Life During the Occupation
An old Bajoran saying holds that "The land and the people are one." And when the land was invaded, it was truly like a sickness upon the lives of its occupants.
For the Bajorans, the arrival of the Cardassians represented not just conquest, but an infestation of a very alien race.
Their very physiology was different. In the place of the fair, brownish-pink skin common among Bajorans, Cardassian bodies were covered with dull gray reptilian scales. And while Bajorans are known for their unique ridges that run along the crest of the nose, Cardassians are equally distinguished by thick braces of flesh and bone running down the sides of the head and neck onto the shoulders. Appropriate to their non-mammalian heritage, Cardassians dislike cold temperatures, instead preferring the climate to be considerably warm and often muggy.
The newcomers’ food demands added new tastes to area tables. Instead of eating moba fruit for breakfast, Cardassians prefer fish juice. Instead of a lunch of hasperat, Cardassians are more likely to enjoy a meal of zabo meat.
The influx of Cardassian culture was also highly unusual to Bajoran cultural standards. Instead of emphasizing an appreciation for the arts and beauty, Cardassian parents subject their children to intense mind training programs as early as four years of age, perhaps contributing to the race’s famous photographic memories. Some Cardassians, such as former Prefect S. G. Dukat, were even able to shield their thoughts from psychic probes, including Vulcan mind melds.
"It's simply a matter of discipline," he once explained.
Like many Cardassians, Dukat considered the harsh learning environment to be ultimately beneficial to the young members of his race.
"Education is power," he once told the Emissary. "Joy is vulnerability."
Cardassian funeral rites are very strict, and they consider it a dishonor to the deceased if a non-Cardassian views the remains.
Even intimate relationships were handled differently. Instead of showing warmth and pleasure during courtship, Cardassian couples sometimes exhibit overt irritability toward each other as an overture to a sexual relationship.
Yet there did appear to be at least some warmth under the conqueror’s gray skin. Cardassians apparently put an extremely high regard – at least in public – on their relationships with their immediate relatives.
"On Cardassia, family is everything," said Kotan Pa’Dar, a Cardassian civilian official who served on Bajor during the Occupation. "We care for our parents and our children with equal devotion. In some households, four generations eat at the same table. Family is everything."
In the areas considered by the Cardassians to be unworthy of extensive exploitation, life was able to continue generally as it had from centuries before the Occupation. Even ancient feuds survived, such as the one between the inhabitants north of the Lonar Province in the Paqu and the Navot territories, considered some of the harshest land on the planet.
Yet even that isolated area could not escape being scarred by Cardassian actions.
A treaty created between the Paqu and Navot people almost 50 years prior to the beginning of the Occupation stated, "... the border separating the Paqu and the Navot shall forever be the river Glyrhond." Designed to prevent a potential civil war between the two territories, the treaty was expected to remain a constant cornerstone of relations between the two peoples.
During the Occupation, however, the Cardassians diverted the river for use in their mining operations. As a result, the Glyrhond flowed twenty kilometers west of its former position – twenty kilometers into Navot territory. To the ire of the Paqu, the river stayed in that position, causing a dispute over land boundaries that was not peacefully settled until after the end of the Occupation. Before that could occur, the Paqu's leader and his wife had both been slain by the Cardassians, leaving their young daughter, Varis Sul, to reign alone as her people's Tetrarch, or leader.
Being an orphan was a common trait far too many Bajoran children shared during the dark years.
"There's not much to tell – it's a pretty familiar story," said Mardah, a young woman working as a Dabo girl after the Withdrawal, when asked about her history. "Parents killed during the occupation... raised by neighbors until I was thirteen, then I moved out on my own. I have a brother and a sister on Bajor... but we haven't talked in years."
Orphan resettlement centers did exist, but they were anything but luxurious. Typically, they might be an out-of-the-way, more rural than urban, children's clearinghouse, consisting of a drab courtyard and a dilapidated single-office structure – a place run on a threadbare budget, with too little money and not enough hands to care for far too many children. Records retrieved after the Withdrawal showed that more than 7,000 children passed through the Tozhat Resettlement Center during the turbulent years of the Occupation.
Even after the Occupation, many of these centers remained in operation but in just as poor condition, a testament to the shortages suffered by post-occupation Bajor.
The fate of many farming areas was much worse than just a redirected river. For example, the Rakantha Province was once considered one of the most productive agricultural regions on Bajor, but the Cardassians poisoned much of the farmlands before they left, and the area has been mostly barren wasteland ever since.
Toxic runoffs from Cardassian mining and factory operations, combined with extensive damage to the aqueduct system, made access to safe drinking water quite difficult in some regions. To make matters much worse, a great famine swept across portions of the northern continent about three decades after the Occupation began.
Disease was an unfortunate reality for most Bajorans forced to live in impoverished conditions during the Occupation. One such disease, the Fostossa virus, caused an epidemic killing thousands of Bajorans.
A cure for the virus was developed by Dr. Crell Moset, a Cardassian physician. Many people wished he had not. To study the affects of the disease, Moset conducted extensive experimentation on numerous Bajoran prisoners, resulting in the painful death of many of those unwilling subjects.
Finding enough work to provide enough income to fend off starvation was often a difficult job in itself. Some Bajorans were fortunate enough to own their own farms or businesses, but many others were forced to submit themselves to grueling conditions of Cardassian-run operations, such as machine shops and replicator plants. Once they were accepted to those positions, workers often were prohibited from quitting, although they could be fired if they got on the bad side of a supervisor.
Yet through all the hardship, sorrow and tribulation of the Occupation, possibly the most sweeping change to the lives of Bajor’s inhabitants was the elimination of the D'jarra caste system.
For untold years, the lives and occupation of all Bajoran citizens was decided by their D’jarras even before they were born. From the lowest classes, those who dealt with the dead, to higher classes that included farmers, artists and politicians, all people were legally obliged to follow the same general occupation path of their ancestors. Members of one D’jarra were not even permitted to associate with members of a lesser one. In some instances, failure to follow one’s preordained career was punishable by death.
Technically, the D’jarra system was not completely done away with until after the Occupation. Soon after the planet was enslaved by the Cardassians, however, Bajoran spiritual leaders declared that everyone’s D’jarra had been changed to become the D’jarra of the soldier class. This decision allowed people like Kira Nerys, whose family was part of the Ih’valla artist D’jarra, to become active members of the Resistance cells that soon formed around the planet.
Although no Bajoran would be held in disdain for continuing to follow their previous profession – and many people continued to serve as mechanics, business owners and in other capacities – all were encouraged and expected to fight against their planet’s oppressors in whatever way they were called by the Prophets. Many sociologists believe that the experience of working together for that common goal helped Bajorans understand that all people are created equal.
Throughout the Occupation, the most basic aspects of life – and birth – continued as they had for untold countless millennia before. Along with bringing spiritual happiness to a couple, the very act of physically bringing a child into the world would naturally and automatically bring with it deep physical pleasure for the mother, often providing a beautiful oasis in the midst of harsh tribulations.
As detailed in issue 20 of "Sociological Studies of Intelligent Lifeforms" in an article concerning Bajoran pregnancy: "Fortunately for Bajoran women, the birth process does not involve any pain; if a woman feels discomfort it means that she isn’t ready to give birth, as during labor Bajoran women produce high levels of pain-suppressing endorphins. When the woman is unable to fully relax, her body stops producing these endorphins before they reach toxic levels. If this happens, the labor process will stop entirely. At this point, it could be days or even weeks before labor starts again."
The article also noted:
Supply and Demand
Black marketers, from Ferengi to fellow Bajorans, were quick to make a few strips of latinum by providing goods – many commonly available before the Occupation – for inflated prices. Critically needed medicine and Pyrellian ginger tea were among the items Bajorans could buy on the black market – if they could meet the price.
Despite their unscrupulous demeanor, smugglers were held in high regard by many people because they often provided the only way to acquire a desired commodity.
Hagath, a tall, handsome and casually elegant man of an unknown alien species, was a smuggler known for an air of authority that he wore lightly. He clearly considered himself one of nature's aristocrats and comfortable in his own skin.
"Hagath supplied arms to the Resistance," noted Kira Nerys, a former member of the Shakaar cell. "Without him, and others like him, we'd all be dead, and the Cardassians would still be in power. We owe him."
These shady merchants often had their dark side, however, and few provided the service out of the goodness of their hearts.
"I ran a black market for anyone who could pay. Never exactly thought of myself as ... kind," said Quark, a Ferengi who ran a bar on Terok Nor.
Nonetheless, Quark was considered by some people to be honorable, even courageous. Despite the risk of imprisonment or execution by Cardassian officials on Terok Nor, Quark repeatedly smuggled food out of his bar to sell to the starving Bajoran workers, whose diet was often strictly rationed by the station’s overseers.
For some Bajoran smugglers, the lifestyle was hard to give up even after the Occupation was over. Razka Karn, for example, continued to be known as a scavenger who sometimes, for the right price, could provide you with a hard-to-find item.
"Let's just say I miss the old days on Bajor," Razka said several years after the Cardassian withdrawal. "Smuggling may not've been the safest line of work, but it was a lot more exciting than selling scrap metal."
For crimes ranging from thievery to shady marketing, Razka earned at least a dozen warrants for his arrest on Cardassia by the Occupation’s end.
"Don't get me wrong," the Bajoran added with a smile to his previous statements. "I'm glad the Cardassians are gone. I just wish I'd put away a little more latinum before they left."
Ibudan, a Bajoran smuggler who frequented Terok Nor, was later remembered by the changeling named Odo, who served as Constable on the orbital mining station during the later years of the Occupation.
"He used to run black market goods through (Deep Space Nine) to the surface during the Cardassian occupation, gouging his fellow man who needed medical supplies and so forth," Odo recalled. "Some Bajorans actually considered him a hero. But I saw him let a child die when the parents couldn't afford the drug that would've saved her life."
Ibudan was incarcerated on Bajor at the Kran-Tobal prison after murdering a Cardassian during the Occupation but was released by the Bajoran Provisional Government in the Terran year 2369 shortly after the Withdrawal.
While there, he used some of his time to learn the techniques of another prisoner – a scientist who had been arrested by the Cardassians for doing experimental research into tri-phasic cloning. Soon after his release, Ibudan used the knowledge to create a clone of himself, which he murdered with the intention of framing Odo for the crime. Odo, however, proved too smart for him, and Ibudan was returned to prison to serve time for the unusual crime of killing his own copy.
After the Cardassian retreat, the Kran-Tobal prison continued to serve as a penal institution under control of the Bajoran government.
Even when faced with the deepest levels of poverty, many Bajorans continued to hold on to a few possessions, sometimes even to luxurious accessories that could otherwise be sold to buy a few days’ extra food. Often these items were psychologically important, giving the person a tie to a time when things were different, a time when simple pleasures were not such a rarity.
In an article concerning Bajoran jewelry in issue 11 of the Federation journal "Sociological Studies of Intelligent Lifeforms," the authors note:
Ceremony and Celebration
While Bajoran underground cells fought for freedom during the Occupation and its religious orders were persecuted, the University of Bajor and institutions such as the Bajoran Center for Science remained open. Natives were allowed to maintain technical, scientific and clerical jobs and training, and many Bajoran data banks survived intact and functional.
For awhile, the Jalanda Forum continued to serve as a respectable venue for the performing arts. There, visitors might have had the chance to witness Varani, the famous tivara master, performing a concert of beautiful classical music.
After the Withdrawal, Varani was reduced to performing at small music halls and bars, such as a casino on Deep Space Nine. Even after the grueling years of the Occupation, however, the woodwind player never lost his incredible touch.
"They're not just enjoying him – they're mesmerized by him!" noted Quark, the casino’s owner, after seeing his customers’ reaction to one of Varani’s haunting sonatas.
During a break, the venerable musician said he was happy to be there, despite being accustomed to years of performing before packed crowds at high-class exhibition halls. "Having my work appreciated again … I almost forgot how it felt," said Varani, who was considered by some to be the greatest musician Bajor has ever known. "One can't be choosy about performance venues these days."
In the midst of the worst of times, most Bajorans sought to find happiness as best they could. Around the planet, people continued to celebrate the annual Peldor (or Gratitude) Festival, where greetings of "Peldor joi!" ("Happy thanks") joined with the smell of burning bateret leaves to fill the air. Lasting several days, the Gratitude Festival was one annual celebration that embraced all the hope and optimism that Bajorans managed to retain through all their tribulations.
In an article concerning Bajoran culture in issue 11 of "Sociological Studies of Intelligent Lifeforms," the authors note:
With the difficult conditions faced by those living during the Occupation, such elaborate ceremonies were rarely the norm, although many people sought to emulate them as best as they could.
Life could be fleeting during the Occupation, and no Bajoran could ever be confident in living with their mate to a ripe old age. Nonetheless, people still continued to bond together as always in the hope of obtaining as much joy as possible during whatever time the Prophets gave them to be with their loved ones.
In issue 20 of "Sociological Studies of Intelligent Lifeforms," the authors detailed various rituals undergone by Bajoran couples, including the rites of separation and marriage.
Some Bajorans were able to find the means to make it offworld in an effort to escape the horrors of the Cardassian oppression.
"Being a Bajoran, I know what it's like to be displaced," Varani noted.
The act of leaving the brutal realities of Bajor behind, however, in no way guaranteed a life without want and need. Many of those who chose to flee Bajor found themselves faced with a continuous struggle for basic necessities, even on neutral worlds.
During the Occupation, Bajorans were "forced to wander the galaxy, settling wherever they can find room...," remarked Starfleet Admiral Kennelly.
"On many worlds we've been to, they are isolated, treated as pariahs," noted Starfleet Captain Jean Luc Picard.
One such settlement was in the Valo system on the outskirts of Cardassian territory. Dozens of Bajoran camps were sprinkled on Valo III and two other M-class planets in the system. Valo III was the home of Jas Holza, an ad hoc leader who became somewhat well known in the Federation as an accomplished spokesman for his people. Invited to symposiums and diplomatic soirees, Jas even earned a reputation as a terrific dancer. Many Bajorans, however, had little respect for Jas, whom they considered a "token Bajoran" honored by "respectable people," but accomplishing no real purpose. More respected by the Bajorans were men like Keeve Falor, one of at least 50 residents of the settlement on Valo II.
Located in the southern continent’s region, lying in a scrub-bush valley that experienced extremes in temperature common to desert areas, Keeve’s camp was sadly a typical example of life for Bajoran refugees. The few Federation visitors were often taken aback by the devastating sight of dozens of ramshackle huts built from bits and pieces of junk and wire and colored tarps lining the barren ground. In some cases, shelter was constructed from merely a metal sheet along the side of boulders. Small farm animals roamed freely near fire pits and amongst clothes hanging on the lines that strung the camp together. As people washed clothes in tubs using water falling from an open pipe, dirty children, ill-clothed or often naked, would run through the camp anxious for any excitement or change from the dreary lifestyle. Many of the adults considered themselves lucky for the chance to wear any assortment of inadequate clothing, usually hand-crafted and oft-mended.
Picard, an accomplished Terran archaeologist, noted the following in reaction to seeing the camp during his visit in the year 2368: "I read about the achievements of the ancient Bajoran civilization in my fifth grade reader. They were architects and artists and builders and philosophers when humans were not yet standing erect. Now I see how history has rewarded them. In an age when their technology should be able to feed and clothe all of them, that they should have to live like this..."
A few Bajoran refugees found relative luxury and security by joining the ranks of Starfleet, including an ensign named Ro Laren. Like many Bajorans born during the Occupation, Ro’s early life was filled with tragedy.
"When I was seven years old I was given a piece of sugar candy and led by a Cardassian into a room," she said. "My father was sitting inside. And he looked at me with eyes I'd never seen. And then the Cardassian began to ask him questions, and during the next two hours as I was forced to watch, my father was tortured until he died. I remember feeling so ashamed as my father begged for mercy. I was ashamed of him for being so weak. I was ashamed of being Bajoran. Later I began to understand how misguided those feelings were. And yet somehow they have remained a part of me. I do not want to be ashamed of my heritage any longer."
Ro eventually had enough of the despair and decided to seek a better life in the Federation. But during a mission on Garon II as a Starfleet officer, she disobeyed orders, causing the resultant deaths of eight fellow crewmembers of the U.S.S. Wellington. In retribution, Starfleet court-martialed Ro, and she was sentenced by Starfleet Admiral Kennelly to a lengthy stay in military prison on Jaron II. She would likely have remained there until after the end of the Occupation, but in 2368 Kennelly gave her freedom in exchange for assistance in contacting the leader of a Resistance cell headquartered in the Valo system.
"I serve the Federation, but I am Bajoran," Ro explained. "A Starfleet admiral presented me with an opportunity to help my people in their fight against the Cardassians. I had to accept it."
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