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Correspondent Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 11:52 GMT
Women enter mafia wars
Car riddled with bullets
Women can no longer hide behind the mafia screen
Juliet Dwek

A deadly shoot-out in a sleepy, southern Italian village has marked a new, dark era in mafia savagery. Women have become both the victims and the suspected killers. The last mafia taboo has been broken.

The villages of Quindici and Lauro are about an hour's drive from Naples, and lie only a mile apart.

The quiet of the valley has been shattered

Two local families - the Cavas and the Grazianos - have been fighting a murderous campaign for control of the valley for 30 years.

The villagers have borne the brunt of this brutal mafia war.

This year, in an unprecedented move, it seems the Italian mafia has become an equal opportunities employer.

A shattered peace

On 26 May 2002 the peace of the Lauro valley was once again shattered by a tirade of bullets, killing three people, and seriously injuring five more.

Clarissa and her aunts
Clarissa and her aunts - the changing face of victims
They were all women.

The youngest, 16-year-old Clarissa Cava was still a schoolgirl.

Her two aunts - Maria Scibelli and Michelina Cava - were killed as they flung themselves in front of Clarissa in an attempt to save her.

Clarissa's sister Felicia was left paralysed by bullets while her cousin Italia is now in a coma.


The police arrested nine members of the rival clan - the Grazianos.

Mafia around Italy
Mafia is a general term for Italian organised crime.
Cosa Nostra is in Sicily
Ndrangheta is in Calabria
Camorra is in Naples

Among them were four women - Alba Scibelli - 41-year-old mother of four, her mother-in-law Chiara Manzi - 62 - who was found with a 9mm gun stuffed down her bra - and Alba's two daughters Stefania Graziano, 19 and Chiara Graziano, 20.

"Up until now, there's been a code of honour which meant the mafia war was between men only," said Public Prosecutor Domenico Airoma.

"It was tacitly forbidden to hit a woman or even worse a teenager."

But in recent years, women have occupied important positions in the mafia - even directing strategy.

It is in the Naples mafia - or the Camorra as its known - that women have been most prominent.

But given one or two exceptions, the physical act of killing has remained a man's job - until this killing spree.

Grave of Fiore Graziano
The killing started at a football match


The feud between the two families began 30 years ago when Fiore Graziano, the boss of the clan and mayor of the town, was killed at a football match by a Cava.

Since then, the two families have been bitter enemies.

It has reached a point where the vendettas have ricocheted back and forth - the original argument long ceasing to matter.

Pure hatred is all that remains.

With 30 deaths in the last 30 years, one in four people from both families have been wiped out.

Security camera
Family protection is now vital

Now both families hide away in military style bunkers - villas protected by high walls, barbed wire, guard dogs, cctv and watchtowers.

No moral conscience

Extortion and public works rackets have given these two families immense wealth and power in the area.

So have natural disasters.

The earthquake of 1980 killed 2,735 people and more than 7,500 were injured.

In 1998, severe floods and landslides caused more damage.

As a result, huge amounts of EU and state money were given for hydro-electric dams, rebuilding houses, road improvement and street lighting.

This turned into a family affair too, with most of the money never reaching the victims of the natural disasters.

A peace demonstration
Villagers are united in their condemnation of the violence

Meanwhile, the village of Lauro feels victimised.

Neither the Cavas nor the Grazianos live in Lauro, yet this is where the latest shoot-out took place.

But residents have come together to form an action group - "The 26th May Committee". They are determined to put a stop to the violence.

With women now believed to be killing other women, the last taboo appears to have been broken.

Correspondent's Pam Giddy is joined by "Mafia Women" producer Juliet Dwek and international journalist Yvonne Ridley to examine how and why some women have become seduced by violence for a cause.

What makes women take up a cause worth dying for? - from FARC rebels in Colombia to the latest Chechen rebels siege in Moscow - women are heavily involved. Why?

After the programme on Sunday 3 November 2002 at 2000 GMT, you will be able to view, and join, the interactive discussion from this website and on digital television.

You can send your comments on this at any time, by using the e-mail form below.

Mafia Women: Sunday 3 November 2002 on BBC Two at 1915 GMT

Producer / Reporter: Juliet Dwek
Editor: Karen O'Connor
Deputy Editor: David Belton
Online Producer: Andrew Jeffrey

Juliet Dwek
Mafia Women
Domenico Airomo, Public Prosecutor
"What's new about this case is that there are women on both sides"
Gerardo Puopolo, Chief of Police
"Twenty shots were fired which travelled through the windscreen"
Vox pops
"Maybe women have achieved equal rights now"
Anonymous teenager
"He really must get his revenge by killing other people"
Mafia Women

See also:

30 Oct 02 | Europe
01 Nov 02 | Europe
31 Oct 02 | Europe
31 Oct 02 | Europe
Links to more Correspondent stories are at the foot of the page.

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