World Humanitarian Day Draws Attention to #NotATarget Movement

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross volunteer

The list of civilian killings around the world continues to grow. At least 51 people were killed last week in Yemen when an  airstrike claimed lives of 40 school children and 11 other people. In Syria, 500,000 civilians have been killed in the last seven years and the Syrian Red Crescent has lost more than 60 of its team members to violence since the crisis began. More than 14,000 civilians lost their lives in the ongoing Kashmir conflict.

This is World Humanitarian Day,  meant to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service and to rally support for people impacted by crises around the world. The #NotATarget movement asks world leaders to do everything in their power to protect all civilians caught in conflict zones worldwide.

Although civilians are protected under International Humanitarian Law, every year, thousands of innocent people – children, young, old, men, women, physically challenged, migrants, refugees, aid workers, doctors, journalists and others who work or live in conflict zones lose their lives to the violence.

On this World Humanitarian Day, let’s take a moment and commemorate the daily struggles of these civilians who live or work in war torn areas. Armed conflict affects lives in many ways and leaves long term effects on the victims of war, especially children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) protects the lives and dignity of victims of war, and provides them with aid.  Therefore, on this Humanitarian Day let’s campaign together and make sure that civilians are #NotATarget for political instabilities and armed conflicts. Let’s ensure organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross—and the local Red Cross and Red Crescent societies that work alongside them—are freely allowed to operate with their aid operations in conflict-ridden areas, and that rules of war are followed, especially not to bomb hospitals and schools, kill innocent children and hamper or stop aid operations.

 

Local Volunteer Has International Ties

Ifat

Editor’s note:  Ifat Gazia is a new Red Cross volunteer now based in the US. She was born and brought up in the conflict zone of Kashmir. She is a researcher who reports on human rights issues in her native land.

Photo provided by Ifat Gazia

Born and brought up in the largest militarized zone on earth, I grew up listening to stories of not just violence and killings but also of strength, courage and empathy. That is how we as Kashmiris were very empathetic towards each other and to the rest of the world, that usually visited us as tourists.

Kashmir is known for its conflict, and in spite of all the war and suffering the people have to go through on a daily basis, it is also known for its warm hospitality. Being occupied, killed, disappeared, raped, orphaned and tortured by the foreign powers did not leave us bitter and weak. Instead, it increased our strength and intellect. Made us realise that all we have is us and we need to stand up for each other time and again.

There has been a tradition of oral memory deeply rooted in our culture. I grew up hearing stories from my elders and later on started telling the same. Alongside, I understood the value of human empathy at a very young age. I also learned the will to defend our rights and the power to fight for the same.

The storyteller in me pushed me to pursue journalism, which I eventually realised wasn’t something I was really happy in doing. The reason was simple, reporting wasn’t enough. I did write stories but that was it. I didn’t see the impact. And just writing the stories wasn’t helping anyone anymore. People I interviewed for my stories tied their hopes to me and it wasn’t their fault but I did consider it my fault somehow for not delivering up to their expectations. That is when I changed my course of work and studied more about Human Rights, International Political Communication, Development, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Media so that I can get into an organisation which actually works for making lives of common people better.

I recently moved to the USA for further education and got to observe the amazing work of American Red Cross very closely. The type of empathy and care the staff and volunteers have for their communities is really uplifting. Thousands of volunteers respond to emergencies and disasters every year, keeping their personal priorities aside. This is why I decided to volunteer for Red Cross and try to help with any skills I have got while I am here.