Yesterday National Public Radio did a piece honoring the right of return of the Chagossian people, who were expelled from the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean (notable for Diego Garcia island) in the 1960s-70s to make way for a US military base. Throughout his report, Ari Shapiro validated the islanders’ aim to return:
SHAPIRO: The Chagossian people were then shipped more than a thousand miles away to Mauritius, where they lived in abject poverty. This was all to make way for an American military base. Jeremy Corbyn is a member of British Parliament who’s worked on the issue for decades.
JEREMY CORBYN: It was a secret deal done between two governments which resulted in islanders being hoodwinked out of their homes and from their islands. And they’ve sought, ever since, their right of return.
SABRINA JEAN: When I been on the island, we said, we are on our motherland.
SHAPIRO: Sabrina Jean chairs the U.K. Chagos Refugees Group in London.
JEAN: Especially when you wake up in the morning, when the elderly told to you about the singing of the bird, about the sea – the blue sea – everything. It was – for me, it a paradise island.
SHAPIRO: Today, it’s difficult to find anyone who will defend the decision to expel the islanders. Many people who represented the British government over the last 40 years now side with the Chaggosians…
After 40 years, it now seems that the walls to resettlement are beginning to fall. A U.N. tribunal just issued a ruling that may help the Chaggosians return. And an independent study commissioned by the British government suggests specific ways that resettlement could happen.
That wasn’t enough. Last night on All Things Considered, they did part two of the story:
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We’re going to pick up now on a story we began on Morning Edition today. It’s about an incident that’s been called one of the most shameful chapters in British postwar history, and it directly involves the United States.
One islander, allowed to return for a brief visit, saw people from many other countries working on the soil that was dear to him:
[Bernard] NOURRICE: It’s heartbreaking. Also, I feel so ashamed to see there were no Chagossians gaining their living from the land of their birth on which foreigners are living happily.
Ari Shapiro seemed to endorse the aim of the refugees to return, and Nourrice described it as a human rights issue.
SHAPIRO: Last month, a U.N. tribunal said the U.K. does not have the right to make unilateral decisions about a marine preserve on the Islands. That gives hope to people like Bernard Nourrice, who left the Islands when he was 5.
Do you expect that you will live on the Chagos Islands again?
NOURRICE: That’s my hope. Chagos Island – it’s a paradise.
Imagine if NPR did anything like this for Palestinian refugees, who also have loving memories of their homeland and whose right to return is enshrined in international law. Siegel and Shapiro surely know about that human rights situation; but Palestinians remain dehumanized in the US discourse, and the right of return is understood inside the Jewish community only as, A nightmare for Israel. Even if creative minds have come up with resettlement programs there too.
Thanks to Austin Branion.