Exposing the Limits of the ISL Values

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine surpasses its two-month mark, global response has been immense. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) described the international support for Ukraine as an “outpouring of spontaneous solidarity”. So much so that even before the second week of the conflict, the UNHCR calculated that donations had surpassed $200 million, which accounted for more than 50% of the requested amount by the UN for emergency response. This level of support has never been seen at any point in history. It is wonderful that such global action is taking place to condemn Russia and support innocent civilians. 


The extremely high level of support can also be seen at our school. Within a week of the invasion, the school’s UNHCR service group had already planned its donation campaign, the PTA had organized a bake sale and the school principal even held a Secondary School assembly about the matter – not to mention the discussions which teachers had with their students on the war, a Youtube video requested by the school from the CEO of Medair on how to help Ukrainian refugees and even an Instagram post on the school’s account stating their solidarity with Ukraine. This quick and effective response by the school is amazing and shows how much we care about this issue. But the lack of similar responses to other significantly similar issues says a lot about our values, which the school is so proud of and is a constant topic of discussion in school assemblies. 


Yemen, Palestine, Afghanistan, Tigray, the list goes on. The school’s lack of response to these significant global issues is a loud indicator of a deep issue in our school’s fabric. The American-fueled conflict in Yemen has killed almost 400,000 people, yet that is not enough to spark ISL’s reaction. Palestinians have suffered oppression from the Israelis, backed by the US, for the last 70 years, yet that is not enough to spark ISL’s reaction. Nearly 50,000 Afghans died due to the US-led invasion, yet that is not enough to spark ISL’s reaction. Over 1 million Iraqi deaths due to the British-American invasion, yet that is not enough to spark ISL’s reaction. 


If ISL has reacted so strongly to the Russian invasion and upholds its values so strongly, why has there been so much inconsistency with the school’s actions? Why aren’t we having assemblies about the children being killed by US drone strikes in Somalia or the ethnic cleansing taking place in Sudan? Why isn’t the school posting solidarity posts on Instagram about the Roghinyas being killed in the genocide in Myanmar? It is not about numbers or importance, because I am sure that over 1 million deaths in Iraq alone are greater than what is happening in Ukraine. Neither is it about time, the Palestinians have undergone oppression for decades upon decades. So what could it be? I cannot say what it is exactly, but one common pattern is who the victims are. Recent media coverage of the war has highlighted the bias towards Ukrainians because “how could there be war in Europe?” or because “they are white and Christians just like us” or simply because “it is too sad to see blond people with blue eyes being killed”. I agree, this war is sad, it’s ugly, and it’s disgusting, but so are all the other conflicts happening across the world. We as a school have to reflect on why we are treating global issues with such differences. Is it because of race? Religion? Or ethnicity? These are not questions that are easy to answer, and will only be solved when we as a school decide to tackle the deeper issues at heart. 


This is not a critique of ISL’s solidarity with Ukraine, it’s a call for equality when it comes to the school’s actions. In the three years that I have been at this school, I have never seen such mobilization to a global issue as we have seen these past few months. I think that ISL’s evident eurocentrism is indicative of the root cause of this lack of representation in activism, but again, I’m not sure. Until the school, especially our school leaders, decide to not address this issue, ISL will always have a lack of consistency when it comes to representation.