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'Comfort women' urges Japan to apologize as survivors' time running out

Updated: 2014-10-27 11:32

TOKYO - Almost seven decades have passed since the end of World War II, and for a group of women who suffered from Japanese wartime atrocities, their tough fight for dignity is compounded by ongoing fears that time left for them to witness justice is fleeting.

The women, who were forcibly abducted and served to Japanese soldiers in brothels run by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war in countries and regions occupied by Japan, are known as "comfort women", and most survivors right now were mainly teenagers at that ruthless time.

The comfort women issue always remains headline news both here and in victim countries, as the government here has spared no effort to whitewash the wrongdoing with its tricky wording on the world-recognized "Kono Statement" that offers an official apology to the victims.

The latest case was Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying recently that no evidence can be found to prove the comfort women were "forcibly recruited" and the government does not recognize then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono's words accepting "forcible recruitment" during a press briefing after the release of the 1993 Kono Statement.

However, for Felicidad De los Reyes, an 86-year-old Filipino, a victim of such sexual slavery, Suga's remarks are ridiculous since she herself is a living testimony to refute the Japanese top government spokesman.

Reyes was still a school girl in 1943 and was enrolled in a program to welcome Japanese soldiers in her school where a garrison of the Japan's Imperial Army was based.

"I was No 7 in the program that was held on a Friday. The following week on Tuesday, two Japanese soldiers came to our class room and said the No 7 should come with us," Reyes told Xinhua in an exclusive interview at the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace in Tokyo, adding the soldiers said that they had prepared a gift for her in the garrison.

"I was astonished and asked why, but my teacher told me that I should go with them or you might be killed. You know you can not disobey them as the Japanese occupied our country," said Reyes.

Reyes, who was only 14 at that time, said the Japanese took her to temporary buildings for women who do chores for the Japanese troops in the back of the school and she were pushed into a room where she suffered the worst nightmare of her life.

"I was raped by three Japanese soldiers. They slapped me in the face and kicked me in the stomach. I was in terrible pain and tried to resist but more blows were delivered and finally I lost consciousness. What I remember is that I was raped by three soldiers and heard their shameless laughs after they left the room, " Reyes recalled.

Reyes was imprisoned for days but was finally released by the soldiers as she got a fever and was too weak to stand. "During the days in the room, I also heard cries from other girls or women," she said.

When asked about whether she acknowledges the Japanese government's viewpoint on wartime sex slavery, the old women cried, trying to wipe the tears from her deep-wrinkled face, and said it is wrong that the Japanese government denies its wrongdoings.

"They committed many crimes in our country. They killed so many people, even infants," she said.

"The question in my mind is that why have we been fighting for so long? For so many years. We filed cases and lost them, even in the United States we lost. So until now, we have had no justice, why?"

"We want justice from the Japanese government," she continued, "We want the truth to be recorded in history books so that the younger generations can read what happened to us. For us, the Kono Statement is not enough. If the Japanese government accepts the facts, they must compensate and apologize to us so that it will be a little bit easier for our pain."

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