WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. (March 15, 2013) — Blama Massaquoi knows a thing or two about persevering against all odds.
Massaquoi, 27, formerly of Liberia, West Africa, is the youngest victim of torture featured in a recent documentary sponsored by the Center for Victims of Torture, the Advocates for Human Rights and the University of Minnesota’s Human Rights Center. He enrolled at Century in 2011 with the goal of becoming a social worker.
Blama’s amazing story starts when he was 17 years old and walking home from school with friends in 2003 in his native Liberia. Suddenly, soldiers appeared and forced Blama and his friends to the front lines of the civil war that was raging in that country.
After several weeks, Blama escaped with three others and spent several weeks wandering in the bush. Trying to find their way back to the capital city, they wandered into the midst of some rebel fighters.
This group, seeking information, tortured the boys by forcing them to drink a caustic chemical much like sulfuric acid. The mixture destroyed his esophagus and caused other internal damage.
Blama was rescued by a rebel who recognized him and knew his father. This man took him home, where he was cared for by the man’s mother until the war ended. Blama’s friends were tortured to death.
After several years on feeding tubes, Blama’s condition deteriorated to near death. At that point, his situation became known in Liberia through the media, and people of good will came to his aid. Through the Center for Victims of Torture, Blama was brought to the United States. He ended up having three major surgeries, one at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and two at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in 2007.
While he still has some medical issues, Blama, a St. Paul resident, is much better now. In addition, with the help of medication and support group therapy, his nightmares have greatly diminished.
“Torture does not get to the truth,” said Blama. “Torture doesn’t work and it destroys lives.”
Blama is grateful for the good people who rescued him, and he would like to dedicate his life to helping others. “It was through the help of others that I am still alive,” said Blama.
He noted that the documentary that featured him and three others is called “Beneath the Blindfold.” It was shown at the University of Minnesota last December, and Century’s Prof. Jon Wendt attended the screening. Blama has a copy of the film, and he said it may be possible to have a screening at Century.
“The truth needs to come out,” said Blama. “Some people do not believe that torture happens. They don’t believe it is real. It is real. It happens.”