(Guyana Guardian) – While the world was happily celebrating International Women’s Day on Wednesday, the international community and Guatemalans were thrown into a state of mourning after news emerged that twenty-two protesting teenage girls were burnt to death in a fiery fire at a Guatemala children’s home.
An Al Jazeera reporter who was covering the incident in the Central American country yesterday told the Guyana Guardian that other girls who survived the fire had explained that they have repeatedly complained about sexual abuse and overcrowding at the children’s home but were ignored.
They then decided to launch a protest action in hope that the international media can highlight their plight.
But regrettably, the media is now covering their deaths instead of their sexual abuse claims.
And while survivors say that they are not certain how the fire was started, local authorities are blaming the young girls for starting the fire.
Many parents who had committed their teenage daughters to the home for troubled girls are said to be in mourning outside of the burnt out facility as they try to ascertain whether their daughters are among the dead, but no answers were forthcoming from the authorities.
While several others were badly burnt, Guatemalan authorities are still busy recovering the charred remains of the victims, leading to suspicions that the death toll can turn out to be higher.
The girls whose ages range from 13 to 17 years old were placed in the facility because they were either a victim of sexual abuse, were homeless, not wanted by relatives, or were committed by the court for wandering or other offenses.
In blaming the children for their demise, the head of Guatemala’s social welfare agency, Carlos Rodas, had explained that the girls were not protesting about sex
He could not say why they would have wanted to escape from the facility.
However, he reiterated that all of the more than forty others who had escaped during the fire were recaptured and placed in other children homes.
Nonetheless, the children’s death has certainly saddened and angered Guatemalans who are questioning whether the authorities could have averted the disaster by focusing more on the complaints and overall welfare of the young girls.
The Spanish-speaking country has since declared three days of national mourning.
Guatemala is located in Central America, and is bordered by Panama, and the Caricom member state Belize, with whom it has an ongoing border dispute.