A drone hovered over the house. Then dozens of riot police and special forces violently burst in with weapons of war and dogs. They abducted her. They arbitrarily took our sister, Suyen Barahona. Today held as a political prisoner with more than 165 Nicaraguans unjustly incarcerated because they exercised their right to think freely.
Suyen has a contagious laugh. She loves life and is a person of fierce hope. She has a profound love for her country and lives out her principles of solidarity and justice.
As a child Suyen was quiet, observant but she was also independent. Perhaps because she grew up with over-protective older siblings or perhaps because she was the youngest for many years, she learned to defend herself and to articulate her positions at an early age. During her years at Colegio Centro America the motto “to love and serve” became her own.
She volunteered to play with the children at La Mascota Hospital and she taught children to read and write in El Recreo -one of Managua’s poorest neighborhoods-. It was during these school activities where she met her beloved best friend Ana Margarita Vijil. Together they have worked for the country they love so much.
Suyen has always had a keen interest in Nicaraguan young people having opportunities. She never failed to find time to read or edit an essay by a young man or woman applying for a scholarship that could help them realize their aspirations. I remember on more than one occasion, she said, “It is difficult to be a young person in this country. They just need a little support.” We have run into several young people, many unknown to us, who have told us how Suyen helped them believe in themselves and helped them elevate their voice.
Suyen, a name from the Asian origin of our family, means “precious jewel.”
She has an unwavering belief in women’s empowerment, and she has worked towards their independence and the realization of their dreams. In 2013 she supported a group of women entrepreneurs by providing business administration workshops. She shared her enormous excitement and admiration for these women’s creativity and ingenuity with us.
Her nieces speak of how their aunt has been an example to them. She has taught them how to be strong girls and support other women. Her eldest niece narrates:
“My aunt Suyen is joyful, and she is an empowered woman. She is courageous, empathetic, resilient, kind and funny. She has always taught us to be super power girls and that we should show the strength, courage and power of girls and women. She encouraged us to participate in activities that serve others. Thanks to her I began visiting a nursing home. She also told us to try new things and so my sister got involved in theater classes. She leaves an impression wherever she goes and her name is engraved in the hearts of those who know her”.
For us, her family, her determination, and tenacity became even more evident when she became a mother. After an emergency cesarean she gave birth to her little miracle. Her baby, born at 32 weeks, had to remain in the hospital for a month. Despite her fresh wound and without a second thought she traveled daily to the hospital, sometimes three times a day, to care for her son. While there, she met Grace a tiny premature baby whose mother could not breastfeed. Immediately, Suyen shared her breast milk with her. This is the way she approaches life. In adversity she moves forward with her unwavering determination, encouraging those around her, sharing what she has with those in need, always with a smile.
It has been similar with her activism. She worked tirelessly in defense of the environment putting her knowledge and her studies at the service of the country. When she shared with us that she wanted to enter politics, we were completely taken aback, so she said, “Well then, tell me? Is there any other way in which we can peacefully bring about change?” Several years before 2018 you would see her with a small group of people at traffic lights with her posters demanding citizens’ rights and free and fair elections.
After April of 2018, with her eyes filled with tears she spoke to us of the pain of the mothers who had lost their children and of the families of political prisoners held in the prisons. She continued protesting, civically, firm in her convictions. She continued in solidarity with journalists, activists and feminists while demanding the liberation of all political prisoners.
When we asked her if she was not afraid, she responded, “It is important to control it and keep moving forward despite the fear.” She is an example of never giving up. She is an example of solidarity and love. She would say, “I want my son and the young people of Nicaragua to be able to resolve issues without resorting to violence. We must create a culture of tolerance, of participation.”
She is our precious jewel. From prison, after countless interrogations and more than 7 months of having her taken from us, she continues to resist, her spirit of solidarity ever present. “I am worried about the elderly [imprisoned]. I insist that it is unjust, that they cannot be treated in this way”, she shared.
On New Year’s Eve, in addition, to telling us how very much she loves us, her words of encouragement were: “My mother’s name is Esperanza. I am filled with her. Let’s continue united. Courage. Justice and Liberty.”
Through her commitment she has wanted to help break the cycle of violence and build a Nicaragua based on respect for human rights, democratic principles, inclusion and justice. By accepting the presidency of UNAMOS and by defending the human rights of all people, she has had to face persecution, incessant harassment, arbitrary arrest, isolation and solitary confinement… yet, she did not shy away from this moment in history. Quite the contrary. She has faced the challenge with courage, integrity, and dignity.
The isolation faced by political prisoners violates all human rights. It is cruel and inhumane. We demand our right to weekly visits. Above all we want her immediate and unconditional freedom, and we know that Suyen, above all, wants the freedom of ALL political prisoners.