Diakonia - People change the world
A group of refugees as they give up and surrender to the army in Nebaj February 1988. Photo by Ulf Aneer. A group of refugees as they give up and surrender to the army in Nebaj February 1988. Photo by Ulf Aneer.

Unique photo exhibition in Guatemala

The exhibition, by photographer Ulf Aneer, is an illustration of Guatemala's violent and complicated development during the last decades. It was inaugurated on the 29th of November by Bo Forsberg, Secretary General of Diakonia, and the Swedish Embassy in Guatemala and Diakonia's partner organization CALDH.


- Ulf Aneer's photos allow us to see, at least in part, the horror that was the war, the militarization and the genocide in Guatemala in the 1980s, but they also illustrate the solidarity that many Swedes have shown for Guatemala and the friendship that persists between our two countries. Moreover, these photos illustrate Diakonia's commitment, during more than 30 years, to supporting peace, justice and democracy in Guatemala, said Bo Forsberg, Secretary General of Diakonia.

​The exhibition was created during a series of journeys between 1979 and 1990. Ulf Aneer was able to document life in Guatemala while the civil war was raging in the countryside and the Guatemalan army terrorized the opposition. Aneer's photos provide a unique insight into a conflict that to this day remains largely unknown to the wider world, and even to many Guatemalans. The state-sponsored terror of the 1960s, -70s, -80s and -90s was largely directed at poor farmers and Guatemala's indigenous Mayan majority, while wealthier people in Guatemala City were able to look the other way and choose not to see. By showing Aneer's photos in the heart of Guatemala City, Diakonia, CALDH and the Swedish Embassy hope to contribute to breaking the silence regarding the crimes of the past.

Guatemala's civil war officially lasted for 36 years, from 1960 to the 29th of December 1996, when a final peace accord was signed. The UN-sponsored truth commission "Memory Of Silence" from 1999 estimated that 250,000 people were killed during the war, 45,000 disappeared and at least 626 massacres were carried out, mainly between 1978 and 1984. The truth commission concluded that state forces were responsible for an estimated 93 percent of human rights violations during the war, and the guerrillas were responsible for an estimated 3 percent.

The underlying causes of the conflict, as established in the peace accords, include the unfair distribution of agricultural land and the exclusion of the indigenous Mayan people from society and the state. Both of these situations still persist to this day. Diakonia's presence in Guatemala is intimately linked to the peace accords and civil society's struggle to demand the full implementation of the accords.