Monday, June 20, 2016

The courage of Refugee

Today thesun published my interview with  Mahi Ramakrishnan who talks  about an art festival that she is organizing that celebrates the courage of refugee and her latest documentary Bodies for Sale. Here is the full story.  

Headline: Seeking Humanity in the Arts 
By Bissme S 

Documentarry filmmaker Mahi Ramakrishnan and audio visual artist Goh Lee Kwang are the brains behind the three-day Refugee Festival, taking place at Black Box, Publika Solaris Dutamas, in Kuala Lumpur, from June 24 to 26. 
“It is difficult to live the life of a refugee,” says Mahi in a recent interview, pointing out the fact that these people have left everything behind in their home countries, where they are often oppressed and suppressed. 
“They come to a new country in search of a better future,” she adds. 
“They are not victims. They are survivors. And this festival celebrates their courage.” 
The festival will feature screenings of short films and documentaries, photography exhibitions, poetry reading, dance performances, and a bazaar selling food and artworks by the refugees.
 However, there are Malaysians who believe refugees add to social ills here. “We are always afraid of something we do not know,” says Mahi. 
“Come to the festival, and meet the refugees and listen to their stories. You will realise that they are just like us. “
All they want is a better life for themselves and their family. 
“We have to realise that these refugees are a part of our community. We should create a conducive environment for them to live in. “Malaysia can be a role model for other countries to follow in dealing with the refugee issue.” 
One of the highlights of the festival is an art exhibition by 16 refugee children depicting their lives in Kuala Lumpur, entitled KL Kita Je. 
Visitors can also write their names (with their IC number) on postcards which are addressed to our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak. These postcards will be sent to the prime minister to urge him to provide proper education for the refugees’ children. 
“We have about 34,600 refugees below the age of 18, and it is important for these children to have a proper education,” she says. On her new documentary entitled Bodies for Sale, set to be screened at the festival on June 26 at 2pm, she tells of the heartbreaking and shocking stories she has documented. 
The 30-minute documentary depicts the abuse the Rohingyas have to endure at the hands of human traffickers. They range from rape to starvation, all while they are fleeing from persecution and injustice in their home country of Myanmar. 
“Whenever we talk about rape, we often imagine it is a woman getting raped,” says Mahi. 
“This time around, I managed to get a Rohingya man … to speak about his experience.” 
The man tells how four traffickers held him down, while taking turns to rape him. Mahi says that the rape took place in front of everyone, but none of the other refugees dared to stop it because they feared repercussion from the traffickers.
Mahi is also told of a sick game the traffickers used to play on the refugees. They would shout out that the authorities were conducting a raid and watch the refugees panic and start running for cover. The traffickers would then chase after the female refugees, catch them and rape them. 
“These sick people just love the thrill of scaring their victims,” Mahi says. 
“It [was] not only men and women who got raped. Children got raped, too.” 
For Mahi, these horrific tales were depressing to listen to, gut-wrenching and extremely upsetting. “
There is sense of helplessness and hopelessness in their situation,” she says. 
“It is difficult for me to emotionally detach myself from what I am hearing. I feel so sad and angry that there are people who have the power to stop this abuse, but they are doing nothing about it. 
“This has motivated me to make this documentary and show it to the public. I am hoping that, after watching this documentary, perhaps we could put our minds together and find a solution to stop the abuse of the refugees.”

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