International Day of the Disappeared is held annually on the 30th August and gives the chance for us to recognise the numbers of people missing through conflict, disaster and migration and to show solidarity to their loved ones through several important books. Victims of enforced disappearance are people who have literally disappeared; from their loved ones and their community.
This observance was initiated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as a way to draw attention to the issue of enforced disappearances and to advocate for the rights of both the missing individuals and their families. Enforced disappearance refers to the abduction or detention of individuals by state or non-state actors, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person’s fate or whereabouts, thereby placing them outside the protection of the law.
Just in June this year, UN experts urged the General Assembly to establish a human rights body to meaningfully address the tragedy of missing and forcibly disappeared persons in Syria, which amount to more than 130,000.
On this day, various events, campaigns, and discussions are organised by human rights organisations, governments, and concerned individuals to shed light on this serious humanitarian issue and to call for action to prevent and address enforced disappearances.
Books to read on International Day of the Disappeared
Here are some harrowing books remembering people near and far in war zones.
- “Proof of Life: Twenty Days on the Hunt for a Missing Person in the Middle East” by Daniel Levin. A suspenseful and thrilling account by a hostage negotiator searching for a missing person in Syria over eighteen tense days.
- “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland” by Patrick Radden Keefe. Unveiling the dark history of Northern Ireland through a murder and its haunting aftermath.
- “If You Were There: Missing People and the Marks They Leave Behind” by Francisco Garcia. Exploring the traces and stories left behind by those who have disappeared.
- “Dossier Secreto: Argentina’s Desaparecidos And The Myth Of The ‘Dirty War'” by Martin Edwin Andersen. Secreto convinces the reader that the “dirty war,” as portrayed by the generals, was indeed a farce.
- “A Massacre in Mexico: The True Story Behind the Missing Forty-Three Students” by Anabel Hernández, Translated by John Washington. Massacre in Mexico shows with exacting precision who is responsible for which component of this monumental crime.
- “History of a Disappearance: The Story of a Forgotten Polish Town” by Filip Springer. After Stalin’s post-World War II redrawing of Poland’s borders, Kupferberg became Miedzianka, a town settled by displaced people from all over Poland.
- “The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda” by Andrew Rice. The people of Uganda have struggled to bury the worst of their history, but after the violent reign of Idi Amin, reminders were never far from view.
- “A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War” by Deborah Campbell. The book reminds us of the courage of those who risk their lives to bring us the world’s news.
The International Day of the Disappeared serves as an opportunity to emphasise the importance of justice, truth, and accountability for these cases and to work towards preventing such situations from occurring in the future.
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