The harsh conditions of the Occupation brought out the best in some people. In others, it drew out the worst.
In an effort to obtain anything from a semblance of power to a few meager luxuries, an unknown number of people became collaborators, willingly working to help Cardassians at the expense of their fellow Bajorans.
Positions of Power
Although most were relegated to obscurity, a few became famous for their actions.
One well-known collaborator was Secretary Kubus Oak, who served as special liaison between the Cardassian Occupation Forces and their pawns in the Bajoran government.
"I served the only recognized government on Bajor during the Occupation," Kubus once said in his own defense. "If it wasn't for us, the situation on Bajor would've been ten times worse than it was."
Kubus reportedly spent most of the Occupation on Terok Nor, whose commander, Gul S. G. Dukat, is even quoted as saying that Kubis was "his favorite Bajoran."
Kubis, however, said he did not share the sentiment.
"I never could stand that arrogant tyrant," he said.
Kubis admitted that he hid such feelings well. "It kept me alive," he added.
In the Ilvian Proclamation made by the Bajoran Provisional Government after the Withdrawal, all Bajorans who were members of the Cardassian Occupational Government were sentenced to exile.
Kubus’s name was number four on the list.
It is not hard to understand why most Bajorans hated the members of their planet’s puppet government. When the Cardassians needed a new group of Bajorans to work in the mines, it was the Bajoran Government that approved the work orders. And although Kubus later admitted he knew that these authorizations were death sentences, he never refused to sign one.
"That's why (he) can never be allowed to set foot on Bajor again," said Kira Nerys, a former Resistance fighter. "If (he) did, it would dishonor the memory of every person (he) sentenced to death."
Even some of those whose lives were dedicated to the teachings of the Prophets found themselves corrupted by greed into turning against their fellow Bajorans.
Prylar Bek, for example, served as the liaison between the Cardassians and the Vedek Assembly at the same time Kubus was Secretary to the Occupational Government. The two men were known to be acquaintances and spent a lot of time together on the orbiting ore-processing station.
Bek is most famous for his involvement with the Kendra Valley Massacre, to which he made a full confession in his suicide note. Forty-three Bajoran freedom fighters were ambushed and killed because Bek gave the Cardassians the location of their encampment. One of the slain fighters was son of Kai Opaka, one of the most beloved religious leaders in the Bajor’s history.
Few things in life, however, are as simple as they seem. Vedek Bareil, another beloved religious teacher, claimed several years after the Withdrawal that he ordered Bek to give the Cardassians the location of the Resistance base.
"The Cardassians were determined to eliminate all Resistance in the Kendra Valley," Bareil said. "If someone hadn't told them the location of the base, they would've wiped out every village in the area. That would've meant the deaths of twelve hundred innocent Bajorans. I couldn't allow that."
Another controversial and unsubstantiated report claimed that it was Kai Opaka herself was responsible for the deaths of her son and the other 42 people. Out of love for his former teacher, Bareil selflessly let himself take the blame.
Whatever the truth, Bareil’s statements caused him to lose the election to Vedek Winn.
Hiding From the Truth
Although some collaborators managed to maintain their anonymity after the Withdrawal, many found they could not escape their past. Eight Bajoran collaborators were exposed in the Terran year 2371 after the discovery of a list left behind by their main contact – a Bajoran chemist named Vaatrik. From his shop on Terok Nor, he served as the primary connection between the other collaborators and Dukat.
Four years before the end of the Occupation, and shortly before his death at the hands of a Resistance fighter, Vaatrik hid a list containing the names of the eight other collaborators in the wall of his shop. It remained there until about two years after the Withdrawal, when its contents were brought to light by Vaatrik’s widow Pallra, who wanted to blackmail the list’s members.
All eight people on the list responded to the blackmail by transferring exactly 100,000 Bajoran litas into Pallra’s bank account – proving that the Occupation could be a time of financial prosperity for Bajorans willing to sell out their own world.
The reward given by the Cardassians for betraying other Bajorans seems almost trivial by today’s standards. Vaatrik and Pallra were compensated for their actions with a private apartment on Terok Nor and an undisclosed amount of monetary benefits, which allowed them to afford luxuries such as Pyrellian ginger tea.
Although some collaborators, such as Pallra, appeared to maintain no guilty conscious regarding their actions, others appear to have felt deep remorse for what they did. Ches'sarro Seeto, a Bajoran mining engineer whose name was on Vaatrik’s list, kept his past a secret but attempted to make amends through charity work for Bajoran war orphans. During the Occupation, Resistance fighters suspected Ches’sarro of helping the Cardassians, but it was never proven.
It remains unclear today why Vaatrik created a list identifying his fellow collaborators. Apparently, however, other people knew the list was hidden somewhere on the station, so it is possible he used it and the threat of blackmail to keep the other collaborators in line.
Vaatrik’s death came at the hands of Kira Nerys, a member of the Shakaar Resistance cell. Kira and another cell member made their way to Terok Nor with the intention of both finding Vaatrik’s list and sabotaging the ore-processing facilities.
The two Resistance fighters spent several weeks on the station waiting for the right moment to put their plans into motion. During that time, Nerys built up a trust with Vaatrik by platonically pretending she was interested in him romantically and meeting him discreetly for conversation over cups of black-market tea.
One night, while her fellow Resistance fighter was on the station’s Level 21 in ore processing planting a sub-nucleonic device designed to disable the equipment for several weeks, Kira broke into Vaatrik’s shop in the hopes of finding the list he kept of other collaborators.
"Obviously, I never found the list," Kira explained later. "But that's what I was looking for in the shop when he walked in on me. I didn't have any choice."
Kira was detained as a prime suspect during Vaatrik’s murder investigation but was released after convincing Odo, a non-Cardassian investigator who was sympathetic to the Bajoran cause, that she was committing the sabotage in the ore-processing center during the time of the murder.
Although Odo did not find Vaatrik’s murderer, his skillful handling of the case convinced Dukat to keep him on as the station’s constable and chief criminal investigator. Ironically, if Dukat had chosen a Cardassian to investigate the case, Kira would most likely have been found guilty and executed for her actions. Dukat, however, wanted to specifically avoid Cardassian involvement for his own reasons, Odo later explained.
"He had to stay as far away from this incident as he could so he wouldn't endanger his network of Bajoran sympathizers," Odo said.
Forced to Live in Luxury – Comfort Women
Many Bajorans, expecially those in the Resistance, considered any Bajoran who helped the Cardassians in any way or accepted special favors in exchange for their services to be a collaborator, and therefore worthy of at least scorn and ridicule.
"We used to have a saying in the Resistance – if you're not fighting them, you're helping them," Kira said several years after the Withdrawal.
Sometimes the definition was open to debate, however, most notably with Bajoran "comfort" women. These women were taken, often at random, from their families and homes and forced to serve as concubines for Cardassian officials. In exchange, these women were awarded with a life of relative luxury that most people could only dream of, from the most stylish attire and richest of foods to the finest of medical services. And as further compensation, the families of these women were given extra rations, health care and access to other necessities that often provided the difference between life and death.
For most Bajoran husbands and children, such offerings were a meager consolation for the loss of a loved one. Knowing that their families were being protected, however, kept many women from killing themselves rather than spend the rest of their lives giving physical pleasure to their planet’s conquerors.
As part of the initial "adjustment" process, such women would usually find themselves treated to luxurious meals, clean clothes and the opportunity to clean themselves as thoroughly as they desired.
Women who refused to cooperate or proved "unsatisfactory" in giving pleasure were sometimes simply returned to their homes, although worse punishments, including execution, were up to the discretion of their Cardassian overseer.
Cardassian masters could treat their comfort women however they pleased, and some treated these Bajorans with harsh cruelty and abuse – but there were exceptions.
Dukat, who served the Cardassian Central Command as overall leader of the Bajoran Occupation during the last years before the Withdrawal, was commonly known by his officers to be a notorious womanizer. Nonetheless, he was also known for his generosity toward the comfort women who attracted his attention.
Under the theory that a woman who felt appreciated would make a better "partner," Dukat would pretend to care deeply for one who caught his eye. It is documented that Dukat would even go as far as to order a subordinate Cardassian to treat a newly appointed comfort woman with crude remarks and suggestions. Dukat would then approach the subordinate, chastise him for his unrefined manners, publicly apologize to the woman and suavely offer to "rescue" her by providing a life of refined pleasure.
As obvious as Dukat’s ploys may seem to observers, Dukat repeatedly showed he knew exactly how to exploit the confused mental state of these women. Several of his comfort women, practically brainwashed by the skillful manipulations of their emotions, allowed themselves to fall in love with him. Dukat rewarded such affections by allowing these women to serve him indefinitely, permitting them to live out the Occupation in a posh atmosphere far separated from the bitter realities faced by millions of their kin.
Dukat even allowed himself to develop reciprocal feelings for a Bajoran woman named Tora Naprem, even to the point of giving her a tradition Bajoran pledge bracelet as a sign of his affection.
"Naprem and I loved each other," Dukat admitted after the Withdrawal. "Ironic, isn't it?"
Tora’s relationship with Dukat was unique in at least one aspect – it resulted in the birth of a daughter named Ziyal.
Born in the Terran year 2353, the baby girl was immediately a source of pride as well as a source of embarrassment for Dukat. Cardassian society placed a very strong emphasis on dedication to one’s family, and anyone who compromised such duties was liable to become an ostracized object of scorn. Having a wife and seven children, Dukat took every measure possible to keep his affair, and especially the living result of that relationship, a tightly kept secret from his family, his rivals and the public.
In the Terran year 2366, about three years before the Withdrawal, Dukat decided to send Naprem and Ziyal away from Bajor. He claimed his decision was made primarily out of concern for his mistress and child.
"(Bajoran) people have never exactly welcomed half-Cardassian children into (their) society," he said. "That's why I sent her and her mother away in the first place. I knew the Occupation was ending, and that there'd be no place for them on Bajor or Cardassia."
As a result, the two Bajorans found themselves on the Ravinok, a Cardassian penal ship carrying a crew of guards and captives bound for a prison camp. But prison was not the intended destination for the two special passengers, Dukat explained.
"The Ravinok was supposed to rendezvous with a freighter which was to take Naprem and Ziyal to Lissepia, where they could live out their lives in peace," he said.
Given the circumstances, the destination was probably about as good a choice as any – the planet was the homeworld of the Lissepians, who are suspected of being on good terms with the Cardassians, even to the point of maintaining a trade alliance during the Occupation.
The two Bajorans never made it, however. The Ravinok was ambushed by two Breen warships en route and forced to crash on the planet Dozaria, a Class-M world with a hot desert-like climate. There, the survivors were forced to spend the next six years toiling as slaves mining dilithium ore. Although Naprem died in the crash, her daughter survived to be rescued by Dukat and Kira working together in the Terran year 2372.
Although the rescue of his daughter might seem noble by Bajoran and Terran standards, Dukat’s relatives felt otherwise. After the existance of Ziyal and the the Ravinok’s other survivors was revealed, Dukat’s mother disowned him and his wife left him, disgracing her husband by taking their children with her. The loss of contact with his seven children, including his 13-year-old son Mekor, was a major blow to Dukat, who often noted his fatherly love for his offspring.
The Cardassian Central Command also acted harshly to the news by demoting Dukat to command of military freighter. There he was eventually joined by Ziyal, who also found herself a pariah in Cardassian society.
A Case Examined – Kira Meru
Naprem was not the only Bajoran woman to have a long-term relationship with her planet’s overlord. The birth of Ziyal occurred was only a few months removed from the death of another Bajoran whom Dukat claimed to have deeply "loved" – Kira Meru, mother of Kira Nerys. The exact date of her death is unknown, but with Bajorans having a five-month gestation, it is possible that Dukat began his affair with Naprem before or immediately after Meru had died.
The situation faced by many Bajoran comfort women might be better understood by examining in detail how Meru, an icon painter from the Dahkur Province, eventually became one of Dukat’s favorite sexual partners.
Kira Nerys said she was only three years old when, in the Terran year 2346, she saw her mother for the last time. Nerys and her family, including her parents and two younger brothers, were struggling to survive in the Singha Refugee Center when Basso Tromac, a Bajoran collaborator, strolled into the barracks area carrying several sacks of food and flanked by two Cardassian guards.
Referring to Terok Nor, he told the captive audience, "The new Cardassian Ore Processing Center orbiting Bajor is nearing completion". Then, after walking around the barracks and studying the female Bajorans, he announced, "The Cardassian troops stationed there will require comfort women to make their tour of duty less stressful."
Almost casually, he pointed at a young woman, who was immediately seized from her husband by the guards. Before he could protest, Basso shoved one of the baskets of food into the husband’s arms.
"As of now," Basso told the dumbfounded Bajoran man, "you'll receive extra rations of food and medicine – courtesy of our prefect, Gul Dukat."
About this time, Basso noticed Meru as she stood holding her young daughter. Nerys’s father Tabin moved forward to protect his wife, but one of the guards pulled the baby out of Meru's arms and shoved the crying child against her husband’s chest.
"But my children …" cried Meru.
To which Basso responded, "Your children will eat better than they have any right to."
Basso later noted that he might not have chosen Meru if he had noticed the long, red running down the side of her face.
Proud of her attractive features, Meru considered the scar an embarassment. It marked an injury received after she "failed to show a Cardassian soldier the proper respect," she once told her daughter.
As the guards forced Meru and two other women away, her children stood crying as Taban looked anguished.
"Meru!" he shouted toward his wife.
"I love you," she shouted back before taking one last look at her children. "Don't let them forget me."
Nerys later said that, growing up, she was always told by her father that Meru had died that year in the Singha camp. She did not learn the truth until years after the Withdrawal, when Dukat chose to cruelly brag about his conquest.
"Your mother and I were lovers almost from the moment we met," Dukat claimed. "And we remained lovers until the day she died."
Although Nerys at first did not believe Dukat’s boast, with the blessings of the Prophets she was able to learn the truth – by travelling back in time via the Orb of Time. In response to her prayers, Nerys was sent to that fateful day in the Singha Refugee Center. Soon after her arrival she not only had a chance to meet herself as a small child, but also to come to her family’s defense against two cruel-hearted Bajoran scavengers attempting to steal desperately needed food.
Using the pseudonym "Luma Rahl," Nerys also amazingly became the third, previously unknown Bajoran who was chosen with Meru to become one of Terok Nor’s new "comfort women." Through this, the Prophets gave her the opportunity to truly see what such a life was like.
After Basso took them and several other groups of women to the orbiting ore refinery, he casually assigned the scared and shocked Bajorans to double-occupancy rooms.
"You will find food in your quarters," Basso said with a smile to the newcomers. "Eat as much as you want and make sure you get a good night's rest. You'll want to look your best tomorrow. And feel free to linger as long as you want in the sonic showers. Cardassians value cleanliness."
The lavish spread of food and drink most women found in their rooms was enough to make them break into tears – both of joy for themselves and of sorrow for their impoverished families.
"Do you know how long it's been since I've seen fresh moba?" Meru said with nervous laughter upon seeing the feast. "Look at all this – katterpod beans, hasperat, veklava, a pot of deka tea – we could live on this for a year!"
The next day, all dressed and styled in appearance to high-class prostitutes, the six new women lined up before Basso for inspection.
"Well done. I can hardly believe that you're the same women I met yesterday," he responded with pleasure. "In fact, you're not. Your old lives have ended. Your pasts have been erased. You have one purpose and one purpose only: to provide comfort and care to the Cardassian officers stationed here. Do that well, and you'll want for nothing. Fail, and you and your family will be sent to a labor camp."
When on the prowl for a new consort, Dukat would make it a point to inspect a new batch of women personally.
"Welcome to Terok Nor," he said with a smile to the group that included Meru and Nerys. "I hope your stay here will be a pleasant one. I assure you, I will do everything possible to make it so. I suspect that many of you must be feeling a bit uneasy right now. I'm well aware that among the Bajoran population there's a perception that all Cardassians are to be feared, that we're a cruel and heartless race. I hope to dispel that myth, not with words, but with actions, in the hope that you will come to appreciate the better part of our nature. I assure you that we are capable of great kindness."
Dukat quickly took a liking to Meru’s natural beauty before, brushing back her hair, he noticed a scar running along her left cheek. Although some Cardassians might have been repulsed by someone with such an imperfection, Dukat saw it as an opportunity for manipulation of Meru’s affections.
"Get me a dermal regenerator. Now!" he ordered to Basso before turning to Meru, pretended to be concerned for her welfare.
"I'm afraid to ask how you came by such a mark," he asked her softly.
"It's nothing," she responded.
To which Dukat said, "On the contrary, it's an unfortunate reminder of the gulf that exists between our two peoples. It must be removed immediately."
With the regenerator in hand, Dukat easily healed the wound – a simple act to someone with access to Cardassian-standard technology, but a work of wonder to someone unfortunate enough to live under harsh Cardassian rule. It was enough to win Meru’s gratitude, exactly as Dukat had intended.
That evening, the new women were ordered to perform their "services" at a party for the high-ranking Cardassians. Most of the women did their best to be accommodating, apparently because they knew that to resist the drunken kisses and the wandering hands was to invite severe punishment.
"The Prophets – I never realized they had such a sense of humor," Meru told Nerys at the party. "When I was a child, I would dream of having enough food to eat and pretty clothes to wear. And now, look at me – I have everything I ever wanted, and I feel horrible."
After a pause, she added, "I suppose if I can survive starvation, I can survive this. After all, we're Bajorans. We can survive anything."
Little did Meru know, but Dukat already had the future planned for his chosen one.
Without warning, an unknown Gul grabbed Meru by the elbow, pinned her against a wall and began kissing her neck while lecherously whispering in her ear.
On cue, Dukat entered the room and barked at the Gul, "I said, let her go! I don't care what you were saying – it's what you were doing I don't like. Now get away from her!"
After seeing he had earned a smile of gratitude from Meru, Dukat loudly ordered to Basso to escort back to the unknowing Bajoran woman quarters and make sure her privacy was respected.
As Nerys watched the interplay between Dukat and her mother, she overheard a nearby legate softly muttering, "I only hope you won't condemn us all for the boorish behavior of one man."
Seconds later, Dukat stepped up to Meru and said the exact same words for all in the room to hear.
"Let's just say this is not the first performance I've seen of this little melodrama," the legate explained to the puzzled Nerys. "That woman should consider herself fortunate. She's caught the Prefect's eye. As of now, she's off limits to the rest of us."
Nerys found that legate – a short, older, benign-looking man – to be the source for further unusual conversation that evening.
"And I bet I know what you're thinking," he told her with a smile. "You'd like nothing better than to get us all drunk so you could kill us in our sleep."
Surprised by his comments but guessing his bark was bigger than his bite, Nerys retorted, "Are you sure you're not part Betazoid?"
To which the legate laughingly said, "Come. Sit on my lap and tell me how much you hate Cardassians."
As they sat together on a couch, the legate commented to Nerys, "You Bajoran women, you're all so bony."
Feeling both annoyed and confident, she replied, "That's because you Cardassians have been eating all our food."
The banter obviously pleased the jolly Legate, who half-jokingly told Nerys, "You know I could have you executed for that kind of insolence."
Which prompted her to answer, "Which is one of the reasons we hate you so much."
"Clever girl," he responded. "Now pour me some of that kanar and let's see if we can't work out our differences."
After learning the next day that her mother had been permanently moved to Dukat’s quarters to serve as his personal concubine, Nerys forcefully demanded to see her. Nerys could have been killed on the spot for such insolence, but instead she was let off easy – by being brutally removed from her post as a comfort woman and literally thrown through the locked gates of the Bajoran ghetto on Terok Nor’s promenade.
Nerys spent the next few weeks toiling in the ore-processing center while her mother cavorted in luxury, wearing sensual gowns, playing the board game of kotra and taking vacations with Dukat.
Eventually, her mother returned and asked to speak to Nerys, who was then escorted under guard to Dukat’s quarters. There, Meru told her she had been treated with nothing but kindness by the Occupation’s supreme commander. Nerys, knowing the truth about Dukat, reacted with bitterness to her mother’s assurances of comfort.
"Meru, listen to me – while you're in here playing parlor games, he's busy carrying out the extermination of our people," Nerys angrily told her.
"That's not true," Meru responded. "He's written to the Central Command urging them to rethink their policies toward Bajor."
"I wouldn't care if he played you a holo-recording showing him on his hands and knees begging the Central Command to end the Occupation – it would still be a lie," retorted Nerys. "Like that first night, when he ‘saved’ you from that Gul. That wasn't real. He set the whole thing up to win you over."
But Meru chose to believe what Dukat wanted her to believe. "He told me. He tells me everything," she said. "You just don't know him."
"I don't have to – I know the things he's done," her daughter argued. "Look what he's done to you! He took you away from your family – from your children."
"He's promised to help them, to see that they're given food and medical supplies," Meru pleaded back. "What do you expect me to do – kick and bite every time Dukat comes near me? How would that help Taban or the children?"
But Nerys saw her mother’s situation differently. "Is that what you're telling yourself? That you're doing all this for the children? The clothes, the food, the easy living? It's all for them? Are you that deluded?" she angrily asked. "This isn't for them – it's for you. You like it here. You enjoy playing house with that murderer. Don't you see what you are, what you've allowed yourself to become? You're a collaborator."
"A collaborator? Because I share Dukat's bed?" Meru asked in return.
"No," her daughter responded before leaving the room in disgust to return to the ghetto. "Because you like sharing his bed. Because you've fallen in love with him."
After being returned forward in time, Nerys said she learned her mother had died in a Cardassian hospital after spending seven years as Dukat’s mistress.
"I've always hated collaborators," the former Resistance fighter said with a bitter smile. "After all, what could be worse than betraying your own people? During the Occupation, if I ever had doubts about what their fate should be, all I had to do was think of my mother and how she gave her life for Bajor. She was a hero – they were traitors. It was as simple as that. Or so I thought.
"Do you know how many Bajorans died in labor camps during that time? Died while my mother sat sipping kanar with Dukat..."
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