Shoreditch photo exhibition documents “brave, determined” resistance to “Chile’s 9/11”

Julio Etchart's photo taken in Chile

Julio Etchart's photo taken in Chile - Credit: Archant

Photos by Julio Echart depicting the brave, determined resistance to Pinochet’s brutal regime will be on show in a new Amnesty International exhibition marking 40 years since the dictator’s bloody military coup.

Julio Etchart's photo taken in Chile

Julio Etchart's photo taken in Chile - Credit: Archant

The Amnesty International exhibition “Chile’s 9/11” documents award-winning photojournalist Julio Etchart’s images.

Julio Etchart

Julio Etchart - Credit: Archant

The Uruguayan-born photographer who lives in Filey Road, Stoke Newington, put his life on the line in the 80s to document life under Pinochet and many leading UK and international newspapers published his images, including the Guardian, Sunday Times and New York Times.

General Augusto Pinochet’s coup on September 11 1973 signalled the beginning of a regime which committed horrific human rights abuses for 16 years and saw thousands of people illegally detained, tortured, killed or “disappeared”.

Having been a political prisoner himself in his homeland in the 70s before seeking exile in the UK where he learned his trade, Mr Echart felt empathy for the Chilean people.

“In a way the international media had forgotten about Chile, you know what it’s like with compassion fatigue, but I felt it was important to show people were protesting against the regime,” he said.

“I was trying to capture the sheer determination and their bravery, the defiance.

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“On International Women’s Day people were being shot with rubber bullets and tear gas, we see it a lot in the news now unfortunately with Egypt and Syria, but in those days we didn’t see many images like that.”

Chilean exiles in London advised Mr Echart, now 63, on infrastructure and passed on contacts in the country, where he had to pretend he was a tourist.

“I had to hide the fact I was a photographer, I didn’t carry a lot of equipment, just small film cameras,” he said.

“You were in danger all the time, other journalists were beat up at illegal detention centres and deported.”

Plain clothes police tried to snatch him once at a demonstration.

“They didn’t want any press at the rally because they were being quite brutal as usual, but the people demonstrating grabbed me back, it was a tug of war with little Julio, they managed to get me back and the other guys just gave up.”

The exhibition also documents protest photos taken in London in 1998 when Pinochet was arrested at London Bridge Hospital for alleged atrocities against Spanish civilians.

Despite calls from politicians including Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn for the dictator to stand trial he was released, and died in 2006 without ever being tried for his crimes.

“I feel cheated,” said Mr Echart.

“He was allowed to leave on humanitarian grounds but he showed no respect for humanitarian values himself. It was really bad but what can you do?

“We are just trying to commemorate what happened and keep the memory alive, Amnesty keeps campaigning to bring everyone who was involved there to justice, the whole apparatus was in place to suppress, the torturers, the military secret police, none of them have been brought to justice.”

The exhibition runs from 9am to 5pm from Monday September 9 to Friday September 20 at Amnesty International UK’s Human Rights Action Centre in New Inn Yard, Shoreditch.