Stories about war

Maria Toorpakai’s life sings like a Khaled Hosseini novel

Cut off my locks….my pretty black locks…. Throw away my frocks….my pretty bright frocks…. I will ditch my bangles and my dainty shoes…. I will run as a boy and let myself loose…. They will spare my life if I turn into a boy… And if I remain a girl, they will kill my joy… Birds of a feather flock together. But if you aim to fly high, you have to leave the flock first. Such a bird is Maria Toorpakai. Her life is nothing short of a Khaled Hosseini’s novel; the war struck her home town, the high profile political family and the strangest dream ...

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A Syrian refugee’s message to the European Union

When we first got here we had money to buy a little food. Now it’s gone. We stand in line for hours for a sandwich. My husband told a journalist recently, “People are fed up. Maybe tomorrow they will break down the gate and flood across the border.” The journalist said, “How many weapons do you have?” If we knew how to carry weapons or wanted to carry weapons we would not have fled Syria. We want peace. We are sick of killing. We fled a war, and now the European Union is making war against us, a psychological war. When we hear rumours that we’ll be let ...

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Series 3 The Little Princess Part 3 Nothing short of a tyrant

What came next was an eternity in hell. Her mother’s screams still pierce the air around her house. After what seemed like an eternity, the noises died out. The house seemed empty. Ammarah knew her mother was dead. Without hearing any gun shots or seeing her die, she knew her mother was no more. She didn’t cry though. With bone dry eyes and a scratchy throat, Ammarah attempted to climb down to her mother. She slipped several times. She steadied herself. The sight that met her eyes was beyond every explanation. There is an emotion beyond horror. It is beyond ...

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War is beautiful: Does photography glamourise war?

Forty years ago, Susan Sontag, in an essay for the New York Review of Books, wrote, “To photograph people is to violate them… Just as a camera is a sublimation of a gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder.” This and other essays backed her argument that photography was “essentially an act of non-intervention” that shared “complicity” in “another person’s pain or misfortune”. Photo: www.worldpressphoto.org Significantly, Sontag noted that Nick Ut’s (Huỳnh Công Út) photo of Kim Phuc, a naked South Vietnamese girl with arms spread, wracked in pain from napalm, “Did more to increase the public revulsion against the ...

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Believing in one’s own propaganda: Newspapers of Dhaka and the war of 1971

During a recent visit to Dhaka, I had the opportunity to do research in the National Archives of Bangladesh and the Library of Dhaka University. Although the creation of Bangladesh was not the focus of my research, I was anxious to learn more about the tragic events resulting in the death of countless civilians and the dismemberment of Pakistan. For this purpose, I picked up the files of two English newspapers, Morning News and Pakistan Observer, published from Dhaka and examined their contents for the months of November and December. I looked at the headlines, feature articles and advertisements printed in these newspapers between November ...

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The day Lascaux cried

The first light of dawn was setting on nature’s various wonders and the tribe of Shamosis was waking up to the incessant chirping of early-morning birds. The water in the nearby lake stood motionless. Serenity prevailed: nature reigned supreme, humanity remained at peace. The Shamosis had been travelling for the past six months now without a stop. Usually, Closett used to initiate a gathering of elders whenever an area was discovered fit for encampment but the last such gathering had been a long time ago, when they had left the territorial fringes of modern-day Turkey and entered what one today ...

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Today, we take solace in the hope that #PorteOuverte has offered us

When a calamity strikes, be it an earthquake, a flood, or a terrorist attack, headlines are made all over the world, a certain meta-narrative grips us all. We are told that a certain number of people died, a certain amount of damage was done, a certain type of people was responsible. We become transfixed with questions like ‘what happened?’, ‘why did it happen?’ and ‘who did it?’ We become consumed with the pathology of violence. They answers we seek are what we call ‘primary’ pellets of empirical information that are intertwined to form a story that conforms to the framework of ...

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Pakistan has laws against rape and adultery, but what about incest?

Writing about the sexual abuse of a little girl is hard. Writing about the little girl’s incestuous relationship resulting in years of rape at the hands of her father is harder. In all the history of humankind, all societies have considered incest abhorrent, shameful and worthy of criminal sanction. But skirting around the uncomfortable topic of incest comes hand-in-hand with its social sanction. And in no place is incest slipped under the proverbial rug so eagerly as it is in the shame and honour based culture of Pakistan. This is because in a shame and honour based culture, the shameful action of one ...

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China’s WW2 parade has attached more shame onto humanity’s shoulders

Wars may be designed to destroy nations; however, they play a critical role in building them as well. Is that what China has attempted to do today? China’s commemoration of the Second World War took place today in the city of Beijing. India too, is planning a festival to memorialise the 1965 war with Pakistan. 2015 seems to be the year we’re all celebrating war. China put on a grand display of its military strength and laid bare its hegemonic ambitions in the Asian region. The Chinese administration has asserted that the intention of the parade is to remind the world of the sacrifices the Chinese people ...

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Dear American Media, the Israel-Palestine conflict is your doing

Dear American Media, I’m just asking you to tell America what’s going on in Gaza. Reveal without decreasing Palestinians to dehumanised numbers and rough generalisations, as have oppressors all through history. I am not requesting that you quit loving Israel but rather give Palestinian suffering the same weight as Israeli enduring, and report all the facts. I understand.  This is hard for you. You’ve been recounted to one tale about the Israeli-Palestinian clash your whole lives.  However, you’ve most likely started to notice that the latest advancements do not generally line up with that story. You realise that accusing Israeli government approaches can be harmful to American politics, and you are ...

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