One of the brave people I've had the honor of meeting through my association with The Best Friend Library is Oddny Gumaer. Oddny and her husband, Steve, are the founders of 'Partners Relief & Development', an organization that is made up of brave people who go and actually make a huge difference in the lives of the oppressed people in Burma. As many of you know, I am always suspect of organizations who want contributions but are less than forthcoming with their financial information. Partners Relief & Development has an extremely refreshing philosophy. If you want to see their financial statements down load them from their website. They have become one of my favorite organizations!
Oddny is the author of two excellent books about the people in Burma. Displace Reflections and Picking Flowers on Dusty Roads.
This morning I received a blog article posted by Oddny on 23 April. I thought you might want to read this extremely moving article and she commented that passing it along would be appropriate, so here you go.
When your only goal is to die.by oddnygumaer on April 23, 201
When your only goal is to die.
I have been putting it off long enough. As I am sitting in my living room, contemplating what to make for dinner, and how to get the house clean, the media is full of stories of politicians sexually assaulting minors, of lone rangers making bombs that they intended to use for killing many, of financial crisis and of other stuff that I really wonder if many are interested in reading. But people surprise.
Nobody talks of Mosuda. Her story has not been shared world-wide. It is upsetting, but not surprising. The world wants Justin Bieber and glamour. They don’t want to hear stories of women who sob. Especially not Muslim women who sob. Especially not Muslim women who sob that belong to a despised people group.
My blog is not an arena that gets visits from thousands. But perhaps you who read the story can share it. Perhaps Mosuda’s story can challenge the world to think about different matters.
Mosuda was wealthy. Not wealthy in money, but wealthy because she was the mother of many children. She had eight daughters and sons. And she was blessed with 18 grandchildren. All of them full of life and energy. The voices of her family members could be heard all over her village. Her life was full.
On October 24, 2012 her life ended.
There had been rumors of attacks for a while. They had heard of other villages being attacked, of other Rohingyas being killed, brutally and violently. She knew that her Buddhist neighbors did not appreciate hers, or her people’s, presence. But what could they do? Could they change their skin color? Could they change the fact that they were born into a country that wanted them gone? Where were they supposed to go to? And, besides, her village was the only place she had ever called home.
Her neighbors in her village walked anxiously around, not sure what to do to protect themselves if an attack happened. Mosuda talked to her sons and daughters, and together they decided to get away while there was still time. Better to escape before it was too late.
Their village was by the water. There were many boats, and they got four middle-sized boats to take them up the river, to a safer place. One hundred of them crowded into the four boats, and at 11.00 a.m. they were off with a few of their belongings. Mosuda thought that the most important thing was that she had her whole family close to her. It would be sad to lose all their belongings in the village, but at least they had each other.
At 1.30 p.m. they spotted a boat approaching them. It was a lot bigger than their four boats. Mosuda’s heart sunk. She had a bad feeling about the people on the boat. She recognized one man on the boat. He was the owner of the biggest hotel in town, the Noble Hotel. He shouted to them to go to a village near by. “Go to the Rakhine village,” he urged them. But why would they go to a Buddhist village, when it was the Buddhists who wanted to kill them? They did not do as they were told. Instead they tried to make the boats move faster. Instead they tried to get away from the hostile people on the big boat.
But it didn’t work. When they did not obey the commands, the big boat rammed into Masuda’s family’s boats, causing all of them to capsize. As the people fell into the water, it was like they were considered fish to be killed. With spears and swords the Buddhist rebels started killing them one by one. To make sure nobody would get away, they called their friends over to come and help finish them off. Soon more boats arrived, all of them full of people intent on killing the desperate people who were trying to save their lives. Some of them managed to swim to shore, hoping they would be safe there. But they were not. On the shore were others waiting with swords, spears and knives. All the villagers were all hacked down.
Mosuda held on to a plastic container that had ended up in the water. It worked as a floating device. Her daughter and daughter in law held on with her. They waited for the final blow. It came. Mosuda was stabbed in her neck and in her side. Right before she passed out she saw her daughter and daughter in law getting dragged onto the enemy’s boat.
She woke up many hours later and did not know where she was. Desperately she hoped she had just had a terrible dream. But then she felt the pain, and she noticed the blood. As by a miracle she made it to shore where friendly Rohingya cared for her. But there was no joy in her survival. She soon found out that all her family members, her children, her grandchildren and her sons and daughters in law had been killed. 29 of them were gone. Of the 100 people on the boats, only three survived. She was one of them.
There was nothing else she could do. In a haze she let her neighbors from her village take care of her. They put her on a new boat. This time all the villagers, 70 boats all together, had decided to leave the village to escape attacks and more death. They went the same way Mosuda had gone the day before. As they got closer to the place of the massacre Mosuda, to her horror, saw that the bodies of the dead were still floating in the river. It was like the most terrible nightmare. Her neighbors wanted to take the corpses out of the river and give them a proper funeral. This was the least they could do for their fallen friends and neighbors. But even this was denied them. As soon as they tried to pull a body up, the navy officials told them they were not allowed to. In fact, they were told that they were not allowed to move further. They would have to stay in their boats, at the exact same spot until they got permission to leave.
So surrounded by corpses and hostile government officials they started their long wait. They were all so afraid that they could hardly contain their fear. What if they were waiting for a new massacre? The children cried. The adults tried to act brave, but it was not easy.
Some of the village leaders took up their mobile phones and called some of their Muslim friends in the capital and begged for help. “Whatever you can do to help us!”
The next day they were allowed to leave. But they heard that their Muslim friends had given a considerable bribe for their release.
When Mosuda was done telling her story she just looked blankly into the air. “I cannot sit down. I cannot do anything anymore. I cannot sleep. I just want to go to my children,” she said. “Sometimes I walk down to the river and there I hear the voices of my grandchildren calling me.” “Why did I not die with them? What is the point of me being alive any more? There is no point in my being here.”
Then she broke down and sobbed.