As time passes, weve all been increasingly astounded at the battle taking place on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
We are used to seeing protests flare up in North America. In fact, its something that is cherished as a fundamental civilright. But at what point does the clash between activists and police morph into something more serious?
We all watch as the trauma escalates. What I have felt increasingly as new footage surfaces is this is not your average protest. This is a war.
And I should know.
Ive worked in war-torn countries for several years, documenting political injustices. Ive spent time with torture survivors, have been chased by military and have been present when schoolchildren were being abducted on a daily basis.
I can confidently say I know what war is. I have seen the faces of those affected, and it is not something that ever leaves you.
When I read about the shooting of horses at Standing Rock, I was not surprised. This is a standard tactic used by military to deflect media attention being poured upon injured victims.
Recently, police started attacking and arresting medics on the front lines. It is another oft-seen method used by military in developing nations.
In many war zones, medics are refused entry or the hospitals bombed. It is an easy way for the military to diminish the morale of the opposition.
I have witnessed it before. To take away much needed resources during this immense time of trauma is under-handed at best, but it also infringes greatly upon basic human rights.
Taking away our right to protest safely and fairly is illegal.It is also a symptomatic issue that often arises during times of conflict.
The fight for access to basic human rights is a consistent battle in the developing world.
In Sri Lanka, many zones were cut off from water and electricity for years during the conflict. Inthe last days of the war, hospital tents were bombed and doctors were arrested some of which were still detained over a year after the war had finished.
In Cambodia,hospitals and rural areas still struggle with the effects of the Khmer Rouge, who decimated valued resources during their reign of terror.
Its important to recognize that what is happening at Standing Rock is something that could easily happen anywhere, anytime in America. Its not just indigenous peoples against corporate greed.
The larger issue is that all of our rights have the potential to be stripped away, if we dont stop to fight for them.
There are people from all walks of life attending this protest. Battles such as this have been happening around North America for some time now.
Whether it be Black Lives Matteror Occupy Wall Street, we have been consistently fighting for yearsto safeguard our access to dignity and fundamental rights.
It has been said that several small battles make a war.
In recent years, I have watched America change to what I think of as a police state. What was once thought of as The Land of the Free is now slowly but surely becoming the land of the oppressed.
It mimics the fallacies of so many other war zones: the destruction, snide strategies and flagrant disregard for human rights.
This begs one question: What defines a war zone?
For me, the definition is resistance, opposition and the stripping of human dignity. When protestors are shot at, limbs are broken and are rights oppressed, this equates to a loss of liberty.
North America is supposed to be safe. We sit and watch other countries fall apart (Im not proud of this), sheltered by the fact that we live in a free state.
But do we? One look at what is happening at Standing Rock tells a different story.
When people rise up against injustices and are met with great resistance, it is more than a protest. It is a fight for what is right, and there will be casualties.
This is a war, plain and simple. The only difference is people are not being killed. And with tensions mounting, it is only a matter of time before a great loss is incurred.
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