Shawn Basheer is a documentary maker and human rights activist living in Horsham in the UK. He likes to take a journalistic approach to his documentaries, so recently joined our “Introduction to Journalism” course, while waiting to start an MSc in Visual Anthropology next year.
In the course, learners are asked to write a feature article on “a topic of local interest into which [they] have particular insight.” Shawn wrote the article below, receiving positive feedback from both other learners and lead educator, Michael Higgins, who called it: “a fine example of a persona portrait with a purpose.”
Shawn told us: “I met David [the subject of the article] by total chance at the Amnesty Student Conference in London in 2013. David and I were among the many protesters that had gathered for a peaceful protest in Parliament Square that day.”
by Shawn Basheer
David* is a fresh faced university student in his final year of study. He’s sociable and charming; an everyman’s man. He enjoys footie, a pint down the pub with his friends and for all intents and purposes, David is a normal student. However there’s one thing that separates him from his peers – David is a Sri Lankan refugee.
With civil war raging through the idyllic nation’s sunny emerald isles, the number of innocent bystanders who have been mistreated and the number of forced disappearances by President Rajapaksa’s military rises. Among them, the renowned Prageeth Eknaligoda, a journalist who went missing after criticising Rajapaksa’s regime. And on the other end, David, an innocent 16 year old who may never see his family again.
Having been ripped away from his home in 2010, David explains he’s considered to be one of the “lucky few” who have survived the “killing fields” of Sri Lanka, but that doesn’t bring any peace to his mind. Suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, he regularly seeks counselling. But as affected as he is, in his spare time he’s currently the spokesperson for a local Amnesty International group. Working together with Mr Eknaligoda’s wife, Sandya, he hopes to raise awareness of his country’s war crimes.
David explains that Amnesty has been asking members of the public to take a photo of themselves holding a placard saying #OurFuture. They were used to support Sandya Eknaligoda, who launched the #OurFuture campaign on 27 October – the national day in Sri Lanka to commemorate the disappeared.
As for David? He’s expected to graduate with a high 2:1 and has already managed to secure a graduate job. He one day wants to return to his emerald isles, in the hope that he can track down any surviving family.
*His name has been changed to protect the identity of the person(s) involved.
You can join “Introduction to Journalism” until 9 November or read an article from another learner on the course: “Muddy Waters” by Sharon Walker. Alternatively, you can see similar courses starting soon in our Creative Arts & Media category.