You only have to turn on the telly or read a few pages of a newspaper to realise that while you sit in the comfort and safety of your home, there are parts of the world that are in utter turmoil.
Recently, as a consequence of war and genocide, hundreds and thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been mercilessly murdered in Myanmar. This was carried out in a bid to ethnically cleanse the area. Humans are no stranger to this type of savagery – it has frequently been occurring throughout the ages, with the most popular and most written about example being the atrocities Adolf Hitler inflicted on the Jews.
Learning from specific historical events, there is not much effort required to try to annihilate an entire race nor do you have to be particularly skilled, the art is in justifying it. Convincing people that mass murder is a necessary evil. Humans have a natural inclination towards each other. And that’s why the first step to justifying mass murder of a race is to dehumanise them. Stop people from caring about them. Selling them the idea that wiping these “not as human” people is for a greater good. And ridding them from the world will bring about peace. Although it has taken many different forms, it is the same ancient tactic.
When desperate people, who don’t want to fight and don’t want to die, make a desperate escape, they are not free from the dehumanising process. The very first thing they are stripped of is their identity. Their name is no longer important or even relevant. They are refugees. That is their new name. They don’t belong in a time or a place – they become an inconvenience.
Here is an extract from the novel “The Refugee” where the protagonist, Professor Ahmed, writes about his thoughts in his journal:
Entry 1: Journey on the boat:
Forced to flee our land, our home, we have embarked on a journey that has so far proved to be dangerous and unpredictable.
I am fearful of whether my wife will be strong enough both mentally and physically as much as I am fearful for the well-being of the young girl, sitting close by, who has been coughing for 2 hours. She may have pneumonia, and there is no way anyone can help her. Her mother looks at her like she is ready to change places – a trade that she knows can never take place.
I am surrounded by cruelty and misery.
I am fearful that the boat is not going to make it and my confidence in this journey is low. I have chosen to leave my home in a bid to save my family, but I am fearful that I have not changed our fate. I hate the fact that I have given my family hope, yet have not even a pennyworth myself.
I am fearful that I may not be able to keep up with this lie – a lie that I have almost fooled myself into believing. I am certain that we will only make it to Europe as a headline…in a newspaper.
Entry 2: Lobbed out to sea
We have created technology beyond our imagination, we have discovered more about ourselves than the human eye could see, we have touched the tips of the tallest mountains and delved into the depths of the seas, we have seen the heavens and reached the moon – yet we couldn’t save a little girl. We could give her nothing except weak smiles and useless looks of sympathy.
I am haunted by her helpless little body, roaming the vast sea, alone – alone, without the dignity of having a funeral or even being buried in the earth, like other humans.
Was she not human? Or maybe she was just food for the sharks.
What was her name?
We all knew her as the little girl with the cough… and now, as the little girl who was lobbed into the sea like a piece of old worthless junk.
It was in situations like these that the real character of people would surface. When they had food, they were happy to see others eat but when their bellies filled with emptiness, their faces changed. Their pretentious smiles exchanged with dark frowns, and their eyes would no longer appear human.
Most of the people (the young, healthy, and single men) that appeared to be the strongest were the weakest from among us. They had become selfish and thought only of themselves reaching Europe with nothing getting in the way.
Entry 3: Less than human
We are in a strange place… I feel like we are living, but are not alive; we are looked at yet not seen; listened to, yet not heard. We are found, yet are still lost; we are people, yet we are not. We are what our papers say, or we are nothing at all.
There are many people in this camp that have accepted that they are never going to get asylum and yet they can never go back – what will become of these people? Is the world too small for them to have a place in it? Or is it that they are refugees and not people? For, from what I have observed, people come into a world that was already made for them. They have no ownership of it, not even a part of it. And when they leave, however long they have lived, however much land they have claimed, or wealth they have accumulated, they leave with no share of it.
I know now that in the eyes of the world, I am not a real person, I am a refugee. A being that doesn’t qualify as an actual person; doesn’t belong in a place or time – an inconvenience.
The Refugee by S A Tameez is a novel that although fictional, delves into the real-life experiences people going through the crisis.
“The Refugee is the most non-fictional fiction I have ever written. But there is simply not enough ink in the world to cover the horrific stories of the refugees.” S A Tameez
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