At the end of World War II, the full scale of Nazi atrocities against European civilians and the abuse of U.S. prisoners of war in Japanese internment camps were revealed.
These horrors prompted the international community to take a firm stance against the worst excesses of war; the Nuremberg trials saw Nazi war criminals held accountable for their actions, and the Geneva Conventions were signed to make sure that these inhumanities would never happen again.
But as history has made clear, these measures are not enough. The Rwandan Genocide, the Srebrenica massacre, the United States’ war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Daesh’s [ISIS] persecution of Yazidis, Kurds and Syrians, the mass murder of unarmed and unprotected children of Gaza by Israeli Armed Forces, the assassination of Israeli civilians by Hamas’s Call of Intifada – without witnesses to bring the world’s attention to these atrocities many of them would stay buried, those responsible would never be held to account, and more innocent blood would be spilled, as it has been up to now and still continues.
There are Rights for Civilians, and these are guaranteed by international conventions, which the majority of countries and states have agreed to and are obligated to respect. But enforcing those conventions does not seem to stop the bullets. In the recent civil war in Syria more than 250,000 men, women and children have been targeted and killed by either government or insurgent armed forces.
Among them over 12,000 were children, and this is because, despite the lofty aims of legislations, war crimes are rarely investigated adequately and war criminals have rarely held to account, especially in the last three decades.
A project that will bring photographic evidence of ongoing breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), to be used as a tool to pressure the UN and other policy leaders to enforce these laws, has already been launched by a war correspondent from Kosovo residing in the UK. The project is known as ‘The Call’ and it is brought by Vedat Xhymshiti, an independent journalist specialising in International Relations and Diplomacy. As a war correspondent he has reported on a number of conflicts in the Middle East and Africa up to the current civil war in Syria. He has published pieces in a host of media outlets, including Der Spiegel, Die Welt, New York Times and Le Monde.
As the recent decade saw a systematic commitment of many powerful governments to battle against the freedom of the press including that of the U.S., journalist Vedat Xhymshiti couldn’t avoid being a target of government agencies, just as many of his colleagues have been, some of whom are no longer alive. Because of his investigations into government alleged involvement in crime, including allegations of the recruitment of young people from his country being sent to join ISIS forces in Middle East, journalist Xhymshiti was sought by government agencies and forced to flee the country for safety reasons.
His ‘Call’ aims to create social change as a result of war. After being a witness to human atrocities for about 6 years as a war correspondent, he told THE Frontliner that people living in dry and comfortable lands have a responsibility to recognise, understand and put an end to war, before it puts an end to all of us, recalling the statement of assassinated U. S. President John F. Kennedy, when he addressed to UN General Assembly in September 25th, 1961.
Talking about the revelation of Nazi atrocities against European civilians during WWII, the abuse of U.S. prisoners of war in Japanese internment camps and The Geneva Conventions, he continues through history, which, he suggests, has made it clear that these measures were not enough. He lists the Rwandan Genocide, the Srebrenica massacre, the massacre of the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo, [his home country] and so on, and states that without impartial, independent, neutral witnesses to document and report it, the war would be seen as just a nice show introduced by governments. Therefore, he said, “those responsible for fuelling war with money and weapons would never be held to account, and still more innocent blood would be spilled.”
His project is going to take him back into war zones independently, to witness, document and collect evidence of crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity, which he thinks could be a stepping stone for human societies worldwide to hold to account those in charge and for justice to prevail.
He believes in collecting and exposing evidence as a catalyst for changing the way war is viewed, which would force policy makers to step forward and make changes, such as sanctioning weapon supplies and creating circumstances which would hold all of those involved in armed conflict to account if the findings suggest that any of them have committed crimes, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
He also wants to create an opportunity for a safer way of reporting for media personnel, consisting of multiple stories emanating from diverse sources. The whole of humanity would then have the chance to know more and to understand the truth in a war.
“This would trigger debate, and opportunities to propose solutions to the problems of others in order for them to be resolved peacefully with as few civil casualties as possible”, he said.
Just like many courageous independent reporters who are devoted to the cause of truthfull reporting, journalist Xhymshiti, known otherwise as Vudi, told THE Frontliner about the vision of his cause to be a voice to the voiceless. When we spoke to him he also highlighted the fact that many governments have recently expressed their concerns about members of armed groups and terrorist organisations entering the European Union as refugees. He thinks these claims are largely unfounded, but that there is an undeniable danger that this could happen. “It’s possible, but I don’t expect they’d be interested in stepping into the mouth of their enemy,” Vudi said.
He added that, “With the proper enforcement of IHL, the International Community would be able create safe zones within conflict zones; allowing them to vet people in Internationally Displaced People’s Camps for possible terrorist connections, thus making it difficult, if not impossible, for terrorists to enter the EU undetected.”
This project also has other side effects and they seem to be very positive, according to what the founder of the project expects. He said that “creating UN controlled buffer zones in conflicted territories will go some way towards returning the rule of law to these places, and will undermine the slow transference of civilians into armed groups. This would bring us a step closer to the end of the conflict, as well as allowing humanitarian aid to be brought to towns and villages besieged by fighters, as in last year’s case in Syria’s Madaya.”
He said that he strongly believe in direct humanitarian action, therefore he is taking the first step forward, but without your support he cannot move. Therefore, he asks people worldwide to be with him, as obviously his project is depended on our humanely intended financial contribution, saying “let us give a voice to the voiceless and bear witness to the innocent, a chance to change the world a bit at a time”.
During June-July 2015, he lived in the UK’s coastline city of Hastings and he quickly managed to make himself known to the local newspaper, ‘Hasting Independent Press’, for whom he wrote a series of articles about the situation in the Middle East, and generally regarding international political developments. THE Frontliner talked to ‘HIP’ and they said the following:
“Last year when experienced conflict journalist Vedat Xhymshiti turned up at one of our meetings, we at HIP were inspired, and to be honest very proud that our local independent press could attract such a calibre of volunteer. During 2015-16, Vedat has written a number of articles for the Hastings Independent, giving us frontline news and personal knowledge and experience of the Syrian conflict. Now, the man we know as Vudi is raising funds for a project that will see him travelling through war zones as a photographic witness.”
THE Frontliner in London and HIP in Hastings are already involved in helping this amazing publishing and social awareness project to be funded. Journalist Xhymshiti told us that he is also very much being supported by “people of good will’, and friends in the oceanic city of Plymouth in South West Britain. His ‘Call’ needs your support now to promote his cause and help him to get this project up and running.
He is seeking donations of £15,000, but this is the 18th day since launching the fundraising campaign through the UK based Crowd-Funding platform [CrowdFunder.co.uk/TheCall]. He has so far managed to raise about £310 from 13 backers, so is still looking for another £14,690. According to our calculation, with 38 days to go, it would take 617 people to pledge at least £24 each to reach the desired and necessary funding target.
He is accountable and understands his responsibility towards public funding, clarifying that the money will go towards materials such as decent photography and video equipment, flak jacket, helmet and gas mask, as well as health and life insurance, travel funds, fees for translators, ground transportation, food and accommodation, security escorts and so on.
“This will help me to live for 9 to 14 months, so I can witness and document the daily life of unarmed men, women and children throughout the war torn territories of the Middle Eastern, Caucasus, Asian and African countries”, he said.
Xhymshiti is open to interviews and debates. He and his friends and people of goodwill are currently seeking central venues in the Devon area and elsewhere in the UK for him to talk about his experience as a war journalist. A local newspaper in Bristol has already confirmed to the journalist that they’re going to support his campaign, Vudi said, and this is ‘The Bristol Cable’ he ended.
Please help him to promote his fundraising campaign, share this with your friends and family and spread the word as far as you can. Below THE Frontliner will offer a set of posters/flyers with messages from him, designed by his team member, the graphic designed R. Kurteshi.
If you’d like to get involved, please share this project campaign with your friends, family and colleagues, as well as getting in touch with the voice of the project Mrs Ana, using the following e-mail account: firstname.lastname@example.org — you can also get in touch with Mr Xhymshiti himself through his own website at VXPictures.com
[George West contributed for this story, edited by Pat Bushell ©THEFrontliner.net]