Taha Ghayyur is Executive Director and human rights advocate at Justice For All Canada.
Imagine being forced to evict your ancestral home by a man who is now the Prime Minister of your country.
I recently heard from a prominent member of the Sri Lankan Muslim community in Canada about his mother's traumatic ordeal with the hospitals in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She was falsely diagnosed by one hospital to have Covid-19, due to which they would force her to stay in the hospital for 14 days (and pay ridiculous amounts of money) before they would operate on her for a medical condition.
She was already traumatized, knowing that most of her Muslim friends who contracted COVID-19 ended up in ICUs and died in the same hospital. Many were cremated, against the Muslim tradition, despite an international outcry (Sri Lanka was the only country in the world that carried our mandatory cremations of Covid-19 deaths). Others had their Janazah (funeral prayers) done in faraway cities without family and friends.
This is a result of ongoing systemic Islamophobia campaigns in Sri Lanka. Muslims are targeted for material gains in the guise of following Covid-19 protocols, and their lives and even deaths are not respected and honoured like others.
This is yet another example of the medial inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic that impact racial and religious minorities around the world.
The last two years have been exhausting for his mother for another reason, physically, emotionally, and socially. She, along with many others, were forcefully evicted from their ancestral homes, when the current Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was the Defense Secretary of the country at the time, planned to sell their lands in the heart of Colombo to Chinese businesses. People being evicted were dumped into tiny, overpriced apartments.
His mother, being an active and a vocal member of the Muslim community in Colombo, resisted the eviction and refused to leave her ancestral land as their houses were being demolished. This prompted Mahinda Rajapaksa to visit his mother's house and personally threaten her to evict or be ready to face a gun on the head otherwise.
This is an orchestrated Islamophobic campaign at play in Sri Lanka. These are heartbreaking stories we don't hear about. These are not isolated stories. It sounds very similar to a playbook used by human rights violators and genociders of other Muslim minorities around the globe.
May God protect all the marginalized being evicted and targeted for their faith in their own indigenous lands, Ameen.
You can learn more about the Sri Lankan Muslim human rights situation here: https://www.justiceforallcanada.org/srilankataskforce.html