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The Protest Of The Dead – OpEd


By Fatin Bundagji

If “a picture paints a thousand words” then what does a 3 minute video do? It makes you pause, think, and re-examine your belief system; it checks the level of your integrity and character; and it forces you to question authority and demand for accountability. More importantly however, it puts to test your level of commitment in standing up and defending what is right.

A case in point: Two weeks ago, a powerful video was uploaded on YouTube. Even though the producers have a name, “The Blue Group” and a theme called “Blue Activism”, their identity is unknown as are their faces. The video has no dialogue only images, and occasional titles pop up to present their mission. The purpose of this approach I believe, is for them to represent the innocent victims of The Jeddah Floods: faceless, voiceless, lost in anonymity.

Once you see the Blue Group’s creative reincarnation of dead bodies covered in blue bags, scattered all around landmarks sites of our city, you will forever respect their initiative. The video commemorates the tragic deaths of innocent victims, while it jolts our memory to a recent past filled with tragic death and devastation. Creatively, and boldly, The Blue Group advocate what is right by giving a voice to voiceless victims and by graphically painting the picture their tragic end — washed away by the tides of the Jeddah floods of 2009 and 2011.

The video is short, 3 minutes and 17 seconds in total. It highlights the impact of 2 yearly, back to back natural disasters that hit our city and which resulted in major destruction compounded by man-made acts of negligence and corruption. Both times, the price of the devastation was high: lives were lost, families were killed, infrastructure was torn to the bone, and the Nation cried “foul play”. Both times, government swore punishment to those responsible and the people sighed with relief — hoping that the culture of transparency, responsibility and accountability will finally prevail. Both times promises were broken… a fact that undermined the credibility and commitment of authorities in the eyes of the people.

In retaliation to this public inertia, Blue Activism was born. This brief 3 minute and 17 seconds video aims to refresh our memory — lest we forget. Blue Activism is powerful in its peaceful and silent rebuttal against the abuse of power and the lack of accountability; Blue Activism is filled with respect as it pays homage to the dead and the forgotten; Blue Activism is bold in that it is a manifestation of the brewing anger of a nation whose patience is being put to test time and time again.

At face value the peaceful and humble protest we witness does not cross any legal or ethical boundaries, but who knows? What “if” a third catastrophic floods hits once again… will a “silent” protest be enough to appease the anger of future victims?

Alas, The Blue Group of Blue Activism seems to be the only collective consciousness that our city has left. Jeddah’s people have failed her in demanding justice to the transgressions taking place. True we succeeded in pulling ourselves together as a community by collecting donations and rescuing the needy. But is that enough?

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All you need to do is pay a small visit to the districts of Guwaiza and Ghulail in the South of Jeddah to witness first hand that it is not. Those areas and their residents are worse off today than they were before the floods hit — which proves that public service neglect is still in action. And to top it, till this day, 2 years on our justice system has not yet been able to provide us with names of those responsible, or hold them accountable for their acts transgression and corruption that cost us hundreds of lives.

We are a nation that tends to forget but on Jan. 26, 2012, a faceless group did not. They chose to stand up to honor the dead, and pay respect to the families they left behind. They acted on integrity and valor in hope that their initiative will stir within us a grain of sympathy, empathy and collective will.

Fatin Bundagji is president of TLC Consultancy. Write to her at: [email protected]

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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