I Refuse to Be Silent

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This piece is an outside contribution expressing a personal reflection on current events in Gaza. It is not a reflection of the SAIS Observer’s position or opinions as an organization. 

By: Layan Shaaban

Edited By: Alexandra Huggins

The obsession of asking “Do you condemn Hamas?” epitomizes what’s fundamentally flawed in our global discourse. Before I speak, why must I prove to you my humility in condemning the loss of human life; before I speak, why do you presume I do condone the loss of human life; before I speak, I implore you to ask yourself, do you condemn the loss of any human life regardless of the circumstances? 

It’s striking to me that our conversations are embroiled in debates about the necessity to “condemn” the murders of humans. It’s striking to me that right now our discussions revolve around the proportionality of responses to atrocities, meticulously calculating the toll on innocent lives. It’s striking to me that a number of world leaders, sworn protectors of civilian lives, now advocate for policies that are decimating an entire population.

We have painstakingly built a rule-based international order, not for abstract ideals, but for the tangible benefit of humanity — to shield lives, yours and mine.

After enduring relentless wars, aggression, and conflicts, why are we clinging to international treaties that fail to deliver justice? What purpose does a rule-based system serve if countries selectively adhere to its principles? If our globally endorsed human rights are meant to uphold human dignity, why do we hinder their implementation?

I stand here, reflecting on a world that has experienced significant strife and suffering, yet appears to persist in a cycle that perpetuates conflict. The blood of innocent civilians spilled in conflicts, screams a silent, harrowing tale — it stains the debris, a vivid crimson against the somber gray, crying out that a life, a soul, was forcibly taken. It serves as a reminder that this soul had aspired to exist, to cherish, to experience the sanctity enshrined in our universal human rights.

Today, tomorrow, and in the coming days, as we amass knowledge, absorb information, and evolve in our understanding, what will we do with it? 

Have we journeyed through history to allow ourselves to turn a blind eye to the atrocities that are being committed? Is our legacy one of selective empathy, determining who is worthy of a dignified existence? Have we come this far only to drown in a resounding silence?

As for myself, silence is not an option while I listen to the erasure of my history, while I read the names of my 10,000 brothers and sisters who were murdered, while I believe that silence is complicity.

I earnestly hope that you, too, have not traversed this far only to stand mutely on the sidelines of change.



5 thoughts on “I Refuse to Be Silent

  1. So brilliantly written! Really thoughtful piece that centers our values and calls out the inadequacies of the systems and organizations we rely on and trust to uphold order.

  2. Well said Layan. Your words painfully and frustratingly speak the circumstance of our reality.
    We live in deafening silence.

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