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Dianna Ortiz (1958–2021), nun who survived kidnapping and founded anti-torture group

by Linnea Crowther

Dianna Ortiz was a Catholic nun who was abducted and tortured while serving as a missionary in Guatemala, and later founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC).

Terrifying ordeal

Ortiz traveled from the U.S. to Guatemala in 1989, working with the poor there and teaching children to read. Guatemala was then embroiled in a violent civil war, with the U.S. supporting its military as it fought Marxist guerrillas. She began receiving threatening letters, and in 1989, she was kidnapped. She was tortured by captors who insisted she was working with subversives and demanded names. Ortiz was later removed from her captivity by a man she claimed was a U.S. government operative, and she escaped from his car when he said he was taking her to a safe location.

After returning to the U.S., Ortiz demanded answers about U.S. involvement in her kidnapping specifically and in Guatemala’s civil war generally. She began a hunger strike and vigil outside the White House, and her efforts eventually led to the release of classified documents about U.S. involvement in Guatemala. In 1998, she founded the organization that would become TASSC, which advocates for victims of torture and helps them cope. Ortiz later wrote the memoir, “The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey From Torture to Truth” 

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Ortiz on forgiveness

“I leave that in God’s hands. The fact that I’m a Catholic nun and I’m not able to forgive, that makes me feel all the more guilty. I’m not sure what it means to forgive.” —from a 1996 interview for NPR

Tributes to Dianna Ortiz

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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