Before us now in the Christiania Theater is an immensely dignified figure: Emil Constantinescu, president of Romania from 1996 to 2000. He gives the impression of having come through a lot. His country came through a lot, to put it with absurd mildness.
In the course of his remarks, Constantinescu calls the Soviet Union “the most criminal regime in history.” He says this with great passion. It is hard to argue with him. And he ends his remarks in a moving way. He calls out the names of countries whose people are engaged in a freedom struggle — Syria, Tunisia, and so on. And he says, “Until the last moment of life, we will feel solidarity with you.”
That word “solidarity,” it seems to me, has special significance coming from an East European.
Should I give the links for the previous installments of this journal? Just in case they’re helpful: I, II, III, IV, and V.
Justine Hardy is an interesting and admirable figure, hard to sum up. She is a writer, an activist, an executive. Maybe I should give her bio, as supplied by the Oslo Freedom Forum — and I have something interesting to add to it:
Justine Hardy is a British journalist, author, and trauma therapist specializing in Kashmir. An author of six books, she contributes to the BBC, The Financial Times, The Times, and Vanity Fair. Director of the Delhi-based Development Research and Action Group, an NGO that sets up schools in impoverished areas, Hardy is also the founder of Healing Kashmir, an integrated mental health project in Kashmir, combining a suicide helpline and mental health therapy center.
And here is the aforementioned addition: I’m told, by someone who would know, that her father is an actor, Robert Hardy, who is recognized by virtually everyone in Britain.
Here in Oslo, Justine explains to us that the Kashmir conflict is now 22 years old. The region has been fought over for much longer than that, of course. But we’re speaking of the terrible intensification — if that’s an acceptable word — that began in 1989. Hardy points out that this is the same year the Berlin Wall fell.
She further says that Kashmir is ignored by much of the world. She quotes a Kashmiri doctor — I believe I have heard this correctly — who said, with some bitterness, “When a rat dies in Gaza, it makes the front page of the New York Times. Our people are shot in the streets, and not a word is said.”
My ears prick up at this, because I have said something a thousand times — you have probably heard it, all too often, in Impromptus. People sometimes ask me why I cover Cuban human rights, Belarusian human rights, and so on. I say, “Because this is largely uncovered territory. Other people spend very little time on it. And time ought to be spent. If a Palestinian kid falls on the sidewalk and skins his knee, it’s on the front page of the New York Times.”
Funny, what the world chooses to focus on. (I have a whole spiel on this, which I may unleash on you sometime.) (As a friend of mine says, that’s a warning, not a promise.)
Hardy says that, naturally enough, the people in Kashmir consider themselves victims. And “victimhood has its own pathology. People lose their ability to discern things, and to take responsibility for themselves. If you’re a victim, nothing is your fault.”
A psychiatrist told her that 90 percent of the people in Kashmir are “psychologically damaged,” owing to the endless conflict: the violence, the uncertainty, the fear. Kashmir is “blanket medicated,” says Hardy. The people “wander around in a semi-zombie state.”
She says that people in the broader world have told her, over and over, that “the mental-health question is the unsexiest issue there could possibly be.” I’m not so sure about that. You?