• Peri Batliwala

"Ayez Courage" Musican Khoraj releases Chagossian solidarity single

This engaging lilting song, entitled Ayez Courage (Have Courage) by Khoraj is written in solidarity with Chagossians and supporters of justice for Chagossians everywhere. Played over a visual backdrop composed of original grainy newsreel of the Chagos islands overlaid by shimmering tropical blue seas and skies, it tells the essential story of the colonial-imperialist rape of the Chagos archipelago and the continuing suffering of the innocent people it displaced.

The ethereal vocals and instruments evoke 'fantasy islands' while the angry lyrics convey the urgent message of demanding justice at last. Khoraj has also given an in-depth interview on what inspired her to write the song, which you can read below.

You can buy the single now from Amazon. Khoraj has pledged to donate some of the profits to our work.

Thanks to Khoraj for adding her voice to our common cause and spreading the Chagossian story to a new audience. Welcome to the struggle.

Our interview with Khoraj

Q1:How did you first hear about the Chagossian people's plight?

In my part of the world (South Korea) we don't often get unfiltered news from the outside, so it was a strange turn of events that led to my learning more about the Chagossians and what they have endured. The internet is strange that way, it leads you down paths you never knew existed.

I remember I was trying to teach myself something called astrocartography, which is the study of how one's birthplace affects and shapes one's soul. I was driven by the vague sense of wanting to 'belong' to a place and time. I'd lived with this feeling of displacement for most of my life, as my family are refugees from North Korea and I was raised in America but now live elsewhere.

The astrocartographical map showed that all my 'planet zeniths' converged on a specific point of the globe, in the Indian Ocean. I didn't know what that meant, but I looked closer and saw beautiful islands I'd never seen before. They were the Chagos islands.

I wanted to know more, so I tried to learn everything I could about the islands. I quickly learned of the plight of the Chagos people. I watched documentaries, read news reports -- what little I could find online, anyway. I was greatly perturbed by the dearth of information on, and support for, the Chagossians that were wronged so horribly. So I decided to do something about it.

Q2: What inspired you to write the song?

I wanted to do something about it. I was tired of nodding along to the awful status quo of the world.

It seems absurd. Tabloids abound with news of the latest singers, celebs, gossip, sports, and yet the Chagossians' situation sparks no international outrage and no uproar. There is just indifference and silence.

I used to find this impossible to comprehend. Now I think I know why this happens. This all happens because people are taught to blind themselves to what they truly need or want. People are tricked into thinking they need to be richer, slimmer, fairer of skin, that they need to look like someone else or buy this and achieve that... when all anyone really needs is the freedom to live at home and do what they will.

There is something of this universal situation reflected in the Chagossians' lives. People are taken advantage of and then discarded at the whim of the top dogs. Then people are tricked into thinking that it is a virtue to be patient and docile. It really must come to an end.

I don't know how much significance my voice will have, if at all. But I wanted to make some kind of noise, and really wanted to be any kind of voice, for people that were silenced in this terrible way.

Q3: Which part of Chagossian history do you find most shocking or emotional?

All of it, really. None of this should have happened -- all of it is absolutely unacceptable.

It is bad enough that slavery on plantations was the reason that people were first brought to the Chagos islands.

It is bad enough that the descendants of these people were violently and forcibly 'evicted' in the 1960's -- all this, after they'd managed to form a distinct culture of their own after winning back their freedom in 1840.

The Chagossians were robbed of literally a century of practically autonomous life on the islands.

It is bad enough that after the explusion of these people, BIOT Immigration Ordinance #1 was put into place for the express purpose of ensuring no one entered the islands without a permit.

It's revolting that the islands were 'sold' for profit by national and military interests. The method of expulsion was characteristically vile. Rounding up and killing pets? Threatening to starve or bomb the populace? 'Barbaric' doesn't cut it.

The irony is palpable to the extreme -- the military base they've set up there is named 'Justice Camp'. The resort is called 'Fantasy Island'. Justice and fantasy rooted in injustice and mercenary, bureaucratic violence? It's so ludicrous it can't possibly be true. Is this even real? Do they not see how they parody themselves? George Orwell could not have devised a more revealing allegorical farce.

At this point, the rulings have dragged on for decades.

The Wikileaks revelations have shown that this attempt to make a so-called 'marine reservation' of the islands was indeed driven by the ulterior motive of keeping the islanders off the island of their birthright.

This just adds insult to injury. How much more are people expected to take?

At this point, there is only one way for the US military and British government to prove that they are agents of good and not of evil. That is to acknowledge the suffering they've produced, and take action accordingly, by sending the Chagossians back home and paying the reparations required.

These are my feelings on the subject.

#Chagos #Chagossian #Culture #Music #Khoraj #Interview