Friday, June 24, 2011

A long overdue dedication

A couple of weeks ago, I encountered a news item that transformed my mood into what I can only describe as a mix of sadness, quiet anger and helplessness. The news was of a jailed Iranian journalist and activist, Mr. Hoda Saber, who had died of a heart attack resulting from a 10-day hunger strike. "Mr Saber, who was in his 50s, began his strike on 2 June to protest about the death of fellow opposition figure Haleh Sahabi, during an incident at the funeral of her activist father." On the face of it, there is nothing about this tragedy that specifically warrants an emotional reaction from me. I had never heard of Mr. Saber and his death will in no likelihood affect my life. However, it was these reasons specifically that made me tweet this news story over and over. It was because I had never heard of him, because millions have never heard of him and never will, while he languished in jail and died alone, that I was saddened. It was because my life was not affected by his death that I felt culpable for being indifferent.

And so, I decided to write this post, dedicated to a few people who years back brought out similar feelings in me, who were originally meant to be the subject of my blog, but were set aside for more "relevant" subjects. I am not sure why I had chosen them, maybe because I was particularly vulnerable that day, or managed to spot them in a little box on the BBC website by sheer chance. But I want to share them with you anyway, hoping to give them a little piece of the remembrance that they deserve:

German Gladetsky

German, a 19-year-old student from Moscow, had tried to expose an alleged police rape ring on the city's metro after his girlfriend was attacked by the group. He put notices on the internet in an attempt to find other women who would be willing to file complaints. On March 25, 2004, German was shot in the head in a wasteland near a railway station in Moscow. He became partly paralyzed and could no longer speak.

Now I don't know what ticked in German's head that made him go off on his own seeking justice. Maybe he was careless. Maybe he should have gone to a higher authority if he didn't trust the police. But I think his story is one that deserves to be known, if only so his sacrifice does not go to waste.

Tom Hurndall

There's probably nothing special about Tom's story. He was a photographer/activist in the Gaza strip who was shot in the head by an Israel soldier in April 2003, one month after Rachel Corrie was murdered. He went into a coma for 9 months, and passed away on January 13, 2004. The soldier who shot him actually stood trial and was sentenced to eight years for manslaughter, of which he served five (he was given an early released last year).

His death highlighted to the world the impunity of the Israeli army and how they clearly had no regard neither to international law nor opinion. It brought to the surface more stories about soldiers shooting children and unarmed civilians without having to answer for it. He obviously isn't the only one who did it, but it is still worth remembering and thanking him for it.

Qudratullah Wardak

What did Qudratallah do? Intentionally? Nothing. But in 2005, that 16-month Afghani kid made a few US soldiers scramble to send him to the states for a heart operation. He made them cry when he passed away on the eve of his return. And he made sure this picture you see here got etched in my head forever. Qudrattalah did not die because there was a war. He was actually almost saved by the invaders. But what he did was remind anyone who stumbled onto his story that it takes the innocence of an infant to make people forget who they are and where they're from. And that gives humanity a teeny bit of hope, as naive as it may be.

And these are the stories I've compiled. If you have any others you'd like to share, please do

1 comment:

Mariam said...

Stories of refugees getting deported to countries/areas that are far from save always makes me cry & mad at the same time.
Few months ago a boy named Abiram was going to get deported together with his mother to Sri Lanka. Abiram was already terminally ill, but the Dutch government wouldn't give a residence permit. After months of protests, mainly by his school, Dutch Immigration minister finally agreed to give Abiram a residence permit...but not to his mother. His story then went viral & was often on the news. Few weeks later the minister, under great public pressure, decides to give them both a permit to legally reside in Holland.
Sadly, Abiram passed away last May.