|Global Survivors Network extending reach to speak truth to terror
By Taylor Luck
AMMAN – The voices of survivors of terrorism worldwide are growing louder, according to activists.
Since its launch in Amman last November, the Global Survivors Network (GSN) has been working around-the-clock to empower local communities ravaged by terror, with its first event in Indonesia earlier this month gathering thousands.
Hosted by ASKOBI, an Indonesian organisation for survivors of terrorist attacks, survivors of bomb blasts in Indonesia met with government officials and over 100 students from 18 high schools and universities.
At the event, attended by Indonesian celebrities such as pop star D’Masif, survivors spoke out and a former member of Jemaa Islamiya discussed efforts to rehabilitate those indoctrinated with jihadist ideology, according to GSN co-founder Carie Lemack.
She underlined that for most of the 35 media outlets attending the event, it marked their first time hearing the stories of those affected by terrorist attacks.
“We hope that this is just the beginning and that the voice of survivors is louder than the extremists and that our presence will be stronger,” said Lemack, who lost her mother in the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.
Founding member Ashraf Khaldi, who lost his father, in-laws and close friends when his wedding was targeted in the 2005 Amman hotel bombings, said the network is determined to raise the profile of survivors who are often represented as numbers and victims.
“Getting people’s stories heard is the only way to clarify the true message of Islam, and show that the world is against these attacks,” Khaldi stressed, underlining that the network is extending support to an upcoming event in Pakistan.
Attending the launch of GSN in Amman inspired Major Tahir Wadood Malik, who lost his wife Gul Rukh Tahir last October in the bombing of the UN World Food Programme in Islamabad, to spearhead efforts in Pakistan to organise survivors.
“For a while I didn’t know what direction my life was going, but I realised that I had to do something,” he said, adding that upon his return to Pakistan, he found those most affected were the least supported.
“Most of the victims of the bombings are poor people and who is listening to them? We have to act as a mouthpiece for their voices to be heard,” he said.
After months of organising, Pakistani survivors on Tuesday will unveil a monument at the Moon Market in Lahore, which was struck by a devastating bombing in December 2009 that left 49 dead and has since been a frequent target of attacks.
The event will gather government officials and members of the media with survivors at the market, which sells clothes and shoes, and was especially popular with women and children, who made up the majority of the victims.
“It is important to show to the people of Pakistan that it is not just government buildings, policemen or soldiers being targeted by terrorists but everyday citizens,” Malik told The Jordan Times from Pakistan.
Malik and other survivors will work towards establishing an association within the next few months to assist families impacted by terrorism with various initiatives, such as establishing income-generating projects, starting with the victims of the Lahore blasts.
The association will also aim to provide counselling to those affected by such attacks and to encourage schools to waive tuition fees for children who lost parents in the scores of bombings that have rocked Pakistan in recent years.
“These children should not be deprived of their education just because their fathers died,” Malik stressed.
Pakistani organisers will also work with the Red Cross and Red Crescent to help train schoolchildren and university students in basic first aid, he said, noting that after a blast, many people rush to the scene without regard to hazards, the need to keep the crime scene clear, for the safety of injured persons.
“People on the scene are the first response, and they need to know that moving injured people can cause much more harm than good,” Malik said.
Pakistani organisers face several challenges, particularly the sheer number of people affected by bomb blasts, he noted, estimating that with the average Pakistani family consisting of five members, some 7,500 were directly impacted by terrorist attacks last year.
“At the end of the day, life goes on. Not in the way that it would have if that person was still alive and although it is painful, it does go on,” he stressed, underlining that on April 5, Pakistani organisers will hold a ceremony marking the six-month anniversary of the bombing of the World Food Programme.
Khaldi acknowledged that many of the survivors of the 2005 Amman hotel bombings still lack needed psychological support or health insurance and that greater collective action will be needed.
Locally, he said the Amman Martyrs Memorial, where ambassadors of several countries planted trees in memory of citizens lost in various terrorist attacks around the world last November, should be placed on tour itineraries.
“This is a site not just for Jordan, but for the entire world to come and pay their respects to those lost to terror. We should highlight the fact that it was here in Jordan where people made a global stand against terror,” he said.
In order for survivors’ stories to reach a more global audience, the GSN is currently preparing a documentary film, expected to be completed in June, chronicling the lives of survivors and the supposed justifications for killing innocent people in acts of terror.
The film, which has been months in the making and has been filmed in Amman and elsewhere in the region, highlights the true essence of Islam as well as the Amman Message and puts the human element into the discussion of terrorism, according to Khaldi.
“These are human beings. These are lives and entire families affected, not just numbers,” Khaldi stressed.
Lemack said the group hopes to expand on the documentary to develop a curriculum on the impact of terrorism to be used in classrooms across the world in parallel with the film.
Depending on funding, GSN will continue its work to embolden survivors elsewhere to team up and make a stand in their local communities, she added.
“People must start coming forward to tell their stories, otherwise extremists are controlling the message,” Lemack warned.
“Only when our stories are told will the terrorists realise they are outnumbered and are on the wrong side of history,” he said.
Those who wish to support the network can join online at http://www.globalsn.net/ or host screenings of the documentary after its release this summer, according to Lemack.
29 March 2010