The Clyde Snow Social Justice Award Committee is very pleased to announce that this year’s awardee is the Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados y Detenidos Desaparecidos de Calama (AFEDDEP, the Association of Relatives of Executed and Missing Political Prisoners of Calama). This group of women has been searching for the remains of their murdered husbands, fathers, and sons in Chile’s Atacama Desert for over four decades. Their search in the driest and most desolate place on Earth, and the pressure that they put on authorities to release information about their loved ones began barely a month after the military coup in Chile on September 11, 1973. On October 19, a group of working men from Calama were disappeared as part of a program to suppress dissent that became known as the Caravan of Death.
In spite of the danger to themselves and their families, and in spite of years of stonewalling and lies, the Agrupación did not relent in the search for their loved ones’ remains, nor in the search for the truth about what happened to them. What began as a group of strangers thrown together by incomprehensible circumstances became an organization that now includes three generations of relatives. Whether digging in the desert with their bare hands, filing legal action against the country’s military leaders, going on a hunger strike, leading a silent vigil during mass commemorations, or flinging flowers into the desert because they did not know where their loved ones were buried, the Agrupación has provided inspiration and a moral focal point for their country.
The Clyde Snow Social Justice Committee felt that this group embodied the spirit of the award, to recognize the efforts of those who strive to restore the humanity and dignity of communities that have suffered human rights violations.