RIP Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi (2006), David Kelly (2003) and 100,000 others | Belfast and Beyond | 6 Sep 2009 | Amnesty International UK

RIP Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi (2006), David Kelly (2003) and 100,000 others

I am pleased that Canadian playwright, Judith Thompson, won the 2009 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for her political play Palace of the End.

This post is perhaps premature, as I haven’t read the play yet, but this is largely because it doesn’t seem very easy to buy a copy here, even from online sources.  As the Daily Telegraph commented, It's staggering that the work of Canadian playwright, Judith Thompson, isn't better known in Britain, particularly when she has achieved the virtually impossible with this devastating triptych about the Iraq war."  I ordered my copy from Canada.

Palace of the End focuses on the Iraq war with three fictional monologues based on Lynndie England, the young American soldier who was convicted for torturing detainees; British microbiologist David Kelly, who was critical of the invasion of Iraq; and Iraqi mother of four, Narjis al Saffarh, who was brutally tortured.

The death of David Kelly was not only a tragic end to human life but particularly, horribly symbolic of attempts to shut down truth-seeking and the truth.  The ‘whitewash’ of an inquiry, headed by former Northern Ireland Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hutton, followed.

In truth, David Kelly’s death and all that it portended cannot be forgotten and the arts clearly play a role in making sure that this death is not erased from the public memory.  Radiohead’s ‘Harrowdown Hill’ contributed to this and Judith Thompson’s play will do also.

This week it was also reported that a US soldier, now 24-year-old Stephen Green, has received five consecutive life sentences for raping and killing Iraqi teenager, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, and murdering three of her family members in Iraq in 2006.  This news story seemed little reported here, along with it the comments of Green:  “If I had not joined the Army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything."

Abeer Qassim al-Janabi’s rape and murder was portrayed in the powerful Brian de Palma film, ‘Redacted’.  (Read my previous post on the film here).  One reviewer described that film as:  “a work of conviction which boldly and angrily exposes the carnage and misery that has been the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq—the reality behind the mass media lies, talking points, and sanitizing of the U.S. destruction of Iraq and its people. Concentrating on the actions of one unit of soldiers, it gives a focused glimpse of what the U.S. military machine has brought down on the people of Iraq, the indescribable crimes it continues to commit, and the mentality that the troops are inculcated with and that many become steeped in. It presents a devastating portrait that stands as a much larger metaphor—a challenge to those who want to turn away and hide their eyes from these atrocities.”

I believe that it is never too late to avoid yet another sacrifice of the truth and thereby of human life and never too late vigorously to protest past sacrifices of the truth.  For Abeer and her family, for David Kelly, and for the 93,040 – 101,537 dead of Iraq, the opportunity for not turning away and hiding our eyes has, terribly, passed. 

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