Monday, 28 April 2014

Diego Garcia, Chagossians and a lost homeland

Diego Garcia has been on and off the radar of mainstream news channels as a one of many conspiracies suggesting that Malaysian flight 370 might've landed on the carol reef atoll. 

The foots print shaped island once home to an exiled indigenous people the Chagossians
The foot print shaped island of Diego Garcia is known for its beautiful beaches and being home to one of the world's largest American military bases. Positioned in the Indian Ocean between African islands of Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros and neighboring island of Maldives, Diego Garcia is viewed by the British and Americans as a strategically important island (in Chagos Archipelago thus the name Chagossian for Diego Garcia's people) for mainly transporting and receiving military equipment and troops. The island has also witnessed a tragic history. In 1968, the then ruled British colony of Diego Garcia was requested by the United States as a future military base for its military operations to counterbalance the Soviet Union's foothold in the Pacific islands. The Chagossian people, the indigenous people of Diego Garcia who have lived on the island for hundreds of years were discarded and regarded as disposable people by British colonial authorities involved in Diego Garcia's transfer from full British control to joint American-British or Anglo-American control of the island in 1970s. Similar to small island nations with a tiny populations ie Palau, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, the Chagossians worked as fishermen and farmers. Their society is familial, everyone knows everyone and is treated as family.

Faces of people removed from Diego Garcia by force compliments of Afrisynergy News

 Despite the long history and culture, the Chagossians were dispossessed of their lands and homes than forcibly removed from their homeland by British-American military and flown to Mauritius and Seychelles. Like the Palestinians, Chagossians have not been allowed to return to their own homeland that is now a massive U.S. military base that has been transporting equipment and other technologies for the past forty years. Diego Garcia has helped the American and British military in terms of transportation from the Middle East to Asia vice versea. The Chagossians' decades long exile from their homeland has strengthened their unending bond and strong identity to Diego Garcia. Despite attempts by ordinary Chagossians to simply return home, American and British military officials still refuse to even recognized the rights of the indigenous people or that their force removal violates international law or even constitute a crime against humanity. Chagossians have taken the British to court. To add insult to injury, many peoples from neighboring countries such as Philippines or Sri Lanka are allowed to work on the U.S. military base on the island while Chagossians who live in the slums in poverty and feel disconnected from their host countries Mauritius and Seychelles (still a French colony) are turned away from approaching the island. The Chagossian history of forced removal and exile is not acknowledged in any mainstream history on the Indian Ocean islands or African islands. The island for years was referred to as uninhabited island without an indigenous population. Meanwhile, Mauritius has also been in a legal battle with the Anglo-American dominance of Diego Garcia seeking to return the island to Mauritian sovereignty prior to British colonial rule. Being disconnected physically or spiritually from one's country (regardless of globalization making the world a smaller place) can damage people more than a war or violence. A home or homeland for any person represents their identity and sense of belonging to a place through deep embedded roots.

Stealing a Nation by John Pilger 

Story of Diego Garcia and its people

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