Soad Ham was a student leader in a movement which protests against policies currently being pushed by Honduras’ education minister. These would change learning hours meaning students would walk home from their schools in the evening through busy, potentially dangerous cities. Soad Ham was involved with a movement which is fundamentally concerned with safeguarding our basic right to accessible, safe education. Soad Ham was found, tortured to death, inside a plastic bag on Wednesday. Soad was thirteen.
As Education Minister Marlon Escoto pushed for a lengthening of the school day in Honduras, student campaign groups and school administrations retorted that the very schools Escoto spoke of were overcrowded, under-resourced and in dire need of far more considered action than just an extended timetable. This is a damning condemnation of a government which is fundamentally detached from the experiences and lives of the people it governs.
When we in the UK protested against Gove’s reckless policies, we never faced the same terror which characterises the experiences of student movements elsewhere. It is easy to be on the progressive edge of politics in the United Kingdom: we can chant “f*ck the police” or write offensive and inflammatory blog posts without giving a second’s thought to the implications of our political views for our safety and wellbeing. Yet we are repeatedly reminded that we live in a world where standing up for your political beliefs is, especially as a young person, not so easy elsewhere. Earlier in the year you may have read about the disappearance, and eventual discovery, of 43 students in Mexico, or the protests in Hong Kong, and maybe you saw Malala Yousafzai awarded an honorary degree by Edinburgh University after surviving an assassination attempt in October 2012.
We at Edinburgh have no possible parallels to draw with this situation. We live, work and study in an environment which will never see such heinous repercussions. Whilst we do not face the same conditions, we see the same characters acting. We are surrounded by people who are brilliant, inspiring and fundamentally involved with trying to make the world a better place. They run in our student elections, they volunteer in our community from tidying the Meadows to organising rallies; they are beautiful, committed people. There is no ‘shameless self-promotion’ in saying that many of them write for this paper. To think that Soad would have, in another life, been any one of these people is heart-breaking.
Because we are more privileged, we have no excuse not to act for social change; we must address the problems we see around us. Activism is not just about megaphones and placards; it is about being switched on to the world around you and truly caring about making a positive impact. Though we might not have any frame of reference for understanding the experiences of people like Soad Ham, we should act in their honour. We need to wake up to the situation around us, and instead of falling into apathy when we are overwhelmed by how awful the world around us looks, we need to work to address it. Being engaged in your community is at the heart of protest, not, though it might often include, megaphones and chanting masses. Whether volunteering with EUSA or attending an on-campus workshop, from cratifivism to fundraising, we can do something.
When we see violence in the world, we should meet it with anger – considered, and appropriately channelled anger. We should throw ourselves into what we care about, and give ourselves to what we love so that our, sometimes small, victories can be a memorial to those, like Soad Ham, who have had their time on the picket line cut untimely short.
(This article does not implicate Education Minister Marlon Escoto, or the Honduran government, in the murder of the student leaders in any way.)
Image: Yamil Gonzales