Anna Mehrabyan. Letter to Aurora Prize Hero

To Syeda Ghulam Fatima,

I first saw you on the website of an American photographer looking to show the world your story, the story of the 80,000 you have saved and the millions you still fight for. It is easy to see the good in the work you do, its purity, and its divinity. Thousands saw it and rallied behind your cause. And yet, the world you live in does not reflect your goodness in its symbolism.

You said in your interview that rescues from slavery must always happen at night, that you are forced to snatch people to freedom like a thief snatching silver.

The world of good is often thought of as the world of light. Goodness is supposed to be accompanied by brightness, the sun illuminating all that is true and pure. But what truly terrifies me about your story is the evil of the bright light. You, like the Prophet Moses, have been forced to make darkness your friend as those who would seek to degrade and debauch humanity live in the sun, their actions open for the world to see and then ignore.

Sunlight has not brought us the good, but instead has masked the degradation of people in false illumination, giving it legitimacy where there should be none. It made evil the normal and left us apathetic to horror.

The problem is that the villains in your story do not hide because they have no need to. We could rescue every worker trapped in the horror of a brick kiln and still be left with the source of the evil you fight. Because the purest evil isn’t in those who seek to enslave a man, but in those who would turn a blind eye to the slaver and protect him. The villains in your story are protected by light.

You are the best of humanity. The world that you have witnessed and fought against is terrifying, it is deplorable, but worst of all, it is an institution. It grabs people by their bodies, and then traps their souls – forever forcing them to fight against their society just to receive recognition as human beings worthy of identity.

You are the very best of humanity hurled against the very worst of humanity.

And so, we will fight on with you. Even as you free tens of thousands, you not only strive to free more, but remember the pain of those whose bodies are no longer bound yet still cannot free their souls from the slavery that is internal. From you we learn the importance of providing long term support to those who have left horror. You ask that we provide people not just with freedom in name, but freedom in reality: freedom from mental harm, freedom from economic despair, freedom from retaliation.

From your fight, I have learned that in order to truly take on an institution, we have to be willing to challenge it at every step, and that we will not always be followed by bright light. The government that would protect a slaver would also deny the freedwoman identity, and it is our job to demand it. It is our job to fight in the darkness, so that one day the night may turn to day, and the light may actually bring with it the good – so that one day, our institutions may serve to protect the innocent, instead of the corrupt. You have taught us how a fish may fight the very poisonous water it lives in, and we will never forget the interminable vigilance we have learned.

Thank you.
Anna Mehrabyan


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