NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged people everywhere to support victims of terrorism and their families, saying it is “a moral imperative” to promote, protect, and respect their human rights.
The UN chief said in a statement on the first International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism on Tuesday that “caring for victims and survivors and amplifying their voices helps to challenge the narrative of hatred and division that terrorism aims to spread.”
“When we lift up the victims and survivors of terrorism, listen to their voices, respect their rights and provide them with support and justice,” Guterres said, “we are honoring our common bonds, and reducing the lasting damage done by terrorists to individuals, families and communities.”
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution last December “deeply deploring the suffering caused by terrorism to the victims and their families” and proclaiming Aug. 21 as the annual day to honor and support victims and survivors.
At the opening of a UN exhibition last Friday titled “Surviving Terrorism: Victims’ Voices” to commemorate the first annual international day, the secretary-general said victims have a powerful role to play in combatting the “global menace.”
“We can all learn from those who have experienced terrorism,” Guterres said.
Iraqi Hasan Wahhab Al-Araji spoke of his anxiety and joyless life after his best friend Mohammed was abducted and killed by Al-Qaeda extremists, his 24-year-old lawyer cousin Saif was killed in a car bomb, and the body of another cousin, 31-year-old Yahiya, was found riddled with shrapnel after a suicide bomber targeted a neighborhood mosque.
“I had difficulty sleeping and was unable to concentrate,” Al-Araji said at the exhibition opening.
“I often displayed aggressive and nervous behavior. ... I often feared and imagined losing my own life and that more of my loved ones would soon be killed.”
He said it took him “a very long time to return to normalcy,” stressing that the need for medical and psychological treatment for victims in Iraq is “dire.”
Today, Al-Araji said, he works with local and international human rights organization to fight “the narrative of terrorism” and to “be part of a positive message that encompasses peace and hope.”
Nigerian Imrana AlHajji Buba spoke of being traumatized after Boko Haram extremists stopped a bus he was in heading to the University of Maiduguri where he was studying in June 2010, and he escaped being taken because “they thought that I was dead.”
While recovering from that trauma, he said two uncles were killed by a bomb dropped in a crowded place close to a market, a neighbor was murdered, and a friend was kidnapped for almost three weeks until his father paid a ransom.
“This is just a small picture of how Boko Haram attacks have affected many people in Nigeria,” Buba told the crowd at the exhibition opening.
He said these “horrific incidents” fueled a desire to stop the bloodshed and he founded the Youth Coalition Against Terrorism, a volunteer group of over 600 young people, most of whom are victims of terrorism.
It offers counseling to victims and provides “counter-radical peace education and skills training for unemployed youths,” Buba said.