QUITO, ECUADOR – Keli did not leave Colombia voluntarily. Neither did Luis. And neither one of them grew up thinking they would one day be labelled a refugee. The two of them fled very different situations of violence in Colombia, what together epitomize the complexities of the ongoing war in the country.
Keli – which is not her real name due to security reasons – knows that her life is at risk if she goes back to Colombia. She was brought to Ecuador by human traffickers less than a year ago and for months was sold as a prostitute in a small border city before she managed to escape.
The 22-year-old does not like to talk about those times however, which forced her into being vulnerable and weak. The young woman is the daughter of two FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas, and grew up around violence, the guerrillas’ struggle and was taught to stay strong.
“We saw so many things, so one gets really strong. You can’t be scared of death there,” Keli told teleSUR from Quito, Ecuador.
Growing up in the western state of Valle del Cauca, it was a common sight for Keli to see dismembered bodies on the side of the road or hear gun shots while at school – what she said was mainly the work of paramilitary groups in the area.