Not meaning to be grim, but this week I attended a showing of a documentary by Monika Borgmann called Massaker, and having done so it is difficult not to reflect upon it.
The subject of the film is a violent massacre that took place in two Palestinian refugee camps in 1982 at Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon. The event was particularly brutal and up to 2000 refugees were killed during the frenzied attacks.
The striking thing about this documentary is that it is composed almost entirely of interviews with 6 of the perpetrators of these crimes. Their identities are obscured at all times as they relate the extreme violence that was a natural part of their lives as militiamen.
The director attended the showing at the Amnesty International Centre in London, and she took a Q&A session afterwards. It was revealing. She described how it had been very hard to find any perpetrators of this crime who were willing to participate in the film.
That is not surprising. 25 years later these men lead ordinary lives as cab drivers, businessmen and even in some cases military advisors. The people they come into contact with every day have no idea of their past.
The reasons behind these attacks are complicated and ugly, but the biggest questions that one asks when watching these ‘ordinary’ men talking about their past are:
What can cause a person to disregard the values that make them human and become such a monster?
Is such a person special, or could it happen to any of us, under the wrong circumstances?
By Peter Muriuki