December 20, 2006

Who Speaks For The Victims of War? You?

This is Umar.
Umar was traveling from Mosul to Baghdad with his mother, father, and brother to celebrate Eid with relatives. When the family reached Samara, the bus was attacked by US forces. His father suffered gunshot wounds to his arm and back, and multiple shrapnel injuries. His mother was killed in the attack. The bus driver and two other passengers died at the scene.
Umar looks like a very brave little boy, doesn't he? What sort of future do you think he has?

One of the problems with charity work is that, no matter how unimaginable the horrors involved, the appeal for help is almost always kind of boring. I don't know why that is so, but it's a fact. For some reason, when it comes to charities, our minds switch off. It takes an adrenalin-pumping event like a Band Aid concert or a live telethon to really get our attention (and our money) and even then the window of opportunity only lasts for an hour or two. Chimpanzees probably have a greater sense of empathy.

Take the Boxing Day tsunami in Asia, for example. In its own way, it was every bit as shocking as 9/11. As long as the TV news was pumping out fresh video footage of the surging seas and screaming victims, the world's attention was riveted and the charity money poured in. But a few months later, nobody could even be bothered to see what had happened to the money they sent.

Then there is something the TV producers call "fatigue". Watching endless visions of violence in Iraq, day after day, the audience starts to mentally switch off. They flick channels. Never mind that the other channel is showing some cheap police drama with FAKE car-bombings! The human mind can only take so much, it seems. We seek escape into the world of fantasy.

But every now and again something creeps through the fog and wedges itself in your consciousness. Is it a curse, a blessing, an opportunity, a message?

After seeing Dahr Jamail's photos of little Shams the other day, I was close to tears. I bit my lip and swore at my computer. I had to go outside for a little walk in the fresh air. But when I came back to my computer, I was still choked up.

I showed the picture to some colleagues at work, just to gauge their reaction. Was this image really so troubling, or was it just me?

"Terrible," they said. "Just terrible."

Then they went back to work, before they got in trouble for wasting time. I guess they were fatigued.

When I came home, I showed my wife. She didn't say anthing.

"She's the same age as Aisha," I said.

Eventually I sent an email to Dahr Jamail, asking if he had any more information on Shams, and if there was anything I could do to help. Here is his reply:
Thank you for your concern. The best suggestion I have is to visit this link:


This group is doing the best job I know of helping Iraqi children like Shams, and I know that they are aware of her plight.
Hey, you! YOU! Did you click on the link? Can I ask you a favour? Please? Will you please just click on the link and go take a look. Please?

These people are not trying to shock you with horrific images or harangue you with a political guilt trip. They are just trying to help ordinary kids like Umar and Shams, the innocent victims of an horrifically violent war.

I know, there are more exciting sites on the Internet. But please, just consider the daily reality that these little kids are facing, think about the world you want to live in, and help create that world today.




1 comment:

thepoetryman said...

Yes! Great post! Fine plea for reality based thinking! Thank you...



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