“When I come back from these places, it’s such a culture-shock - because I’m leaving Gaza after an offensive, or the Democratic Republic of Congo when there’s a massacre happening. I feel like I’m almost playing a video game and that I’ve just switched the game.”
Dearbhla Glynn is a documentary filmmaker from Cork, who has always been interested in conflict and war zones. As part of her work, she’s travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Gaza.
The Gaza Strip, a recurring flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is home to one and a half million Palestinians. They are living in a land regarded by a significant number in the international human rights community to be illegally under Israeli military control. According to the United Nations, close to 20,000 homes have been destroyed in Gaza, including almost 500 schools. Dearbhla describes the situation there as a “slow drip genocide”. She visited the Strip in 2009:
“They have no access to clean water. Septic tanks have all been bombed. Mostly all of the hospitals have been destroyed, or have very little electricity and have to run off generators. Babies die on anti-natal wards because when they switch from electricity to generators, there are moments when they have no electricity. The situation there is so shocking.”
Dearbhla visits some of the world’s most dangerous places to gather stories she hopes will have an impact. It has led her, on a number of occasions, to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where six million people have been killed in two wars. The last war officially ended in 2003, but the country’s recent history has been one of civil war, corruption and rape "…. there was a mass rape that happened in Minova where one hundred and twenty six women and children were raped in one night by the National Army and President Kabila’s army. Some of the soldiers were, apparently, told to go and have fun; to go and relax. There was this farcical trial that happened afterwards and I think two men went to jail. And this still continues.”
Rape is a known weapon of war in most conflict zones, with the DRC labelled by a UN official in 2010 as “the rape capital of the world”. Dearbhla sadly says rape is accepted as a fact of life there:
“Women are told not to go to hospital because they (the authorities) don’t want the case to become a statistic, or the women feel that if they go to the police, maybe the police are going to rape them as well. There’s no sense of trust in the military or the police. One woman said ‘well, everyone is raping’.”
In 2011, Dearbhla travelled to Iraq, describing it as “edgy”. Much of the destruction caused during the Gulf War in 1990/1991 was in Basra in the south of the country. Dearbhla went to Basra to see for herself the potential health effects of chemical weaponry on children. Depleted Uranium, or DU, is a poisonous heavy metal, like lead or mercury, and it is slightly radioactive. DU ammunition was used widely during the Gulf War. Dearbhla vividly remembers her time there:
“You go into the hospital wards and there are all of these children who have leukaemia, or birth deformities. There are very high levels of cancer in children and it is possible this is because of the use of Depleted Uranium. And there are areas around Basra where there are all of these weapons just left lying around. They are DU weapons; there hasn’t been a clean-up, which is really scary because kids play around these weapons.”
Dearbhla continues to visit countries where there is conflict, as terror threats and fears of further wars escalate across the world. She believes in people taking a stand, and making a difference:
“I often think of those Dunnes workers who stopped handling the oranges from South Africa in a stand against apartheid. We can all come together, collectively, to try and end war.”
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