International Day of the Disappeared 30th August - Cherishing Memories

30th August is the day when loved ones get to commemorate and pay respect to those who vanished for various and always unknown reasons.

Recognition for the day by the United Nations was inspired by the activities of the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of Detained-Disappeared.

This organisation founded in 1981 has been working for the rights of those secretly imprisoned or abducted.    Family, friends and loved ones get closure in the case of death, but with disappearances, the wound of separation of the missing piece in the family jigsaw remains fresh even after years.

Currently, thousands of people are missing across the world due to war, conflict, natural disasters, secret government operations and abductions.  

Why is the day important? 

By marking the United Nations International Day of the Disappeared, governments, organisations and local communities get to participate in activities that support the families of the affected.

Disappearances are a humanitarian situation that needs addressing. The subject is usually complicated, challenging and rarely on the top agenda – but on 30th August, attention gets drawn to the direness.

Forced disappearances  

In 2017, Malaysians were chilled by what they guessed to be religious vigilantism. These were planned kidnappings that occurred more randomly than in isolated cases. It was said that Malaysian Islamic Societies feared the threatening spread of Christianity, so they targeted Christian leaders. 

In the same year, Egypt had 378 cases of government-related forced disappearances. These are just examples of forced disappearances due to complicated and somewhat inexplicable reason.

There are worse and similar cases happening in Uganda, Syria, Pakistan, Venezuela and many other places.  Human Rights Activists and Journalists  Human rights activists have gone missing.

Both dictatorships and democracies have enacted forced disappearance as a way to silence critics on the opposition and the media. Journalists have been imprisoned in foreign countries with no communication to their families or mother countries.

Today we have the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  Countries bound under this treaty have agreed to stop forced disappearances as government operations, to make forced disappearances illegal and punishable and to halt secret detentions.

It is eight years and counting since the enforcement of the convention. But reality and signatures on paper don’t often rhyme. 

What you can do?

 30th August is a call to action not just to remember the missing persons, but also to work actively to rectify the situation. Organisations like Amnesty International, the Red Cross or the UNHCR take that opportunity to highlight the steps they have made in securing justice for the secretly imprisoned.

You can take part in the fight against secret imprisonment by donating to these bodies or volunteering. Activities might involve visiting specific groups of prisoners, taking care of them and transmitting messages back and forth with time families... 

Activities on the International Day of the Disappeared go beyond the secretly detained to include those in exile because of conflicts or those separated because of natural disasters.

You can be part of groups that assist affected families to calm them psychologically and take care of their humanitarian needs. Tracing the disappeared is also an essential highlight of the day -30th August.

The missing might be in detention camps, marooned in foreign countries, hospitalised or dead. As a volunteer on the International Day of the Disappeared, you can participate in finding out information about these cases to bring connection or closure to affected families. Like with all other humanitarian situations, no one is immune.

Today it is them, and tomorrow it could be us. Topic; International Day of the Disappeared 30th August- Cherishing Memories and Seeking Answers.

Mayfair, we care.