river, peeing in a hole in the ground and wearing a uniform. I cannot imagine myself wearing high heels or jeans. I will feel such happiness when there is peace.'

Marielle van Uitert

Marielle van Uitert

Fredy (35), joined FARC at 21. 'The first thing I’m going to do is visit my father. He is old and still lives on the farm where I grew up. The most difficult part of returning to society will be living in close proximity to many people. The rhythm of civilian life is so different to the rhythm here in the jungle. But I look forward to peace, and to returning to society and continuing to help it move forward.'

Marielle van Uitert

Marielle van Uitert

Maryluz (37), joined FARC at 17. 'I don’t want to return to society – I’m so used to living in the mountains. I gave birth to three children here. I could not keep them; they had to leave me after three months. The youngest is nine years old. His father was killed in the war, like the fathers of the other two. I have no picture of my kids here – too dangerous. The two eldest are studying in Medellín, they do not want to enter FARC. When the peace is signed, I’ll live with my youngest.'

Marielle van Uitert

Marielle van Uitert

Diego (19), joined FARC at 17. 'I will consider a peace agreement as the ultimate sign to continue our struggle for a dignified life for everyone. We keep on fighting, not with weapons but with words. I’ll remain committed to FARC, but maybe I’ll be a farmer again…'

Marielle van Uitert

Marielle van Uitert has been a war and conflict photographer for over a decade. paralleluniversum.nl

Sytske Susie Jellema is a Dutch journalist, based in Colombia, currently making a documentary on the restitution of land in the country.

New Internationalist issue 497 magazine cover This article is from the November 2016 issue of New Internationalist.
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