All is peaceful at the newly-opened center for the victims of torture, light years away from the horrors that the men and women who attend it experienced for periods that could last for years.
The new center, in north London, is run by the charity Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, set up in 1985, and was opened last month.
Most of its patients come from Turkey, Iran and Africa. Last year the foundation treated 2,100 new patients. In 2004, it says, there are "a few thousand." They are aged between 16 and 40 and there is a high proportion of under-18s. For years the number of women victims has been growing.
"We try to ease the suffering caused by organized torture," said Charlotte, one of the doctors at the center, which has a staff of about 20 doctors and counsellors and several interpreters. They provide medical treatment, psychological support and material assistance.
Many of the center's patients are asylum-seekers without housing or resources. The center provides the medical reports that are essential for any request for asylum as well as helping with everyday formalities.
It also specializes in identifying different types of torture practiced around the world.
According to Charlotte, who is writing a report on sexual violence in Chechnya, this is an important activity "because human rights organizations don't know a lot about the situation in some countries."
According to foundation spokesman Andrew Hogg, "torture is becoming more and more scientific. They put water on the skin before electrocution."
Methods differ from country to country. In Turkey "they try not to leave traces," Hogg says, while in Africa "they don't care."
Electric shocks, whippings, rape, fake executions and sleep deprivation are all used to break the victims physically and psychologically. Medical and psychological help are at the heart of of the center's operations. All the patients have been tortured or witnessed torture of family members, whether they have been politically active themselves or just close to dissidents. They find it hard to talk of their experiences.
"It takes time -- months, even years -- to reveal their history," said Charlotte. "Some may not ever say anything."
The hardest part is winning their confidence, making them feel sufficiently at ease to open up.
"Torture would destroy anybody's trust in the whole world," Charlotte said.
Using donated money the Foundation built the new center, at Finsbury Park, since the previous building brought back painful memories.
"Some patients panicked while in long corridors or small rooms," said Hogg. "It reminded them of torture."
The architecture of the center takes this aspect into account. From the outside it looks like a sports center: large, modern, with walls painted in lilac and white. The inside is light, with plenty of curves and large open spaces.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete