Sea cemetery: The height of human folly

Published: May 28, 2016
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Do you know you can smell death? Yes, you can. It smells like blood. It smells like bones. It smells like Syria. In six years, it has claimed more than 400,000 lives and alas, we are still counting! The land has literally shrunk from abundant horror of burying human flesh.

For thousands, the waves of the Mediterranean have become the final resting place. These are the unfortunate citizens of this doomed country who try to scramble out and move to a land with no war. But the ferocious waters, devious boat captains and inadequate supplies toss them into the merciless sea. This group of desperate individuals is who we like to call the refugees. They abandon their mortared homes in search of a foreign land of promise. It is weird that as soon as their boats cross into the international waters, their identity changes to that of refugees. The journey that they undertake in hope of safety and prosperity often ends up being washed away by the waves. As the number of these tragic drownings increases, a very exceptional task is being carried out by an aid agency, SupportLife. They have created a “sea cemetery” in memory of all those who perished in the Mediterranean.

No doubt, it is a beautiful gesture but it reflects the height of human folly. The very moment when they felt the need to create a cemetery at the sea, was the moment when mankind failed itself. It failed at mercy, at kindness and at love. The life-loss has mounted to such an alarming figure that we have to turn to the sea for commemorating our fellow human beings. It is such an eerie sight, tombstones floating at sea and a few men and women with empty eyes standing at the shore gazing at the vastness that devoured their loved ones. Among all these tombstones, Alan Kurdi’s tombstone stands out the most as it reads:

ALAN KURDI 2012-2015.

Photo: Screenshot

It is heart wrenching to see a three-year-old boy’s tombstone float about in the open waters but maybe it is less horrifying than his earlier picture on the beach. There are others like him too; many others who had no comprehension of how unforgiving the icy depths of the sea can be. It is commendable how this cemetery has been created to provide closure to the mourners of these precious flowers who were gulped by the hungry sea in minutes.

We can sob at this grievous spectacle or we can contemplate the real issue at hand.

We have chalked out borders that have become bigger than our humanity. The links of brotherhood have been erased by barbed wires and guarded doors.

The truth is, we, the human beings of the 21st century who talk about crossing the barriers of outer space, are too stingy to open our gates for our unfortunate brothers. We dream about populating the uninhabited planets and we cannot even share this one in all fairness.

It will get worse, the violence and the desensitisation to the violence. We shall bar our doors and seal our borders and let thousands starve or drown outside until our fates are reversed. Only then shall we realise the horror of escaping in cramped boats and stand outside state lines starving and waiting for a fathom of mercy from those in control. We may even become one of these tombstones, only to be remembered in a few videos and articles.

The world community should join hands to handle the refugee crisis so that the Mediterranean Sea cemetery does not grow in size and that we never see another Alan Kurdi washed up on our shores.

Fatima Raza

Fatima Raza

The author is a Biosciences graduate and a student of MPhil International Relations. She aspires to be an accomplished writer someday.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.