Sirley Avila Leon

* 1959  

  • "In the end, I was elected chair of the Republican Party in the Las Tunas province. On my own expenses - as always - I began visiting the individual constituencies, both cities and villages, and started organizing an opposition movement. I established several local units, met people and also asked for support of those people who knew me from the town where I previously served as a councillor. I can't say that in every single constituency, there would be someone from the opposition. I simply sought the people's support, even within the system. The support of a collective of locals who knew me and knew how things were. I think this is the best way to claim one's rights - with the support of people who know me and know that I'm telling them the truth."

  • "When I got out of the closet, he was there holding a machete. He attempted to target my head and I was protecting myself with my hand. He cut my hand off. When he attacked for the second time, I defended myself with the other hand. He broke it but didn't cut me. It was two years ago and I still have a scar. The next strike went towards my shouldar where he made a 10-centimeter long cut wound. The next attack targeted my right knee, he cut off my tendons and I fell down. As I was laying on the floor, he cut my other leg with two strikes, and then another one to my right leg. I was completely defenseless. My leg bone was cut through. Then he wanted to attack my head. I was lying on the floor, next to the place where pigs are fed, and couldn't see out from the house. I was then told that the woman who was visiting from Las Tunas, ran out to get help. When he said he'd then cut my head off, I just looked to the sky, reconciled with that being the end. I was proud of myself and it all happened so quickly that there was no time to think things over."

  • "After eleven days, I was released from the hospital. The doctor signed a statement saying I was healthy. The family wanted me transferred to Havana. We required a medical report and got a piece of paper with no information other than me being injured by a machete, and fully cured. In fact, I was unable to walk and move. Three times, I filed a complaint at the provincial office against the medical treatment that I received, and never had I gotten any answer. As I said, after eleven days they released me home. My neighbours provided me with more-or-less adequate bed supported by pieces of wood so that I could eat. Three months later, on Friday afternoon, I received a phone call that a court hearing would be taking place Monday. I was still unable to move. The hearing took place on 28 September without me or anyone from my family being present. At around noon, the chair of the court tribunal appeared at my place, the offender's lawyer, a prosecutor who was allegedly supposed to represent me, and a court secretary. They asked me whether I had a statement to give - but the hearing had already taken place. I was wondering how was it possible for the hearing to be held in my absence. They told me that I was free to give a statement. They even had the verdict. The offender was previously convicted three times; according to people who know him five times. It was a regular criminal who was sent to murder me."

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If God so wanted, I wouldn’t have been here anymore

Sirley Avila Leon / Miami / 2017
Sirley Avila Leon / Miami / 2017
photo: Post Bellum

Sirley Avila Leon was born in 1959 in Las Tunas in the former Cuban province of Oriente. Her father owned a profitable farm. When she was young, she took part in regime-based organisations. In 2004, she began running a farm in Limones and became a local councillor. She spent several years fighting for the creation of a school. She repeatedly complained against the bad situation of the village people and demanded this to be remedied. Ever since 2010, she was targeted by attacks led by the secret police which in 2015 culminated in an assasination attempt. The attacker cut her arm off with a machette and maimed her legs. She became active in the dissident movement striving to overthrow the communist dictatorship. Ever since 2016, she lives in Miami.