Power brokers often focus their attention on nations that are seen as the most strategically important—while ignoring vast human suffering of people deemed inconsequential.
This story originally appeared on Jill.substack.com, a newsletter from journalist, lawyer and author Jill Filipovic.
The brutal war in Gaza has understandably captured the world’s attention, including mine. But, unfortunately, human suffering isn’t confined to a narrow strip of land on the Mediterranean.
As news outlets focus the vast majority of their international reporting on the war in Gaza, and as world leaders focus the vast majority of their attention and resources on the war (ad as some of them fund it), it’s important for the rest of us to not get tunnel vision—to remain outraged at the utter devastation in Gaza, while staying attentive to other conflicts and to other people who are suffering, and to demand that world leaders also act on their behalf, too.
This is a big ask. With the unbelievably vicious attacks on Israeli civilians and now the abject misery being rained down on Gaza, I imagine many of us feel profound despair; I certainly can’t look at the news without feeling physically ill, and I’ve been finding it difficult to think or write about anything else.
But the world is not confined to Israel and Palestine, and it should be possible to give that conflict the attention and outrage it deserves—which is a lot—while not treating other people as trivial or disposable because they happen to live in places that are not as geopolitically relevant to U.S. interests, or are not as psychologically or biologically tied to as many Americans and Europeans, or are not as connected to the American and European telling of history.
Empathy, in other words, is not a finite resource. Neither is anger. Neither are demands for action.
The world is not confined to Israel and Palestine, and it should be possible to give that conflict the attention and outrage it deserves—which is *a lot*—while not treating other people as trivial or disposable.
In Sudan, there’s another round of atrocities happening in Darfur, where Arab militias began a well-documented genocide two decades ago that left some 300,000 people dead.
Now, history seems to be repeating itself, as Africans are being murdered, attacked and displaced after war broke out in the Sudanese capital on April 15. More than 6 million people have been displaced by the conflict, which has turned into what UNICEF calls the largest child displacement crisis in the world. Thousands have been killed or brutalized, and 19 million Sudanese children are out of school. The civilian death toll is also staggering: Official counts put it at 9,000, but experts say it’s likely far higher.
Pakistan and Afghanistan
In Pakistan, Afghan refugees are being forcibly expelled—sent back to live under the brutalities of the Taliban, who are little more than a band of misogynist fundamentalists dead set on making life in Afghanistan as soulless and difficult as possible. More than a million Afghans are being trucked out of Pakistan and dumped in makeshift tent camps. Many had applied for resettlement in the U.S., Canada or Europe, but that process is slow, and the world—including the U.S., which fueled this refugee crisis in the first place—has pretty definitively turned its back on Afghans.
In the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a majority-Armenian and long-contested area within Azerbaijan, an occupation by Azerbaijan forced some 100,000 people—80 percent of the population—to flee to Armenia. Armenians are mostly Christian, and are an ethnic minority in majority-Muslim Azerbaijan.
During the Soviet era, Armenians began to demand the transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, and after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the conflict became even more heated.
War broke out in 2020, and the region has not stabilized since (the Crisis Group has a very good and much more detailed explainer you should read). The Armenian government is calling the latest incursion an ethnic cleansing.
In eastern Congo, millions of people have been displaced and tens of thousands of women have been raped in the latest convulsions of violence in the region, fueled by the Rwanda-backed M23 militia group. In the meantime, the U.S. government is still deporting people back to Congo, a move that many U.S. faith-based groups are asking the Biden administration to halt.
These, of course, are not the only crises shattering lives around the world. I’m highlighting them simply to say that power brokers in the U.S. and around the world so often focus their attention on the nations that are seen as the most strategically important, while ignoring vast human suffering of people deemed inconsequential. It does not have to be this way. We do not have to turn our eyes away.
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