The Spirit of Resistance
It is often said that the first casualty of war is innocence, and the recent war in Lebanon was no different. The innocence we lost was that of security, in a sense it made all of us stand up and realise that in these uncertain times nothing can be taken for granted. Two kidnapped soldiers can start a war, who knows when the next war will be ignited by mere words, or maybe some time in the near future gestures and thoughts will be the new catalysts behind wars. This may all seem rather far fetched, the plot of bad science fiction novel or something, but the truth is when it comes to war all logic is thrown out the window. When logic fails you, it is always best to look at into your conscience for guidance, and I can think of two people whose guidance could have been sought before this war was even started. Their names are Anika Rabbani and Ziyad Nazem. These two university students started a website to create awareness and provided unedited information about the war in Lebanon. More importantly they took a stance against the war and did all they could, from right here in Bangladesh.
Anika Rabbani and Ziyad Nazem
To me that is an achievement, while most people wax lyrical about wanting to help none of them actually go out and do something. These two talented and courageous individuals took a stance against the war and stuck to it. In their efforts to persuade people to be proactive and voice their opinions they started a website called www.warinlebanon.org. Through this digital platform they have given voice to the people who had none and in the process they have educated people on what was really going on in the Middle East. The story is even more inspiring because it has taken place right under our noses. But international politics is a far cay from the normal lives of Ziyad and Anika.
Ziyad Nazem is twenty two years old and was born and brought up in Albany, New York. Both his Bangali father and American mother are practising Muslims. He travelled around a bit during high school and first joined university back in the States. After a few restless years in college he decided to give Bangladesh a try, and for the last two years has been studying Pharmacy at East West University.
Anika Rabbani has an equally interesting story; she is twenty-six years old and is a third year student of North South University. She is an English Literature major with a penchant for socialism. Anika has also seemingly lived a double life; she has modelled internationally for eight years before she finally gave it up to pursue her studies.
Their website was actually a by-product of a seminar that Anika held on the 31st of July at the North South University premises. She single handily arranged a seminar on the war in Lebanon and the website was actually initially set up to advertise the seminar. The seminar itself was well received and it ended with a lively debate session where everyone put forward their points of view. Since the seminar the website evolved off and now is a portal of sorts, it is a pot puri of information and opinions. When asked about why he continued with the portal even after the seminar Ziyad said “ It's a way that you can express yourself and share your views and let other people see them as well.” Anika added “we are just trying to express ourselves and our political ideas, not just thoughts like get rid of Bush, who knows maybe the Hezbollah will be the next Taliban”. She went on to say “We (the website) would like to spread the word of optimism”.
This is the sort of positive forward thinking that we are desperately in need of, and shame on us that two university students from the backwaters of Bangladesh are some of the only people who actually did something about it. These days injustice is greeted with a muted response, the day it is greeted with silence we would all have lost the humanity within us. As long as these two individuals are alive there will always be a voice against the oppressors, no matter how small it is. With the help of their website they hope that slowly the voices will unite and will be heard on a global stage.
People have visited the website from America to Iceland and the Seychelles and it has a truly global audience. With an exchange of views from around the world their website has done its best to be noticed. It even has links on how to donate funds to Lebanon. While it is a work in progress this first step of setting up the website was an achievement in itself. One might say some of the inspiration came from Ziyad and his experiences in America. He says he disliked how America was changing; with the onset of the Patriot Act no one was free from suspicion. He told me that he did not feel safe in a country where every move from books borrowed at the library to private e-mails could be scrutinised by the government. He also felt particularly oppressed by the lack of free speech, which America so famously spouts to the rest of the world. These reasons added to his move to Bangladesh and helped when he set up the site. He said that if he had set up the website in America then he probably would have picked up on anti terrorist charges. With the controversial content he provides on his website like pieces by Seymore Hersh and Noam Chomsky and a whole plethora of anti Israeli articles he would not only have been picked up under the guise of the Patriot Act but probably would have had a lot more to deal with. The land of the free is euthanizing its own freedom.
One hopes that this will not be an exercise in futility and from their example more people will speak up and be heard. The time has come for all of us to do something instead of lamenting why we didn't. Anika and Ziyad are two people that we should all learn from, they spoke up without fear and believed in a cause. Most of us are willing to let events pass us by on CNN and the BBC, next time you see something that shocks and disturbs you, don't sit back and say that you would like to help. Go out and do something.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006