147 dead students in Kenya and our deafening silence

By ZOYA ANWER

Watching the 8am news is a part of my daily routine now — it helps kickstart my mind as I set out to work, it provides ‘food for thought’ for that part of me that isn’t still numb from working in a newsroom.

Yesterday, as I sipped my morning tea, I was thinking about the Pakistanis in Yemen cheering as the fleet arrived on time, their cheers drowning out the pleas of their ‘fellowmen’ caught in a war forced upon them but, well, at least ‘my people’ were safe and sound.

Little did I know this deep nationalist sentiment would ricochet as the good news was followed by the report of 147 students killed in the Garissa University College campus in Kenya.

I gasped as I saw the number for it instantly took me back to December 16. It felt like déjà vu.

Was it? It had to be. The last time I checked the figure it was around 20.

As the day progressed, I failed to understand the absolute lack of an outcry. This here was the deadliest attack in Kenya after almost a decade. And yet, all eyes fixed on Lausanne, where world powers and Iran were meeting to agree on a framework for a nuclear deal?

Did the students running for their lives in their nightwear just before the break of dawn not matter? To anyone?

I remember how the Peshawar attack shook all of us to our very core.

We rushed to our corners to shed tears silently before bracing for the task of carefully cropping pictures and choosing words. This was Peshawar too, for the militants of Al-Shebab used the same tactics: they attacked students, mostly non-Muslims, to what they called teaching the Kenyan government a lesson for its military intervention in Sudan.

The very name Al-Shebab is ironic because Shebab means prime youth. So cruel were these ‘defenders of the youth’ that they promised the students their lives on the condition that they step out of their dorm rooms and form rows. Once the students obeyed, they were all shot at in the back of the headone by one.

“If you want to survive, come out!” the militants yelled. “If you want to die, stay inside!”

The students’ affiliation with Islam, or the lack of it was also a deciding factor.

Why not Kenya?

I agree that Peshawar or any other terrorist attack cannot be compared with another but I’m keenly searching for any reasons that explain why Garissa should have had a diminished global impact.

The attackers were not newbies; rather they are associated with the notorious Al Qaeda; they don’t call themselves the Taliban but their motives echo what that group demands: the imposition of an extremist-militant version of Islam.

Just like Afghanistan borders Pakistan, Somalia borders Kenya and these militants have an easy way of entering the region due to poor security.

The last time Al-Shebab had struck was back in 2013 in the deadly Nairobi shopping mall attack which took the lives of more than 60 people. But that’s not it, the international community talked about the Peshawar attack for months as it stirred debate about the law and order situation in Pakistan and whether the state was able to deal with the crisis.

Here, on the other hand, it appears that no one wants to bat an eye.

This is in contrast with the hue and cry raised when the crimes of Ugandan commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Joseph Kony came to lightwith US President Barack Obama sending 100 US army advisers yet, there no details on the ruthless warlord.

The silence on Garissa doesn’t end here.

It also appears that the phrase “black lives don’t matter” comes into play here. When Boko Haram abducted 300 schoolgirls from north-east Nigeria, US First Lady Michelle Obama became an active campaigner for the #BringBackOurGirls cause but the voices on the issue soon died down.

Or even the heinous atrocities in Rwanda or Congo — as the grip of terror tightens around all of Africa, the lesser people seem to bother about it.

Dotted with mass graves, haunted with the horror of rape and now with a skeletal of a varsity where students refuse to enter out of the fear of being shot, it appears that they don’t call Africa the ‘dark continent’ for no reason.

Kenya unbowed

But despite it all, Kenyans are similar to us in this regard as well; they too refuse to succumb to terrorists who want to establish their rule by constant trepidation; ‘Kenya unbowed’ read the headline of Kenyan newspaper The Standard.

Locals came out in huge numbers in memory and support of the victims and the survivors.

The question, however, remains. Did we?

Did any of us hold vigils for them?

Did we take to Twitter to tell them that we could feel their pain because we have been where they are now?

Did we think about telling them that 147 was not just a number?

Did we tell them that this guise of resilience is eating us from the inside too?

We did nothing.

We have enough problems of our own many will argue, but where do these problems vanish when an actor causes a furor?

Where do these problems evaporate to when we bash a former cricket captain?

Where do these problems disappear when we become attached to the ‘cause’ for ‘Muslim Ummah’ in Yemen?

Why this selective condemnation then? Why bother condemning any action outside Pakistan at all?

I stand with all those victims and their families who witnessed this unfathomable dawn of horror in Kenya because I can understand how it feels to be killed for your religion, colour, caste and thoughts.

This world doesn’t need atomic energy if it’s going to make its citizens look the other way from blood spill.

This world doesn’t need any more nuke deals. It just doesn’t.

Courtesy: DAWN
Read more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1173905/

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