Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Forgotten Children of the World

by Adnan Gill

Recently, the heart piercing screams of bewildered mothers clutching to the lifeless bodies of their angel faced children jolted our slumbering souls out of comma. The media flooded the airwaves with horrific images of a stunned small Russian town, which lost nearly 400 of their loved ones in a heinous terrorist attack. Nearly half (about 200) of the dead were once the blossoming children of Beslan.

As we cry over the tragedy of Beslan, I hope the world will save some tears for the children of oblivion too, who were also cut in their bloom. The children whom we have forgotten as if they never were.

We owe to the children of Beslan, that our indignation be equally strong against those who kill children by dropping bombs on them from airplanes displaying a nation’s insignia or by raining mortars and artillery shells fired by soldiers wearing a nation’s emblem or by tanks firing rounds while flying a nation’s flag or by strafing gunships flying off the airbases built with the tax revenues or by snipers shooting to kill while wearing a nation’s uniform and fulfilling the orders of their elected or otherwise leaders, or even by bloodthirsty mobs protected by their elected leaders as they pull live fetuses out of their screaming mothers’ wombs.

One wonders whether the enraged world can or does distinguish between children loosing lives at the hands of terrorists, and children who loose their lives at the hands of those whose salaries are paid with taxpayers’ money. Is there, or should there be a distinction between stateless terrorists, and the state paid killers? After all, both are guilty of terrorizing the innocents.

The Beslan tragedy could have been avoided had we shed a few tears, when in last decade alone children were being butchered all over the world. In places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Gujarat, Iraq, Palestine and Rwanda children were the worst victims. We should have shown the same passion for them too.

We should look deep into our souls and honestly ask ourselves, how many tears did we shed over the forgotten children of Rwanda?

It is estimated that out of some 800,000 people whose lives were snuffed out during the Rwanda genocide, several thousands of them were hapless children.

By the time the Rwanda genocide ended in 1994, 95,000 children had been orphaned. As late as April 2004, the UNICEF said, “Ten years after the genocide in Rwanda that took the lives of 800,000 people, the country's children continue to struggle with the lingering impact of the atrocities.” Its spokesperson further stated, "The children of Rwanda witnessed unspeakable violence. Tens of thousands lost their mothers and fathers. Thousands were victims of horrific brutality and rape. Many were forced to commit atrocities. The impact of the tragedy simply cannot be overstated."

Had we seriously condemned and stood up against the killings of Rwandan children, maybe just maybe today we might have saved the 200 children of Beslan too.

We should look deep into our souls and honestly ask ourselves, how many tears did we shed over the forgotten children of Bosnia?

According to U. B. Lindström, Secretary-General for UNICEF in Finland, some 16,000 children were killed during the ethnic cleansing campaign in Bosnia alone, and wounded children are believed to be about ten times of that number.

One 6 April 2002 Times (London) put the total of Bosnians ethnically cleansed at 200,000, including 15,000 children, women and men dead in the siege of Sarajevo, and 8,000 massacred in Srebrenica.

Had we seriously condemned and stood up against the killings of Bosnian children, maybe just maybe today we might have saved the 200 children of Beslan too.

We should look deep into our souls and honestly ask ourselves, how many tears did we shed over the forgotten children of Iraq?

According to Global Policy Forum, credible estimates suggest that sanctions on Iraq alone are responsible for the deaths at least 400,000 young Iraqi children (5 years and younger).

In September 2004 Zaman (Turkish award wining newspaper) published bone chilling numbers of Iraqi children dying each month. It reported, “[Currently] in one month, 3000 children [are dying] in Iraq; on average, that is 100 per day.”

The UNICEF estimates that 500,000 Iraqi children have died between 1991 and 1998. According to its research team (Ali, Blacker and Jones, 2003), “On average, 170 young children died in Iraq each day between 1991 and 1998.”

Had we seriously condemned and stood up against the killings of Iraqi children, maybe just maybe today we might have saved the 200 children of Beslan too.

We should look deep into our souls and honestly ask ourselves, how many tears did we shed over the forgotten children of Afghanistan?

On February 1, 2002, a respectable and well known New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof reported, “In each of the last few years, without anyone paying much attention, 225,000 children died in Afghanistan before the age of 5, along with 15,000 women who died during pregnancy or childbirth.”

During the winter of 2001 UNICEF warned that during last few years on average, 300,000 children died per year in Afghanistan, and it was possible for the number to increase by a further 100,000. "Half of the children in Afghanistan are already chronically malnourished," warned Nigel Fisher of UNICEF. "The situation might get extremely critical if [due to the war] aid cannot be promptly delivered to the needy."

Had we seriously condemned and stood up against the killings of Afghani children, maybe just maybe today we might have saved the 200 children of Beslan too.


We should look deep into our souls and honestly ask ourselves, how many tears did we shed over the forgotten children of Israel and Palestine?

It is believed vast majority of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces were killed while attempting to go about their daily lives in circumstances where they should have been completely safe from Israeli aggression. Similarly on their way to schools the Israeli children too became victims of suicide bombers.

On July 31, 2004 the Defence for Children reported, since the beginning of Intifada-II (since September 2000) a total of 608 Palestinian children were killed due to direct military actions of Israeli forces. There are approximately 324 Palestinian children in Israeli detention. In contrast the statistics indicate that 178 Palestinian children were killed during Intifada-I (1990-1993). Dozens of Israeli children also fell prey to Palestinian suicide bombers.

While credible numbers over children deaths during first Intifada could not be found, but it can be assumed that a considerable ratio out of total 1,759 dead Israeli and Palestinians were of children.

Had we seriously stood up against the killings of Israeli and Palestinian children, maybe just maybe today we might have saved the 200 children of Beslan too.

We should look deep into our souls and honestly ask ourselves, how many tears did we shed over the forgotten children of India?

Diplomatic and Human Rights Organizations’ reports are full of narrations of mass killings in which hundreds if not thousands of Indian children belonging to minorities and lower classes lost their lives. It is almost impossible to get accurate estimates as Indian government never made an honest effort to collect and compile data of children’s deaths due to violence; neither has it allowed independent NGOs to collect such data. Therefore, it is believed that since 1984 New Delhi riots several thousands of children have lost their lives to violence perpetrated by Hindu fundamentalists and the state agencies in places like Kashmir, Gujarat and New Delhi.
According to AP (July 2001), per human rights activists and opposition leaders in Kashmir alone between 60-80,000 people were killed, plus 2,500-3,000 Muslim men missing at hands of security forces.

A 2002 US State Department report describes the Gujarat pogrom, “In February communal violence in Gujarat resulted in the deaths of many women. The violence began on February 27 after a Muslim mob in the town of Godhra attacked and set fire to two train cars carrying Hindu activists. Fifty-eight persons were killed, most of them women and children. In the subsequent riots, Muslim women and girls were raped, and an estimated 2,000 Muslim persons were killed.”

Had we seriously condemned and stood up against the killings of Indian children, maybe just maybe today we might have saved the 200 children of Beslan too.

We should look deep into our souls and honestly ask ourselves, how many tears did we shed over the forgotten children of Chechnya?

In September, 2004, a Russian news organization the NewsInfo reported that since the beginning of the Second Chechen War (since 1999), some 3,500 Chechnyan children have lost their lives due to the savage Russian campaign initiated by President Putin against the Chechnyan separatists.

Had we seriously condemned and stood up against the killings of Chechnyan children, maybe just maybe today we might have saved the 200 children of Beslan too.

There should be no distinction between those who we call terrorists, and those who kill and terrorize our children under a nation’s flag.

It’s our collective silence of decades over somebody else’s children’s death that has paved the way for monstrosities like Beslan massacre. We need to wakeup and strongly condemn each instance of organized terror/violence against anybody’s children, even if they were who some people consider as nobodies like Rwandans, Afghans, Iraqis, Bosnians, Kashmiri, Chechnyans and so on. We need to display zero tolerance to the intolerant. It is incumbent upon us to do something to save the future of the world, our children. We should build special world tribunals against those who as a policy or systematically hurt children, and/or organize non-violent protests against such violence. Doing something is better than allowing the savages to once more butcher our children in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Gujarat, Iraq, Palestine and Rwanda.

The world has two choices. Either it can keep on dispatching the plight of somebody else’s children to oblivion, or it can start protecting everyone else’s children as their own at the slightest hint of violence even if it is perpetrated by a state.

More articles by Adnan Gill

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