The Foreign Service Journal, January 2010
26 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 0 he invitation fromAr- gentina’s ambassador to the United States, Hector Timerman, simply requested “the pleasure of your com- pany at a gathering of friends to honor Patt Derian” on the evening of June 22, 2009. There was no title before the guest of honor’s name — nothing to indicate she was a former assistant secretary for human rights, let alone the very first person to hold that office. The invitation assumed the guests already knew Ms. Derian, who left the U.S. government in 1981. But if a reminder were needed about why the Argentine ambassador might be hosting this event, it was found in the following words: “We will also be screening a short documentary, ‘Abue- las 30 Años’ (Grandmothers, 30 Years).” This documentary (which was not shown commercially in the United States) had won a journalism award from Argentina’s government news agency, Telam. The 15-minute film mixes news footage and interviews with elderly women who have been searching for more than three decades for their grandchil- dren, the children of the “desaparecidos” (disappeared). The Grandmothers During Argentina’s military dictatorship from 1976 until 1983, as many as 30,000 people were seized and sent to secret detention centers, which few left. Sometimes children were abducted with their parents; sometimes pregnant women were taken who may have given birth to children in the pris- ons. The fate of the children was kept secret, but rumors per- sisted about adoptions by prospective parents who did not ask too many questions. In contrast to the frightened silence prevailing in Argentina during that time, a few brave women in white headscarves marched in the streets, with photos pinned to their lapels, ask- H ONORING P ATT D ERIAN N EARLY THREE DECADES AFTER LEAVING OFFICE , THE FIRST ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS RECEIVES A RARE TRIBUTE . B Y D IANA P AGE T Diana Page is a media relations officer at the State Depart- ment Foreign Press Center. Prior to joining the Foreign Serv- ice in 1990, she worked as a journalist covering Latin America. She was a United Press International correspon- dent in Argentina from 1972 to 1979. Argentine Ambassador to the U.S. Hector Timerman and former Assistant Sec- retary for Human Rights Patt Derian. Photos courtesy of the Argentine Embassy, Washington, D.C.
Made with FlippingBook