The terrorist called “the Tigress” had “spectacular” blue eyes and mounds of curly black hair. Idoia López Riaño wore skin-tight jeans and leather jackets, and thought nothing of seducing the officers she was assigned to kill. She was so vain that she once put her entire cell of Basque separatists at risk during an attempted terrorist strike because she was busy admiring herself.
But she was also one of the most bloodthirsty members of Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), an armed separatist group involved in a campaign of bombings and assassinations in Spain between 1968 and 2010.
Pursued by Spanish and French authorities for years, López Riaño was little known outside the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France until two weeks ago — when British novelist Luke Jennings told a literary conference in the UK that he modeled Villanelle, his fictional femme fatale, after López Riaño in the novellas that became the basis for the hit BBC America series “Killing Eve.”
“She was clearly a psychopath and completely, completely without empathy,” said Jennings of the real assassin who killed 23 people in the 1980s and ’90s in Spain.
In “Killing Eve” — the third-season finale of which airs tonight — Emmy winner Jodie Comer plays the glamorous and mercurial Villanelle, a hired assassin obsessed with Eve (Sandra Oh), the MI6 operative pursuing her. Villanelle is ruthless but also incredibly vain. After savagely killing her targets — in one case, hoisting a man upside down by a pulley and disemboweling him — Villanelle treats herself to luxury shopping sprees.
López Riaño, who was also known by fellow militants as “the princess,” shared the same habits. “Idoia was, above everything, a slave to her body and to her hair,” writes Juan Manuel Soares Gamboa in a memoir about his years in ETA. “I never met an ETA militant who was more vain than this woman.”
Once, López Riaño missed a target when she “didn’t actually see him because she was so entranced with the window of a fashionable store and her own reflection,” Jennings said.
López Riaño was born in San Sebastian, a city on the northern coast of Spain, in 1964. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a firefighter. Instead, at 18, she was recruited to ETA by her boyfriend, a member, just as the group launched a civil war that would result in more than 800 civilian and military casualties throughout Spain.
“I became involved with ETA at a very young age,” López Riaño told a court. “I was full of romantic and idealistic ideas, and those who recruited me knew straight away how to make me choose: ‘Would you prefer to save a few people as a firefighter or a whole town? We need committed kids like you.’”
In her early days with the group, she had a string of lovers, including a policeman who learned she was part of ETA when he saw her on TV — after she killed his colleagues.
“Idoia was, above everything, a slave to her body and hair.” – Fellow militant Juan Manuel Soares Gamboa
Savvy and ambitious, the young militant longed to prove herself to the upper echelons of the separatist group and, on Nov. 16, 1984, participated in her first killing. Along with her ETA boyfriend Jose Angel Agirre and two other comrades, she stole a car at gunpoint and drove to a restaurant in Irun where their target — French businessman Joseph Couchot, suspected of financing a group of paramilitaries formed by Spanish authorities to kill ETA fighters — was in the middle of his lunch. López Riaño and her comrades shot Couchot six times, “finishing him off with a coup de grace as he lay on the floor,” according to “Dirty War, Clean Hands: The ETA, the GAL and Spanish Democracy” by Paddy Woodworth.
López Riaño was a rising star in ETA, and soon elevated to an elite cadre of assassins. During her first five months with the Madrid Command she participated in 20 murders, including the bombing of the Plaza Republica Dominicana in Madrid on July 14, 1986, which killed 12 people.
But she soon became a nuisance. López Riaño delayed an operation because she lost a shoe, and another had to be postponed because she needed a pregnancy test.
In one instance, she showed up to work without her gun, but was unrepentant when she was chastised by her commanders for putting the entire cell at risk.
“What do you want me to do?” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I forgot. Period.”
Like Villanelle, she could be reckless. During a hit against a group of military operatives in June 1986, López Riaño grew tired of holding her submachine gun as she waited for a car carrying her targets to pass, and started to shoot indiscriminately, Soares Gamboa recalled. The officers died in a hail of submachine gun fire in the car that was transporting them to dinner.
In addition to her entitled attitude and reluctance to follow basic rules, López Riaño presented another problem for ETA. In his memoir, written with the journalist Matias Antolin, Soares Gamboa recalled that her stunning features — her “spectacular” blue eyes and “voluminous hair” — attracted too much attention on hits.
“It took 20 days of deliberations, 1,000 French francs for brown contact lenses, and countless meetings to convince her that she should alter her physical appearance because we had to go unnoticed,” he said. “She could not move in Madrid because she would attract too much attention … None of us wanted to accompany her.”
Exasperated with her insubordination, constant clubbing and revolving door of lovers, ETA leaders forced López Riaño into exile in Algeria, where she lived under the alias Tania. She continued to wear tight jeans and leather jackets, according to press reports.
After five years, ETA moved her to the south of France, where she was arrested in 1994. In 2001 she was extradited to Spain and later tried for the murders of 23 people. She was originally sentenced to 2,000 years but the maximum any prisoner can serve under Spanish law is 30 years. So she was released in 2017 after 23 years — one for every person she killed.
While in jail, López Riaño married twice. In 2011, she was formally expelled from ETA after publicly condemning their use of violence and issuing an apology to her victims.
Her current whereabouts are unknown. None of the families of her victims believed she was ever sorry for what she had done.
Pornhub, the world’s most popular porn site, has been under fire in recent months for featuring videos of sex-trafficking victims — including a 15-year-old victim from Florida, 118 confirmed cases of child abuse, as well as 22 women allegedly duped and coerced by Michael Pratt, owner of GirlsDoPorn, into performing sex acts on film that were subsequently monetized on a Pornhub partner channel (Pratt has been found civilly liable and now faces federal criminal charges).
Now add another blatant misdeed to the litany of the site’s misdeeds: While the rest of the country grapples with race and racism, Pornhub enables, monetizes and promotes content involving racism in its most extreme forms. The sexualized hatred Pornhub dishes out as masturbation material should alarm a nation that otherwise claims to condemn bigotry.
Decent Americans mourned the unjust killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Yet for Pornhub, the tragedy supplied grist for masturbation. Recently approved and uploaded titles include “I Can’t Breathe,” posted by a verified user, with search tags that include “George Floyd” and “choke-out.” A for-profit partner channel on Pornhub called Black Patrol sexualizes police brutality against African-Americans with titles such as “White Cops Track Down and F - - k Black Deadbeat Dad.”
Countless other titles on Pornhub feature variations on the N-word and “white master.” “Exploited black teens” and “black slave” are suggested search terms deliberately promoted by Pornhub to its users. If the titles repulse you, imagine what the videos do to the ever-younger eyes and minds that daily encounter hardcore, racist porn.
African-Americans aren’t the only community denigrated for pleasure and profit on Pornhub. There are also loads of anti-Semitic content on the site. Pornhub had approved and monetized with ads videos with titles such as “Nazi Rick & Morty Have Sex at Auschwitz” and “Nazi F - - k Camp” (involving “Jewish corpses”).
Wildly anti-Semitic videos such as these are uploaded by Pornhub verified users, accounts with usernames like “OvenBakedJew” and “Hitler the Jew-Slayer.” Many of these videos have remained on the site for months and years, with comments such as “Blacks, Jews and Muslims — bad seed!” and “Anne Frank was hiding, but I didn’t want to kill her, I just wanted to make a casting-couch Auschwitz edition!”
Pornhub places monetized ads all over these videos, comments and user accounts.
As Calev Myers, deputy president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, told me, “the violently aggressive nature of the anti-Semitic rhetoric on Pornhub dehumanizes the Jewish people and brutally assaults the memory of the Holocaust and all the people who were murdered in it. Those who allow these types of expressions to be broadcast publicly are essentially condoning the Holocaust and its horrors.”
The company insists it has an “extensive team” of moderators dedicated to viewing every video uploaded for illegal content. Yet a horrifying number of abuse videos have made it through, and the firm appears indifferent to racist content. Moderation or not, Pornhub is monetizing extreme forms of racism and anti-Semitism (not to mention videos of trafficking victims).
The abject reality of Pornhub — it makes this content available for 115 million visitors daily and monetizes it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year — should disturb anyone who cares about the rights of women and children to be free from exploitation and everyone who cares about equality and a society free from hatred.
America has made great strides in combating the exploitation of women and girls. We have also overcome historical slavery, legal apartheid and the horrors of anti-Semitism. This is to our credit. Yes, racism and anti-Semitism persist, but they are utterly banned from ethical society. And yet there is this underside to our society, where the same awful phenomena are promoted, broadcast, used for pleasure — and monetized for profit. That’s not progress.
Laila Mickelwait is the director of abolition for Exodus Cry, which works to abolish sex trafficking.
COVID-19 may have canceled the Pride Month parades, but LGBT activists have found another way to celebrate: vilifying J.K. Rowling.
The zillionaire “Harry Potter” author recently earned the wrath of the trans movement when she averred that biological sex is real. After reading an article that referred to “people who menstruate,” instead of “women,” Rowling took to Twitter: “ ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” She added: “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. . . . I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”
Her take launched a thousand denunciations from trans activists, who declared Rowling a transphobic, bigoted TERF (“trans-exclusionary radical feminist”). It’s tough to “cancel” a household name, but her detractors are trying their best. Several employees at Hachette, Rowling’s publishing house, have said they may refuse to work on her forthcoming book, “The Ickabog.”
Even the young actors who owe their careers and platforms to Rowling publicly condemned her. “Transgender women are women,” announced “Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe. Never mind that Rowling is, as he admits, “unquestionably responsible” for the course his life has taken and, therefore, might deserve a tad more consideration.
But Rowling was merely noting that the trans agenda — and the distortions of language it demands — is a form of misogyny, yet another means of demeaning women. Men who transition don’t share the common experience of biological females. It is an offense against women to claim that they do.
In a follow-up essay, Rowling elaborated. “ ‘Woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. . . . The ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanizing.” Brava.
The writer revealed that she is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault and so is particularly worried that the trans movement endangers women (Exhibit A: bathroom bills that permit men to enter female-only spaces on the basis of subjective mental states alone). Another concern: the increasing numbers of young girls who try to escape femaleness by transitioning, but then regret it and de-transition — often after they have irreparably deformed their bodies and reproductive organs.
“I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class,” she wrote, “and offering cover to predators like few before it.”
Rowling’s commonsense arguments are welcome. But the backlash is, in part, the logical terminus of her own beliefs. Since the “Potter” series’ final installment came out 13 years ago, many have called it too “heteronormative,” and Rowling has repeatedly politicized or revised her story to suit the sexual-liberationist causes du jour — whether by declaring President Trump worse than her villain Voldemort; stating that Remus Lupin’s affliction as a werewolf was an intentional metaphor for HIV; or disclosing that Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore was gay.
In 2007, she revealed the wizard had an “incredibly intense” sexual relationship with another character, Gellert Grindelwald (the recent “Fantastic Beasts” films are partially based on this backstory). The 2016 screenplay “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which she co-wrote, featured a homoerotic subplot for Harry’s son Albus and the seemingly bisexual Scorpius Malfoy.
After years of working messages of queer affirmation into her stories, and retroactively revising her tales to reflect progressive causes, it should be little surprise that some expected her to take this just a step further. She has been toeing the woke line for a long time.
Still, kudos to Rowling for choosing to take a stand here. Though she remains trans-affirming — “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable” — her critics care not a whit. The mob demands total submission, even from those with a history of queer celebration; nothing less will do.
Rowling’s defense of women is cheering. More heartening still is how she is exposing the incoherence of trans ideology and its naked hostility to embodied femininity. In the name of liberation, that ideology has wrought cancellation, violence, misogyny, verbal abuse and too many girls consigned to lives of regret or painful de-transitioning.
Radical freedom, it turns out, looks a lot like bondage.
Ramona Tausz is associate editor of First Things.
Racist and oppressive regimes should recuse themselves from today’s UN Human Rights Council urgent debate on racism and police brutality, says UN Watch, a Geneva-based independent human rights group that monitors the United Nations.
In testimony delivered before the 47-nation council yesterday (see below), UN Watch directed its appeal to such council members as Mauritania, which has up to 500,000 black slaves; Libya, which has up to a million African migrants treated as virtual slaves; and Venezuela, which kills protesters and has been accused of crimes against humanity.
Other council members with egregious records of racism or police brutality who approved today’s urgent debate include Burkina Faso (which initiated the session on behalf of African states), Bangladesh, Cameroon, DR Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Qatar.
Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and China are expected to be elected to the council in October.
China recently chaired the UNHRC process for interviewing and recommending the UNHRC’s next expert on freedom of speech, to be appointed in July.
The following statement was delivered by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer in testimony before the United Nations Human Rights Council, in its debate on June 16, 2020:
In the archives of Reverend Martin Luther King, there is a telegram from March 1965, sent to him in Selma, Alabama, by his friend and fellow civil rights leader Morris Abram, our founder, days after Bloody Sunday. Morris Abram condemned the “shameful exhibition of brutality” by police officers at the peaceful protests, and expressed solidarity with the “great cause” of justice and equality.
Sadly, a half century later, UN Watch must again today condemn the shameful exhibition of brutality by police officers, in the killing of George Floyd. We continue to stand unequivocally with the struggle against racism and police brutality.
In the spirit of Morris Abram—who served at the United Nations, and drafted the 1964 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination—UN Watch has been a leading voice at this Human Rights Council, fighting discrimination worldwide. When there was genocide in Darfur, it was UN Watch that organized the global Activist Summit, held here in 2007.
And every year, we campaign against the election of racist and brutal regimes to this Council. Too often, however, because of back-room political deals, they win. The accused become the judges.
If we wish to honor the memory of George Floyd, tomorrow’s urgent debate on racism and police brutality must be serious and credible — and not become a farce.
Accordingly, we propose that Council members which practice systematic racism or police brutality refrain from taking part — that they recuse themselves.
We ask Mauritania: given that you have an estimated 500,000 black slaves, with CNN referring to Mauritania as “slavery’s last stronghold,” will your country recuse itself from this urgent debate on racism against blacks?
We ask Libya: given that your country subjects up to a million African migrants to virtual slavery—trapped in a terrifying cycle of extortion, imprisonment, forced labor and prostitution—will Libya recuse itself?
We ask Eritrea: given that your country has been condemned—by this Council itself—for “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations,” including arbitrary detention and torture, will Eritrea recuse itself?
We ask Cameroon: given that your country systematically bans peaceful demonstrations, crushes protests by the English-speaking population, and has committed atrocities, including massacring civilians, rape, and burning villages, will Cameroon recuse itself?
We ask the Democratic Republic of Congo: aside from being the rape capital of the world, given that your police just 2 months ago killed 55 people, in a coordinated crackdown on a religious sect, will DRC recuse itself?
We ask Venezuela: given that in just 5 days last year, your forces killed 47 protesters, and arbitrarily detained 900 people, will the Maduro government recuse itself?
Mr. Chairman, when will the UN stop electing racists and oppressors to be judges on human rights?
I thank you.
Roland* was a first-year student when he joined the Buccaneers, a secret, illegal student society in Nigeria. A brutal initiation ritual was held late at night in the forest.
Older members, singing, dancing and drinking, formed a ring around him and other blindfolded initiates, beating them severely until the early hours of the morning.
The ritual was supposedly to purge the initiates of weaknesses and instil bravery in them.
“The moment you go in there and come out, you are a different person,” Roland told the BBC.
These societies, also referred to as confraternities and campus cults, have names like Vikings, Black Axe, Eiye (a word in the local Yoruba language for bird), and the Buccaneers.
They have a chain of command similar to militia groups, use code words and have insignia bearing the favourite weapon of the cult, along with its colour.
Members are promised protection from rival gangs, but it is mostly about power and popularity.
These secret societies are banned in Nigeria and hundreds of members have been arrested and prosecuted over the years. Nevertheless, they continue to operate, especially on university campuses, where they still attract new members.
‘Fake news’ about gangster attacks
These cults have been accused of being behind serious violence, including killings, at universities across the country and sometimes harassing lecturers for good grades.
In some cases, students are lured with promises of networking opportunities.
Most societies now operate off campus as well, often with members who never went to university. They have increasingly resorted to crime.
In places like the commercial capital Lagos and oil hub Port Harcourt, cults have been known to recruit teenagers into street gangs that serve as a training ground for membership if they get to university.
In April, residents of Lagos and neighbouring Ogun state resorted to forming vigilante groups as reports spread that hundreds of gangsters belonging to One Million Boys and Awawa Boys were attacking some neighbourhoods.
There was a lockdown in the state to halt the spread of the coronavirus and some residents said the gangs had become more daring and were robbing homes.
Soon there were more reports, especially on social media, of gangs attacking people in other communities in what looked like massive coordinated attacks.
The police denied there were widespread robberies in the state, describing the reports as “fake news” spread by the gangsters to cause panic as a prelude to launching attacks.
Police, nevertheless, confirmed they had arrested more than 200 suspected cultists for being involved in a gang war that broke out after the death of a cult leader in a fight.
Why Roland became a Buccaneer
Roland decided to join a cult to get protection at his university in eastern Nigeria.
A friend of his was robbed by a confraternity member resulting in a feud. Roland got dragged into the feud, and was assaulted on two occasions.
He reported the attacks to university authorities, but campus security guards could do little.
These unarmed private guards were – and remain – no match for the cultists, who carry guns and other deadly weapons.
Roland’s search for the “least violent fraternity” led him to the Buccaneers after he declined an invitation to join the notorious Black Axe.
But once inside he lived in fear of rival groups.
Nobel laureate’s role in formation of societies
The confraternity system in Nigeria was not always so violent.
It was started way back in 1952, during the last years of British colonial rule, by a set of young idealistic men.
They included Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka at Nigeria’s prestigious University of Ibadan in Oyo State in south-western Nigeria.
“At no time did I imagine that anything could degenerate” Wole Soyinka
Pyrates founding member
The students named their confraternity the National Association of Seadogs, or Pyrates, to rebel against notions of elitism by middle-class Nigerians.
The original founders, known as the Magnificent Seven, were committed to the pirate theme. They used to even pretend to be pirates, wearing bandanas and carrying cutlasses.
“We were having fun with a social orientation,” Soyinka told the BBC.
He described the present confraternities as “vile, evil groups”.
“I never imagined that any university-based group could actually adopt a mafia style, which involved manhood tests like raping, robbery, arms, murder, kidnapping.
“At no time did I imagine that anything could degenerate. And why did it degenerate? Instead of these kids being treated as the criminals they were, they were being protected by their parents and their relations,” he said.
The Pyrates, of which Soyinka is still a member, now exist as a group dedicated to “humanitarian and charitable endeavours”.
It no longer recruits students, and its leadership took it off campuses in 1984 in order to distance the Pyrates from violence.
How the societies became violent
A split in the Pyrates in the late 1960s had led to breakaway students starting the Buccaneers, and other societies.
Petty rivalries developed between them as they jostled for prestige, power, women and access to corrupt politicians who began hiring cult members to unleash violence against opponents.
Some groups are more violent than others and not all members are involved in crime. Nevertheless, they all strike fear in the hearts of Nigerians.
The Black Axe are among the most notorious. They emerged in the 1970s and were originally known as the Neo Black Movement. Its founders said the group’s aim was to “liberate” the black race.
But at universities, the group no longer seems to be driven by any political ideology.
Instead, Black Axe members are accused of numerous killings and sexual attacks.
Military accused of funding cults
In 1999 they killed five members of the student union at Obafemi Awolowo University in the ancient city of Ile-Ife in Osun State.
Black Axe members have also been victims of brutal violence.
At the University of Port Harcourt in the mid-1990s, a cult leader was decapitated and his bloodied head was hung on a pole at the university’s entrance as a sign of triumph.
Cult violence on campuses has decreased in recent years. It was at its worse in the 1980s and 1990s when Nigeria witnessed numerous coups.
The military was repeatedly accused of funding and arming confraternities to attack and suppress the student protest movement demanding democracy.
They stabbed me in the head, left the knife there and stripped me naked” Omoyele Sowore Ex-student union leader
Journalist Omoyele Sowore knows the groups well from that era, when he was a student at the University in Lagos.
Cults were causing havoc on campus and as president of the student union he decided to take them on.
It would prove costly.
“I almost lost my life,” Sowore told the BBC.
In March 1994, he was held at gunpoint and injected with an unknown substance.
“Several of them pounced on me. They stabbed me in the head and left the knife there and stripped me naked,” Sowore said.
He was later rescued by other students and taken to hospital.
Cults, drugs and people trafficking
The activities of some of these groups are not restricted to Nigeria. The Eiye cult is accused of criminal activities as far away as Europe.
Its members were among a group of 23 arrested by police the Spanish region of Catalonia in 2015 for being part of an international syndicate accused of trafficking people and narcotics (cocaine and marijuana) and forging passports.
The group was also accused of facilitating the transport of stolen crude oil into Europe.
Rarely do members leave a cult while still in university – those who dare to do so are assaulted or, in some cases, killed.
Some students have quit their studies to escape the grip of the cults.
Others remain lifelong members of their cult. It provides them with networking opportunities to get good jobs and to access power.
They also fund the cults, whose members in turn act as pimps. They hook them up with female students, sometimes for sex orgies involving politicians and businessmen.
Roland believes the cults offer a false sense of security, prestige and power. Members are always on the edge, not knowing when a rival group will attack.
“Half the time you would be afraid. No matter what they [members] say, they are always afraid,” he said.
* Roland’s name has been changed for his own protection
By Helen Oyibo