Another anime review. Skip this if you’re not into anime. Yeah, I know it’s not aid work, but I do have a little leisure time you know.
Okay, and I’m a geek too.
In Il Teatrino, the follow-up series to the original Gunslinger Girl, the characters of the first season are back, with handful of extras, most notably the boy-assassin Pinocchio. While the first season focused primarily on the girls of the Social Welfare Agency and their stories, this second season becomes more plot-focused and splits its time evenly between the girls eponymous with the title, and a small band of terrorists against whom they are pitted. Picked up by a different production team, Il Teatrino isn’t the artful, subtle story that the first season is though dealing with the same sombre subject matter, so can hold its own, but with some disappointments. Read the full review here.
Written late October 2009
It could be any town. Small, a little quaint, quiet with an air of discernable tension that is nonetheless not quantifiable into any particular threat.
Our team makes its way cautiously down the gravel street between buildings, many of them deserted. We’re in a cease-fire zone between two warring factions, a country split north and south by the economic and political domination of one minority by another. We’ve heard reports of ethnic cleansing. In the distance, we hear occasional peals of artillery fire landing in what is supposed to be a demilitarized zone.
We’re an assessment team meeting with our local counterpart in the town, here to find out what the refugees camped here require. We’re crossing an open plaza at one end of the town. Ahead, our contact is standing outside our local office, dressed in our NGO’s livery, easily identifiable among a small crowd of locals. He calls us over with a friendly wave.
To the left, a hundred yards away, an impromptu market has sprung up, a crowd of townsfolk milling around beneath a ragged banner that reads Duty Free.
The small knot of companions standing outside the office greet us with enthusiasm. They know we are here to help. We shake hands and try to introduce ourselves, but we don’t speak their language, and they speak little English. But smiles cross language boundaries. We are caught up in the moment.
A blast thumps across the marketplace, pressing itself against the ears. There is no warning. It is followed only by chaos.
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The following post was written some time ago for friends and family while on deployment in a restricted context.
The day I get my permission to head north we get clearance to get into the camps. They’re controlled by the military- an affront to International Humanitarian Law (IHL)- but this isn’t our country so we work with what we’re given.
The Checkpoint is twenty k’s north of Town. The IDPs (our user-friendly acronym for Internally Displaced People; the word refugee relates to people who flee across an international border and has specific conotations under IHL, while IDPs stay within their country of origin) come through here to get to the camps. The UN reckons up to 190,000 of them are stuck in a tiny strip of coastline a few kilometres long and about sixty klicks from here. They’re in an area known as the Safe Zone (SZ). The SZ is a few hundred metres from the battle lines pitched between the army and the rebels.
Sitting in the SZ, these civilians are getting shelled by either the army, or maybe the rebels, or maybe both. Nobody knows. But we do know that they’re getting shot at if they try and leave the SZ by the Rebels, who are using them as a human shield to stop the army using aerial bombardment and heavy artillery, and that the SZ is one of the greatest misnomers since ‘misnomer’ was first coined. It’s not a pretty picture. One of the worst, actually. Dozens are getting killed each day, hundreds more injured and maimed. The IDPs trickle through in small groups, risking their lives to do so. When they make it to ‘safe’ territory, the government considers them as possible terrorists, so it takes them first to a screening post deep within the military-controlled north where there are no international monitors, before shipping them south to the Checkpoint.
The Checkpoint is the second screening post. The IDPs get trucked here, then dropped off and detained for a while. Maybe a few hours. Maybe a few days. Military intelligence is looking for any rebels it can find hidden in the population. They’re not wrong to be worried. A few weeks ago a female rebel blew herself up at one of these checkpoints, killing nearly a dozen people including three soldiers. However it doesn’t merit locking up an entire subpopulation of the country on the basis of their ethnicity.
The Checkpoint is up in no man’s land. Aid agencies haven’t gotten in here for six months. We’re going this morning for the first time…
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