A call to action from humanitarian aid worker, Dr. Fauziah Hasan (2018)
Dr. Fauziah Hasan has worked on the frontlines of some of the gravest humanitarian crises of our time, including instances of conflict in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Gaza, and Syria. Despite having borne witness to atrocious acts of violence and racial persecution, she joined Peace Boat's 97th Asian Voyage with a warm smile and a call to action that was firm yet always optimistic. From Bali, Indonesia to Port Klang, Malaysia, Dr. Hasan shared her vision for change with participants during a brief yet impactful stay through a series of events ranging from formal lectures to casual discussion seminars.
In her first presentation, Dr. Hasan provided participants with an introductory overview of her humanitarian work. Trained as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, she has always considered human rights a core concern of her profession. "Part of the oath I took as a medical doctor was to help anyone I could," she told participants in her first presentation, adding that "as a Muslim, I've been taught to do things that benefit everyone. There is a saying in my religion: ‘The best among you are those who are most beneficial to mankind.'" This creed led her to found MyCARE (Humanitarian Care Malaysia), an NGO delivering humanitarian education and aid. She also serves as an advisor of Rose2Rose, an agency supporting empowerment and education for women and children, especially those affected by conflict.
Dr. Hasan's next session focused on the Rohingya people, approximately one million of whom have fled Myanmar to escape racial genocide and find temporary sanctuary in camps in countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. After an arduous and potentially-fatal journey by land or sea, refugees arrive at camps that are scarcely inhabitable: structures are overcrowded and lack windows or floors, wells are infected by sewage, and heavy rains bring mosquitoes carrying malaria, which cannot be adequately treated due to a shortage of medical professionals or clinics. In addition to this, children risk becoming what Dr. Hasan calls "a lost generation" due to their lack of formalized education. Participants learned that she visited a refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh in November of 2017 to provide medical relief to its residents. Speaking with many of the displaced Rohingya, she was dismayed to learn that camp conditions left many feeling just as hopeless as they had felt in Myanmar. "I ran away from death," she reported one woman telling her, "and I've come to a place where there is no life." Following her visit to Peace Boat, Dr. Hasan will return to Bangladesh to open Rose2Rose's seventh international women's centre.
In an intimate final session, Dr. Hasan shared her experience as a member of the Women's Boat to Gaza (WBG), an awareness-raising humanitarian mission in solidarity with the affected women and children of Gaza to pressure the Israeli government to break its blockade. 13 women from 17 countries joined WBG for its 20-day journey, departing from Barcelona and sailing 1715 nautical miles across the Mediterranean Sea. "We carried no aid," said Dr. Hasan, "only a message." Before it could be delivered, their journey was interrupted only 35 miles from the coast of Gaza by three Israeli Navy vessels. WBG's participants were arrested, and Dr. Hasan was eventually deported home via Thailand to Malaysia. The symbolic voyage will be repeated with an all-female crew in the near future.
Dr. Hasan ended her final session by summarizing the message she wished to leave with Peace Boat participants. "By not doing anything to restore humanity, we are complicit in inhumane acts." She told her audience that help can be offered in any form, but it must be offered now. "The main problem is that the world is always silent towards a humanitarian crisis," she said. "You can hope someone helps, or you can help in whatever way you can." Through her example-resilient, resourceful, and, above all, compassionate-may we commit ourselves to the active pursuit of peace.