Lots of stereotypes shattered…

Posted in Refugees by Deputy city editor on June 1, 2007

and lots of new writers

The Lots of Big Ideas (LOBI) blog aims to counter media distortions of asylum issues, says Sophie Nicholls, editor of the remarkable blog fostered by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

“Our wiki is a space where asylum-seekers and refugees – people who don’t usually have a voice – can make their stories heard. These are stories about what it’s really like to be an asylum-seeker; stories about why people end up leaving their home and loved ones to seek asylum in a strange and often unwelcoming place. Many of our contributors are members of the Write to Life group at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture; but we want to encourage anyone to add their voice here.”

Here is an example.

Not Enough Tears

by Jean Kabongo

I wrote this after tears were shed in the group, prompting a discussion about men crying.

I would like to share an African proverb: a crocodile comes out of the lake to enjoy the sun and suddenly it starts raining, and the crocodile runs from the rain back to the lake

I remember days when rain fell in my life. One time after 80 days of war in Katanga, in the DRC, my mum died and some of her brothers came to the monastery where I was staying since the age of 11. They came to tell me that my mother was dead. I just looked at them without any emotion like they didn’t tell me any bad news; they were confused. They left me, but at the gate after a little consultation with each other, they came back to me to make it clear. ‘We just said that your mum is dead.’

What is all this about going and coming back with the same news? The expectation of the African is that when someone close like Dad or Mum, or even a close relative, dies, you have to cry and mourn, shave your head and wear black clothes.

By not crying, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have compassion or emotion, but just that I want to show how strongly I can control my emotion in difficulties.

The rain began falling again in my country. The rain drops were war, corruption, no respect for human rights, violence, women being raped, man being raped by man and by woman. The people ran from my country like the crocodile from the rain. War: for six days. Governments sent soldiers from all over the world to chase the rebels away and after these soldiers went, our government sent our soldiers to come and clean up. They were getting into all the houses to make sure that there were no more enemies left. The rain clouds got darker and the rain began falling harder.

I want to tell you about our neighbour in Kolwesi. The storm broke inside his home. Our soldiers, when they came into the house, they started stealing money and valuable things, raping women in front of their husband or father or sons and daughters. I was a child and I saw my neighbour’s son shot because he refused to sleep with his mother. His second son killed himself. Our neighbour was broken by the rain.

Because of things like that I can cry. A country like a jungle without any respect for law, people living above the law and over others who they put under the law, a country where there is no freedom of speech or demonstration, no freedom to write. A country where the corruption is like daily bread. My country, where my ancestors are buried and my umbilicus is buried.

In another fall of rain and this time in Kinshasa, we could smell the many, many dead bodies lying in the morgue: no electricity, no water for two weeks for all the town, and because there was nowhere for us to run, no sunshine anywhere and not even any lake to enter, we smelt the bodies spoiling and we saw the rebel soldiers making fires in the rain when our local people caught them and put the rubber tyres on their neck and put them on fire with petrol, and over the rain we heard them scream.

One day here in Glasgow I was explaining to my daughter about the refusal letter from the home office and the possibility of being sent back. She said to me ‘Dad, are you going to let them do that? You have to do something to stop them.’ At this time I cried, because I cannot protect my family, my children. I can cry when people say truth is a lie or lies are the truth. I can stand up on behalf of justice.

People thought that if they ran from the rain and escaped into the lake of another country they would be safe. We struggle to breathe under the waters of so little money for our families, no right to work, no freedom to move, no certainty for our future.

A crocodile was enjoying the sun on the beach, then suddenly the rain came and he went back into the water, running from water to return to water.

Update: I am not alone in finding this to be important writing. Read the comment below from Eugene Robinson, Washington Post columnist and author.


4 Responses

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  1. Eugene Robinson said, on June 1, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    The crocodile in the rain is a haunting image. How many displaced people are there in the world right now? How many families whose past has been erased and whose future is like moonless night? These amazing stories are like an indictment: At least look at us, at least listen to us, at least try to understand, at least feel.

  2. Sophie said, on June 1, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    Thanks so much for linking to us, Jonathan. Power to your blog! Sophie

  3. Daniel said, on June 14, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    “At least look at us, at least listen to us, at least try to understand, at least feel.”

    Rather than feeling the pain of asylum seekers, in a neat liberal way that will precisely change nothing, I propose instead to feel nothing but disgust for those in the media and the Government who demonize them, and nothing but hatred for a system of power that depends for its continued existence upon the systematic maintenance of racial enmity, amongst other things.

  4. Daniel said, on June 14, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    See also here:

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