She Will Forever Be Missed
Sr. Dianna Ortiz
Remembering Sr. Dianna
"We have a moral responsibility to speak out and to create a world where the next generation will be spared… where the dignity of all people is respected and where the human rights of all people are protected. We cannot ever lose sight of the reality that we are our sisters and brothers keepers.": Sr. Dianna
BORN IN SEPTEMBER, 1958
Ortiz, a Roman Catholic Ursuline nun, founded TASSC in 1998 and served as its first executive director for the following 10 years. Before launching TASSC, through her work with the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (USA), she came into contact with other survivors of torture and was struck by the common language she and other survivors used to describe the trauma and emotions they experienced.
This shared understanding helped her gain the insight she needed to start the first organization led by torture survivors to support other survivors.
In the years after her own torture, Ortiz began to speak to torture survivors from across the world—Armenia, Ethiopia, Honduras, the Philippines, and elsewhere.
Finally, this visionary advocate took the first step by bringing together a small group in Washington, DC—torture survivors along with individuals committed to human rights—to explore the idea of starting a nonprofit that would be dedicated to advocacy to end torture and to support the full range of survivors’ needs.
Though Ortiz was often identified as TASSC’s founder, she insisted that the organization never would have gotten off the ground without the support of this core dedicated group of survivors and donors, many of whom continue their support for TASSC today.
Ortiz said: “We turned to the larger community for both guidance and assistance--from lawyers to psychologists, from doctors to teachers to artists; from fundraisers to directors of NGOs. I think of Antonio Machado’s words: ‘Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk.’ That’s exactly what we did. We forged forward with the support of the community.”
May her Soul Rest In Peace. she will be missed
Statement on the Passing of Sister Dianna Ortiz
by Kerry Kennedy
Sister Dianna Ortiz was a courageous activist, a truth teller, a woman of deep and abiding faith, and my dear friend.
I came to know Sister Dianna in the early 1990s, and was immediately struck by her raw honesty and capacity to articulate the agony she suffered when she was kidnapped, raped, and tortured in Guatemala several years before. “I know what it is to wait in the dark for torture, and what it is to wait in the dark for truth,” she told me then.
In March 1996, Sister Dianna began her silent vigil for truth across the street from the White House, part of an effort to get the United States to declassify long-secret files on Guatemala and shed light on some of the darkest moments of the country’s history and American foreign policy. Then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton later contacted intelligence officials in an effort to get more information released on the U.S. role in torture in Guatemala, a courageous move of her own, paving the way for the release of CIA papers associated with Sister Dianna’s case, and the declassification of decades of documents showing the United States’ support during its genocide of rural indigenous people.
Sister Dianna’s life’s work is a focus of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Speak Truth To Power human rights education curriculum. By sharing her story, tens of thousands of young people around the world have been inspired to transform their own pain into action, and ultimately, healing for the world.
We have lost a heroic voice, a fierce defender, and a spiritual light. My family, the RFK Board, and staff join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to Dianna’s family and the Sisters of the Order of Saint Ursula during this difficult time.