By Beena Sarwar
Three frozen moments of grief, captured by wire photographs at
different parts of the world in one day last week stand out...
Anguished families in Brazil, Kashmir, and Iraq, captured by Reuters
and AFP cameras and printed in newspapers on July 25 are tied
together by the thread of tragedy.
Crying for the untimely loss of their loved ones, they will be
forever linked not just by their personal tragedies but by the
fact that these tragedies are a consequence and part of the so-called
global 'war on terror'.
The pictures feature wailing women, and a little girl of eleven
named Noor, just two years older than my own daughter, nearly
senseless with grief at the loss of her father, a member of the
Iraqi Army shot dead in Kirkuk. A mother in Brazil and relatives
in Kashmir weep for the loss of young men killed by security forces
in cases of mistaken identity, on opposite ends of the world.
From London to Kashmir...in London, police chased a suspect wearing
a bulky jacket, then reportedly held him down and shot him five
times in the head. He was later identified as Jean Charles de
Menezes, 27, a Brazilian electrician, and not a 'Muslim terrorist'
as he appeared to be from his dark complexion and 'suspicious
behaviour'. On the Indian side of the Line of Control security
forces shot dead three teenage boys, out for a late night, post-wedding
jaunt -- the second such killing in one week, the last one being
that of a 15-year old boy.
The British enjoy a good reputation compared to other police
forces worldwide but it's not as if they never killed innocent
people before the powerful documentary film 'Injustice',
by the British filmmaker Ken Fero and Pakistani journalist Tariq
Mehmood, reports on the deaths in custody or of men (and some
women) who happen to be mostly black. The film, screened at the
Kara Film Fest last year, and is particularly
relevant in Pakistan and all over South Asia, given our police's
trigger-happy track record.
Now, of course, there is 'khulli chutti' (an open licence) sanctioned
by the global 'war on terror'. Around the world, security agencies
are following the cue of the bully on the world block, as leaders
of various states repeat the rhetoric emanating from the White
House. It helps them deal with their own internal issues of political
dissent, win elections, and keep up the national hype.
And around the world, once relaxed lifestyles are changing as
the new paradigms of 'terror' take hold. Totally innocent travellers
are now fearful of international travel. Luis P. Ferraz, a Brazilian
friend returning to Sao Paulo from Karachi and stopping in London
on the way, wonders if he should carry his backpack, especially
since his passport shows that he has just been to Pakistan. Another
friend, Khusro Mumtaz in Karachi, swears he will not wear a jacket
in London, even in winter.
And who can blame them or call them paranoid? Such fears are
hardly limited to London. Just last Sunday, armed police in New
York swarmed on to an open-top sightseeing bus, handcuffed five
Sikh tourists from Birmingham and forced them to kneel on Broadway
with their hands bound behind their backs after a tour company
employee reported them to the police as suspicious. "The
police cordoned off the block for 90 minutes, ordered all 60 passengers
off the bus, and searched their belongings and then their bodies.
The five men were then identified by the employee and cuffed,"
reports The Guardian (July 27, 2020). The Mayor later apologised
to the five men, who accepted his apology. After all, there's
a war going on.
Paranoia has even reached the hitherto isolated Scandinavian
countries. Friend Farooq Sulehria from Sweden, where the prime
minister has hinted at introducing new anti-terrorism laws, writes:
"Denmark is on high alert. The Norwegian media, a friend
told me on the phone, has gone nuts... As far as ordinary people
are concerned, I think for first time since September 11, 2001,
at least the few I talked to, have expressed nervousness. I think
the media is also spreading nervousness when government functionaries
and 'experts' are asked over and over again if it can be Stockholm
The answer, of course, is that of course it can. It can be anywhere
next. We in Pakistan are used to bomb attacks and armed gunmen
mowing down congregations, although this phenomenon of 'suicide
attacks' is relatively recent here. Nor is Britain a stranger
to home-grown terrorism, having lived through enough bombings
and assassinations over the last thirty years while dealing with
the IRA. But the IRA activists were indistinguishable from the
generally 'white' population, so racial profiling was difficult
if not impossible. Tim McVeigh who was executed for the 1995 Oklahoma
bombings was a blond Southerner. No racial profiling possible
Today, anyone who has dark skin, dark hair and brown eyes, like
the unfortunate Brazilian electrician shot dead in London, is
a potential suspect, and fair game to be shot dead. The apologies
can come later, and the police action will be justified by the
argument that there is a 'war' going on.
No accountability, no rule of law. All very convenient. Meanwhile,
we count the people killed by the suicide bombers in western capitals
like Madrid and London, but the thousands of Afghans and Iraqis
killed by bombs dropped from the skies go unaccounted for. And
the western media and leadership largely continue to deny the
link between these two situations.
As the Canadian-Pakistani writer Tarek Fateh notes, "What
was once contained to a mere 100 square miles in the mountains
of Pakistan and Afghanistan" has "mushroomed to a 100,000
square miles in Iraq, thanks to the US invasion. Both Bush and
Bin Laden have fed off each other, providing sustenance to one
another in implementing their agendas."
"To fight malaria, one does not shoot down mosquitoes; one
drains the swamps. Sadly, the Anglo-American 'War on Terrorism'
has done just the opposite."
The swamp is now the world, and everyone is fair game.