The Terran year was 2318.
Cardassia was at the center of its own expanding but resource-deficient confederation of worlds. Its Central Command, seeking a way to continue fueling its imperialistic fires, cast its eyes with greed toward a planet of artisans and scientists who for centuries had shared the sector peacefully as neighbors.
Five-and-a-quarter light years from Cardassia, the target was a blue sphere known as Bajor.
The discovery of a stable wormhole a little more than 50 years later would bring the world to the attention of almost every major power throughout the Alpha, Beta and Gamma Quadrants.
Relatively few of them, however, knew when the first Cardassian troop ships and battle cruisers dropped out of warp into the Bajor-B’Hava’el star system and entered orbit around the serene planet.
Few appeared to care when the Cardassians claimed Bajor as a territory in the Terran year 2328.
Few seemed to notice when the Central Command formally annexed it 11 years after that.
And few, if any, non-Bajoran voices cried in alarm when the invading force enacted their conquest, enslaved the inhabitants and began to systematically decimate the planet’s rich culture and delicate natural environment.
It was likely the most destructive, tragic era to occur in the 500,000-year history of Bajoran society.
But it was also possibly also the most heroic. With no help from anyone but themselves, the Bajoran people managed to not only survive, but to eventually rise together and force the technologically-advanced oppressors off the planet.
The victory came at a great cost. When the Cardassians withdrew from Bajor (in the Terran year 2369), they left behind a world raped of its former glory. Strip mines and poisoned water covered sterile fields where once was fertile farmland and thick forests. Thousands of treasured cultural and spiritual artifacts, including eight of the nine sacred Orbs of the Prophets, had been destroyed or stolen by Cardassian officials.
And 20 million Bajorans were dead.
Many died of starvation and malnutrition. Others were worked to death in Cardassian mines. Some were murdered during random interrogations or in retaliation for actions by Resistance fighters.
The reasons for their deaths were many, but they were all directly killed by the hands of the Occupation force.
It is to them that I dedicate this short history of that turbulent time.
As I grew to maturity on Bajor – as a child on my family’s Moba fruit farm and later within monastery walls – I experienced much of the Occupation firsthand. The bricks and mortar of the temple I called home often did little to shelter those who lived within from witnessing the actions of the Cardassian invasion force. And what I did not see with my own eyes I still would experience whenever I attempted to comfort or assist those who had lost their homes, their families, their limbs and, in some cases, their sanity to the gray-skinned conquerors.
In an attempt to use my training and limited wisdom to aid the many Bajorans who fled offworld during the planet’s turbulent years, and to help spread the teachings of the Prophets throughout the galaxy, I requested and was granted the opportunity to enlist in Starfleet after the Cardassian retreat from Bajor. This decision has allowed me the opportunity to serve alongside other Bajorans, Terrans and a host of other races during the last few years as an officer, a counselor and an unofficial cleric aboard both a starship and a space station.
Untold millions of Bajorans still live the horrors today every time they close their eyes for sleep or gaze at an image of a lost loved one. I have learned, however, that the tragedy of the Occupation is often little more than a depressing historical topic for most members of other species. This is also too often true for many of the thousands of Bajorans who were born and raised never having set foot on their homeworld’s soil.
Libraries of volumes have been written about the Occupation by Bajorans for Bajorans, but few works have been scribed specifically for other races. I feel this is a neglected need because memories of the long night that fell over Bajor during the Cardassian Occupation should serve as a bitter lesson for all sentient species.
After spending six years in daily contact with Terrans, I was asked by an acquaintance at Starfleet Academy if I would be willing to come speak to his students on my experiences. The opportunity prompted me to create a short overview of the Occupation slanted specifically toward the knowledge and backgrounds of Starfleet cadets.
To make the material as relevant as possible, I have focused my work on the strongest connection Starfleet has to Bajor – the space station known as Deep Space Nine. Because the station’s current commander, Kira Nerys, is possibly the one Bajoran most recognized by Starfleet officers, I interviewed her extensively and have attempted to present her recollections as accurately as possible. Similarly, because Gul Dukat is possibly the most recognized Cardassian, I used him as an example of the mind and soul of the Occupation force.
Whatever gaps a student may find in my work, I can only hope it will encourage them on to further research – and to seek the path of truly understanding what Cardassian rule meant to the Bajoran culture.
A Terran is quoted as saying, "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." My prayer is that my brief history of some of facts surrounding the Bajoran Occupation will help prevent such a dark time from ever descending over any planet anywhere ever again.
Voka a Bentel.
Lt. J.G. Jabara Eris
Prylar and Counselor
Deep Space 18
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