Are we safeguarding basic human rights or race?

Photo by Darrin Dalley from Pexels

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine surprised the whole world though it was an expected nightmare by many political commentators. The invasion was so intense, the humanitarian crisis due to the invasion engulfed Ukraine and affected the whole of Europe. Forced migration is one part of the humanitarian crisis, innocent people of Ukraine are forced to leave their home and families. The neighbouring countries as well as the whole of Europe shows their solidarity to the people of Ukraine by opening their doors. To witness solidarity with this level of magnitude is amazing and gives hope for the whole of humanity.

However it took only a few days to put a stain on this solidarity. It was not only Ukrainians that were affected by the war. Students from Africa and Asia who were studying in Ukraine were also trapped in the country. These students were not allowed to leave Ukraine and they were clearly discriminated against because of their race from the rescue effort.

Racism is still an ugly part of our reality. It is painful to witness people being racist while people flee from an actual war. The other shocking thing that puts strain on the solidarity effort was how some of the western media and journalists reported about the war.

Racism is a day to day reality that our world fails to mitigate appropriately. The memories from the dark page of our history, like slavery and colonization, are still lingering through the pain they inflicted in millions of peoples lives. While we sustain the bad effects from these bad memories, we keep on inflicting more pain in the lives of those who are exposed to racism on a daily basis.

Photo by Redrecords ©️

This war gets a massive media coverage and it should. But some journalists could not hide their racist attitude from their report. A reporter by the name Charlie D’Agata, a senior foreign correspondent for CBS news said on a live transmission:

You know this is relatively civilised, relatively European. I have to choose those words carefully, a city you would not expect a war would happen. This is not a place like Iraq and Afghanistan that have seen conflict for decades.

Another reporter named Lucy Watson, a correspondent for ITV news, said:

This is not developing third world nation, this is Europe.

And an anchor for Al Jazeera, Peter Dobbie said:

– … some of the refugees from Ukraine… what compelling is just looking at them, they way they dressed, these are prosperous, middle-class people. These are not refugees trying to get away from areas of the middle east, north Africa that are still in a state of war.. They look like any European family that you would live next door.

Kelly Cobiella, a correspondent for NBC news, said:

these are not refugees from Syria. These are refugees from neighbouring Ukraine. That is quite frankly part of it. These are Christians. They are white.

These are only a few reports that showcase how media tends to normalize war and suffering to a certain geographical area. The rhetoric from the reporters that puts “civilization” to white Europe and war and conflict to the middle east and Africa is just a bedrock for discriminating rhetoric against some people. Even though historically, Europe has gone through destructive major wars. The memory from the holocaust in Europe is still active so this rhetoric is simply uncalled for.

The warm help that is extended to the innocent Ukrainians is amazing and it should continue by all means. But while reporting about “white and christian refugees, that they wish to live next door” one should also remember the Blacks and Asians that are trapped in Ukraine and denied their basic right to live.

We have to show solidarity and open our hearts and doors for any human being that flees from war. We do this not because the international law detects us to do so, but rather because we have something called empathy that makes us human and connects us under the umbrella of humanity. Feeling, understanding others pain and the willingness to share others burdens is what holds together our world. It is the empathy and the solidarity we have for one another that gives us hope in the world.

When putting an ugly stain on our empathy through discriminating people because of race, in the middle of a war, makes me wonder, are we safeguarding a basic human right which is the right to live or are we busy saving a certain race? I wonder!

By Wondmagegn Ejigu Kebede
By Wondmagegn Ejigu Kebede