Between 1960 and 1996,
Guatemala was the stage for one of the longest internal conflicts of the 20th century. The conflict was fought between Guatemalan right-wing politicians supported by the military and communist movements supported by trade unionists, peasant leaders, students, professionals. The Guatemalan government used brutal tactics and violence to repress the guerrilla uprising in the rural areas of the country, especially in the mountains inhabited by Mayan communities. The army, militias and death squads carried out crimes and kidnappings, leading to many disappearances.
Between 1981 and 1983,
the conflict reached its bloodiest point when the army razed hundreds of villages and massacred whole communities of Mayan people who were supposedly supporting the guerrillas. Terrorized by the violence from both sides, hundreds of thousands of Mayan civilians fled to other regions or became refugees abroad.
Guatemala's 36-year internal conflict claimed over 250,000 lives. A UN-sponsored truth commission, the Historical Clarification Commission, created after the war ended in 1996, documented terrifying atrocities, which included murder, mutilation, rape, and torture.
With the aim of understanding the mechanism of violence and mass murders, Yahad – In Unum began investigating the armed conflict in 2012. To date, the organization has carried out 6 research trips and conducted 170 interviews in Guatemala, mostly with Mayan survivors from rural areas, but also with families of people disappeared from urban areas.