NOTE: Off-The-Grid Missions published a video earlier this week on Monday, June 28 via their official Facebook page detailing the ongoing horrific human rights violations against Deaf people in Haiti, particularly Deaf women and girls. As of July 3, 2021, Off-The-Grid Missions’ petition has over 16,375 signatures and they are in need of 100,000 signatures. The World Federation of the Deaf released a swift video response yesterday morning, also on their Facebook page, and attached a formal press release. For community accessibility, Deaf Vee Journal is sharing their videos along with full transcripts, including image and video descriptions. In light of this, some questions have come up that need to be answered. A separate article is forthcoming on a call to action e-mail template for those who wish to contact the decisions makers directly, on top of the change.org petition.
Off-The-Grid Missions’ Video (Video Link)
[Image Description: Angela Maria Nardolillo, founder of Off-The-Grid Missions, appears. Light-skinned female with long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail with braids, wearing a short-sleeved shirt with the Off-The-Grid Missions logo. Angela seems to be sitting in front of wooden cabin walls. Words appear next to her that say: Angela Maria Nardolillo, Founder, Off-The-Grid Missions]
“This is the hardest video I have ever had to make,” Angela signs, before pausing for a moment as she looks up in contemplation. “The deaf community in Haiti needs YOUR help.”
[The screen darkens before it shows a block of text that says: “WARNING! – extremely graphic details and images of violence against deaf people.” Angela reappears.]
“Since 2013 my organization, Off-The-Grid Missions, has been working closely with the deaf community in Haiti. We grow with them as we provide resources for them; we grow close to their families, their children; and we also respond to their emergencies.”
[The screen changes to a block of testimonial text from deaf Haitians: “they kill us because they believe we are cursed.]
Angela signs, “In Haitian Creole culture it is believed that disabled people are cursed.”
[The screen changes to a slide with text that says: “This stigma affects deaf people to the extreme; isolation and abuse from the time they are born; and leads to brutal forms of “ritual savagery.” Angela reappears.]
Angela signs, “I know this is extremely graphic.”
[The screen changes to a slide with text: “Viewer discretion is strongly advised.” A graphic and violent photo appears of three Black Deaf women laying bodies piled in a ditch. The photo is subtly blurred.]
Angela signs, “So far the deaf community in Haiti has lost 4 women.”
A photo and name of Majorie Célestin appears to the left of Angela as she finger-spells her name.
[Screen with text: she was raped by 6 men; 3 months later “they destroyed her”; she was found bleeding out her anus, heart removed, her eyes out of their sockets. Blurred photo of Majorie is revealed behind the text, she is exposed laying face-down in the sand.]
Angela signs, “Three more deaf women.”
[Photos and names appear on the screen: Jesus “Sophonie” Gelin, Monique Vincent, and Vanessa Previl.
Text and images pop up next: they were invited into a home (screen reveals three blurred photos of the three deceased women behind the text); where both men and women beat them, mutilated them with a machete, cut their tongues out, threw them into a ditch and burned them.]
Angela signs, “Majorie was a mother, Sophonie was a mother, and when Vanessa was killed, she was pregnant. There is no law that protects deaf people in Haiti; these crimes against humanity get no attention because deaf people are considered ‘worthless’; their bodies have been left like this until a family member or deaf person recover them; then buried like nothing even happened; deaf people in Haiti have ZERO human rights; they are at the absolute bottom [tier] even below the disabled community because disabled people without a hearing loss have the privilege to hear & communicate verbally; instead of deaf being labeled “deaf/sourd” society labels them “bèbè” which means ‘DUMB’ – a person who does not communicate verbally is DUMB. This creates barriers in accessing basic needs, work, and services; some are forced to work without pay; and neglect is common even during an emergency.”
Angela continues signing: “Our team had to push for a deaf woman to get medical treatment after a gunshot wound.”
[Video footage of a Black Deaf woman riding in a rocky ambulance ride. Her belly has a gunshot wound as her hand moves to cover it. Her stomach is bloated, a result of her ruptured intestines.]
Angela explains, “As the bullet remain lodged inside her, medical professionals denied her care because she’s deaf and forced her to go somewhere else –because they know these people cannot “speak-up”. This is all a result of this deep-rooted stigma. We are asking for the public’s support. You know that every time something happens, we get the photos and videos of the graphic aftermath; as the bodies of the very people we support are still there in the ditch on the ground –dead; as they lay with their tongues cut-out, heart removed, eyes hanging from their sockets, exposed, burned… why do you think my organization gets these photos? Because these people feel they have no one else to go to; there is no proper investigation, autopsy, no support, no changes – nothing. They need us – they need you – to fight for them. Because there is no one fighting for human rights for deaf people in Haiti; those with the power to make changes lack respect for deaf people; only deaf people are fighting for deaf people. There has been no public outcry and if deaf people speak-up, then they risk their lives. Please sign our petition.”
Screen of petition appears with a photo of four Haitian Deaf women and the title “Help End Horrific Human Rights Violations Against Deaf People in Haiti.” Signatures of 845 have signed with the [next] goal of 1,000. “Thank you for watching. Remembering the friends we lost.” Videos of Sophonie and Vanessa with Angela when they were alive. www.offthegridmissions.org
Closing screen: PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION at change.org/offthegridhaiti
Response from the World Federation of the Deaf (Video Link)
[The screen shows a white background with the logo of the World Federation of the Deaf, and a block of text that reads, “WORLD FEDERATION OF THE DEAF.” The screen fades before showing a light-skinned, light-haired and bearded masculine figure in a blue tuxedo, standing in front of brown wooden walls. The man’s name is Dr. Joseph J. Murray, and Dr. Murray is the WFD President. “Human Rights Abuses in Haiti” briefly appears as white text on a light blue block. The World Federation of the Deaf’s logo remains at the top right of the video, in all-white color. Captions appear at the bottom of the video.]
[Dr. Murray begins signing in international sign.] The World Federation of the Deaf has received information of systematic and deadly human rights violations against deaf women in Haiti.
The WFD is taking action, bringing reports of those abuses to investigators and authorities in the United Nations human rights system. We are working with Off The Grid Missions to bring this evidence to UN human rights investigators for immediate action.
The WFD wants to make it clear that human rights violations against deaf people in Haiti or anywhere in the world is unacceptable. The WFD is here to support deaf Haitians. We will be working with the United Nations to investigate those abuses. The human rights of all deaf people must [be] protected and promoted. These unacceptable abuses must end immediately.
[The screen abruptly fades to show a new display. The background is white, and the WFD logo reappears in blue. “WORLD FEDERATION OF THE DEAF” is displayed across the screen, in bold blue capitals. #DeafStrong and #WFDeaf appear as hashtags below the large block of text. www.wfdeaf.org is shown as another line of text below the hashtags. The Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter icons are shown at the bottom of the screen, indicating that WFD has a presence on all of those social media channels.]
The WFD created a press release, which can be read here: https://bit.ly/3jDeFBI
[Mary Pat, our Editor in Chief, appears in a long-sleeved black tee shirt with the Deaf Vee Journal logo on her upper left shoulder. Mary Pat is a light-skinned feminine-presenting person with brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. Mary Pat is seated in front of a black background, as she signs this commentary.]
Deaf women in Haiti are being brutally raped, murdered, and having their internal organs pulled out of their body and left out in the open for the public to see their militated bodies. The World Federation of the Deaf has announced on July 2, 2021, that they stand with “Off The Grid” a nonprofit organization.
In their statements, both Off the Grid Missions and The World Federation of the Deaf have made ambiguous comments in their press release to the community on whether this was internally known before 2 weeks ago when the petition first surfaced. The WFD works towards promoting and advancing human rights of deaf people and if these suspicions are true and they knew about what was happening in Haiti this makes them just as complicit by maintaining the silence about the murder of these women…the silence about systemic oppression AND violence against Deaf community members in Haiti, especially Deaf women and girls.
Another question is: Off the Grid Missions says in their petition on http://change.org (which has over 10,000 signatures) that they have been witnessing human rights violations since 2010, but the first death they report happened in 2016?
The community would like to know what kind of ways human rights organizations that have been aware of these violent acts have reached out to the Haitian government along with other decision-makers to stop these activities.