I knew two women who died in the Park Palace Guest House in Kabul last week, gunned down by the Taliban. Paula Kantor had been working with AREU, one of the organizations in the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, and even after she left, we had an exchange of emails regarding Gayathri’s work on women and fisheries. Martha Farell was the wife of Rajesh Tandon, and a leading figure in PRIA. I had never met her, but Rajesh facilitated CEPA’s Strategic Planning last year and helped put us (and definitely me) on the right track. Both were brave, committed women. Let us celebrate their contribution to making the world a better place and grieve for their loved ones and colleagues. Rest in Peace,Paula. Rest in Peace Martha.
Paula and Martha’s deaths are a stark reminder, as someone on the SLRC email list observed, that fragility is more than just a concept. it is a matter of life and death. There has been the devastating earthquakes in Nepal that endangered the lives of colleagues working in NCCR,, and I remember Christmas 2013 when we were sharing Christmas wishes among the consortium, we had this email from Leben Nelson Moro from South Sudan
I wish happy Christmas to everyone. In South Sudan, Christmas season is a bitter one. I am now stuck on a WFP compound in Bentiu, Unity State, after escaping death on the Bentiu-Thar Jath road. We (two bus loads of women, men and children) were paraded yesterday against a swamp and were almost all shot dead. Instead, they selected two persons and shot them while we were forced to move on foot to the police station. Other persons while murdered elsewhere. The plane that was supposed to take us from Thar Jath airstrip in Unity State to Juba was forced not to land. People were being asked for their ethnic group, identity papers and decision made whether to kill or spare them. I am badly shakened and traumatized. It very sad for my country.
My own experience of being questioned by the Terrorist Investigation Department of the GOSL last year during our Symposium was also harrowing in its own way.
These difficult and tragic incidents make us sad, shake us up emotionally, and make us realize that the world we live in is not the safe, organized space we would like it to be. There are those of us who live in non-fragile environments who are clearly obsessed with safety, who will follow foreign office dictats and not visit any place where there could be a remote chance of ‘unrest’; there are those who make those daring choices to work in fragile situations or push the boundaries through extreme sport; and there are those of us who have no choice, for whom uncertainty is a way of life.
In what I would call the ‘dark years’ of Sri Lanka’s multiple conflicts, we lived through the GOSL/LTTE war in the north and east, the spectre of LTTE bomb attacks in Colombo, military harassment of minorities, state terrorism of different forms, JVP hartals, killings and military retaliations. The terrible thing actually is not that we were all shook up, but more that we all got used to this overarching violence as a way of life. I was in London reading the news of the Docklands bombing by the IRA on 9th February 1996, nine days after the LTTE bombed the Central Bank of Ceylon in Colombo. About 90 people were killed in the Central Bank bombing, and about 1400 were injured. Two people died in Canary Wharf. My reaction was one of dismissal – how could these British people be making such a fuss about TWO people dead. For me, living as I had done on the edge of fragility, the value of life had become a number game.