Women Reporting Violence in a Time of War

Paula Abood is a community development worker and activist

Many of us have been aware of the tragedies that refugees continue to endure, most especially the sinking of the boat a couple of weeks ago, where over 370 women, children and men drowned. What provoked people was the fact that there were no expressions of sympathy about that tragedy. And this was in stark contrast to the relentless weeks of hearing about September 11th and the twin towers that came tumbling down. There was much public outpouring of sympathy and grief about the deaths of Americans. There was much empathy in the parliament, on the streets, on the radio.

A Palestinian, Dr Azmi Bishara, wrote a response to this lack of sympathy calling it the 'inequitable distribution of sorrow'. It seemed to us that this was a perfect way to describe the difference between the lack of empathy for 370 asylum seekers drowning and the outpouring of empathy for people who died in those twin towers. Dr Bishara wrote that there's an unfair distinction between death that merits a camera, death that merits only a few lines and death that merits no mention at all.

Others have died since the Australian Border Protection laws came in. A baby was born on that first boat that was stopped by the Australian Navy and pushed back out to sea. The Navy kept that boat there, with all the asylum seekers including that little baby. They were kept there for seven days. And while the news reported that a baby was born, they didn't report that that baby died three days after it was born. It died because of the conditions imposed on that boat and the people in it. Conditions imposed by the Australian government. There was no protection from the searing heat. That little baby died. There was no sympathy.

And so today we want to change the 'inequitable distribution of sorrow'. We want to publicly acknowledge the deaths of the refugees, the women, men and children who have drowned and all the others who have died in pursuit of freedom. We want to light some candles in remembrance. Auntie Ali will lead the candle lighting. Rukhshana from the Afghan Women's Network and Rawan Abdul, a Palestinian-Australian student woman will lead as well.

And then we would like to invite anyone who so wishes to come and light a candle in remembrance.

Paula Abood, 8 November, 2001.

X-URL: http://international.activism.hss.uts.edu.au/w_violence/transcripts/abood.html

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