Graphic details ahead.
Avan Jogia says, "Write what makes you angry!'
So, what makes me angry? What makes my blood boil? What makes me so mad that I get sick to my stomach?
The abuse of human beings at the hands of others.
From Tyre Nichols to Raif Badawi to Farhad Meysami, to the thousands and thousands of others who are suffering. I refuse to stand by silently and watch.
So here we go.
Tyre was a son who showered his mother with hugs, a husband who worked hard, and a father who adored his little one.
He was pulled over by police on January 7th on suspicions of reckless driving (which still have yet to be documented).
Immediately, they opened his car door and dragged him out onto the street. They screamed their commands, all six of them, as if Tyre could possibly listen to and obey all at once. They shoved him. They laid their hands on him until his fight or flight instinct took control.
Tyre ran even as one of the six officers shot him with a taser. I wish I could say that that's where it ended, that Tyre was handcuffed, taken into custody and released, otherwise unharmed.
But that wasn't the case.
When the officers caught up with Tyre, they tackled and overpowered him. They yelled at him as he cried out for his mother, whose house was only a hundred yards away. They handcuffed him, sitting him up against a patrol car. Then they began to beat him. They punched him and kicked him again and again. They struck him with their batons until he could no longer speak a coherent sentence. They pepper sprayed him, and Tyre cried out again. All this while he was handcuffed. They beat him, and then they watched. For over 20 minutes, they stood by, rendering no aid, even going so far as laughing and taking photos of what they'd done to him. Three days later, Tyre succumbed to his injuries. He died at the age of 29.
Tears pooled in the corners of my eyes as I watched all of this unfold on the fragmented bodycam footage. Anger burned inside me at the sight of this man being beaten to death. Anguish welled in my chest, tight and unforgiving. My stomach squeezed as I backed away from my phone with crawling skin.
Raif is a peaceful man. He is a loving husband and a devoted father.
Raif was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for running a blog that encourageds political and social debate in Saudi Arabia.
On January 9th 2015, Raif was given his first fifty lashes. He was led into a public square in Jeddah where a group of men and boys has gathered after afternoon prayer. One officer stood behind Raif with a whipping cane in his hand, while the other held Raif still by the wrists. When the punishment was administered, Raif's head shot upward. His back arched, and his shackled wrists rose to his chest.
As the lashes were administered one after another across Raif's back, his shoulders, his calves, the officer in front of him did nothing. He stood there looking at Raif's closed fists, his clenched teeth, his tightly closed eyes. He stood there and did nothing as Raif flinched with every blow. He stood there as Raif's knees shook. He stood there as Raif nearly lost his footing.
The mental scars of that lashing haunt Raif to this day.
I didn't feel what I'd expected when I first found Raif's whipping on YouTube. I always though, or rather assumed, that the feeling of helplessness would be a weight against my chest. What does it truly feel like? It feels like nothing. As I watched Raif be hit over and over, I felt every emotion I was supposed to feel, anger, hurt, even a knot in my stomach. At the same time, I felt nothing. I felt loose, light, weightless. I felt my bones inside my skin, and, at the same time, felt as if my skin wasn't my own. I felt like I was standing outside of a body that wasn't mine anymore. As I watched Raif being struck over and over in less than a minute, I realized that I couldn’t stop the video even if I wanted to. I was completely frozen, unable to react to the emotions that rose within me. I was unable to do anything all. As soon as the screen went black, I had an overwhelming urge to throw up and hurl my laptop at the wall.
Farhad is a doctor. He is peaceful and nonviolent.
Farhad was arrested in 2018 for peacefully campaigning against Hijab requirements for women and peacefully protesting the senseless violence committed against them.
Today, Farhad wastes away in his prison cell. Today, he is four months into his hunger strike. And the guards have done nothing. Farhad, a sweet, nonviolent man, is slowly starving to death before their eyes, and those in charge, those who have the power to meet his demands, to stop his suffering, are doing nothing while Farhad's life hangs in the balance. (Update: yesterday, February 10, Farhad was released from prison as part of a larger amnesty granted by the government, without specifically addressing any of his demands. You can read about it here: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-releases-emaciated-dissident-after-long-hunger-strike-judiciary-2023-02-10/)
What did I feel when I saw the photos of Farhad's frail and emaciated body? I felt everything. I felt everything I'd felt when I'd watched Raif and Tyre being beaten all over again. But the emotions hit me much harder than before. The anger, the sadness, the helplessness, overwhelmed me to the point where speaking up wasn't an option anymore. It was a duty.
I'm sure you've noticed a recurring theme to this blog post.
Because standing back and watching a fellow human being suffer when you have the ability to stop it?
That is pure evil.
What can you do?
Because that’s the key. DOING. Not just observing the world and the evils we endure and subject others to every day.
Get out. Protest.
Write to your congressperson.
Boycott compaines that doo business with these regimes.
Give voices to those who have none.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES AT THIS LINK!