Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Once upon a time in an area of conflict

Today I wanted to share a personal story with you folks in the other side of the world to give some perspective and  background about how daily life in an area of conflict looks like, and how it makes people in these places think, act, and express themselves very differently from someone like you watching it on TV or reading about it online without being personally connected to it.

As I'm writing this right now there are clashes going on here in Cairo between the police and the protesters near the ministry of interior. It's the kind of clashes that's been going on since 2011 where thousands of people were murdered, injured, and detained.This abnormality is becoming the norm in Egypt.

Now, try to imagine being a university student in your early twenties or a 16 year old high school student who lost 6 of his/her colleagues last year. This is the kind of people who're there now in the streets full of anger, frustration, and despair to the degree that they don't care any more if they died themselves. Death is not much of a big deal anymore, it doesn't scare them or make them feel worried about their life or clinging to it.

The martyr Gaber also known as Gika in the red Super man T-shirt celebrating in Tahrir 
when Morsi became president last June.

Gaber, the only protester who's killed last night with 7 bullets in the chest and the brain turned out to be a friend of many of my friends. I talked to this 18 year old boy briefly in March 2012 two days upon my arrival from the U.S during a protest in Cairo for a few minutes only. I was filming him talking with my other friend on the bridge and I can remember these moments very clearly. 

Now for many Gaber's just a dead body in a coffin, I recognized his face in a random photo I saw on Facebook and was terribly shocked. We are not close friends or family but the way he died and the fact he's dead is affecting me very negatively right now. I feel so bad and I can't do anything about it but then I try to think about the feelings of his family and friends, and then I think about the people living in Gaza and Syria and I wonder how they might be feeling. My story might be so insignificant compared to what other people are going through and I fully realize that.

Through the course of these two last years I've known many people who were killed, injured or detained in Egypt and the rest of the world. This kind of experiences taught me how to be more sensitive and considerate when I talk to people going through hardships and crisis whether in wars or areas of conflict. Unfortunately, that's something many folks living in the "first world" fail to understand. Some of the comments and reactions I see from people in the west are so concerning and shocking in many ways to me. Even those who're politically aware or involved in these causes tend to look at things and deal with it from an elitist detached position. 
With all the turmoil going on in Egypt, next doors in Gaza and the whole region it makes me feel grateful I don't live in a place where people reached the point of discussing the morality of burning babies alive or cussing you out for trying to be more religious in a battle field because they don't think God exists and they want to discuss it with you, while your friends are falling and your existence is a matter of a random bullet or an airstrike that might hit you any time.

When you talk about people in countries going through political turmoil or talk to them please take a moment to think about the contexts they live in that might not be familiar to anything you've ever seen or experienced in your life.

If you don't know how to put yourself in their shoes while interacting with these people then simply just stay quite.
 I know sometimes people don't mean it but you could be trying to help and end up making things worse.

For many, speaking about them merely as numbers, news, and statistics is very offensive and insulting.

Neglecting and overlooking the social, cultural, emotional and psychological dimensions and backgrounds of their seemingly (political/economical) struggles is very offensive and disrespectful.

Reducing them from human beings with personal stories and lives into just activists, rebels, rioters, working class, islamists, organizers or any of these labels people use all the time left and right is utterly annoying and disrespectful.

Be mindful that their definition for death and life, right and wrong, morality and immorality are not the same as yours.

Remember that behind your excitement..

Behind the vibes..

Behind the graphic pictures you keep your eyes away from..

Behind the layers of political theories and analysis..

Behind all of this lies one important factor I tend to think is the most important among all: The human experience.

Take a moment to think of us merely as humans.

And remember, you need to stay human yourself in a world that's constantly working on taking humanity away from you and me.

No comments: