Friday, April 29, 2005

Remembering one democracy activist

Last September, I mentioned an article in the New York Times Magazine about Fern Holland, the 33-year-old idealistic lawyer from Oklahoma who was, along with Bob Zangas, the first civilian employee of the Coalition Provisional Authority to be killed in Iraq.

Today I received a letter from her sister, which I'm placing here in full:
David -

You didn't know Fern and neither did Rubin. Nor was Rubin interested in the "life of Fern Holland"; she wrote a political piece and used Fern as a vehicle for "her" story. In time the truth will be revealed, then you might want to reconsider Rubin's sources and what you think you know about Fern.

Fern did not attempt to impose her ideals about "women's rights".....She was instilling the ideals of freedom in all of the Iraqis. She was not a "feminist", she was a soldier of human rights. The media has turned her into a "women's rights activist". They fail to mention all the Human Rights and Democracy centers she opened; helping primarily men.

Before Fern's death she co-authored, with Professor John Norton Moore of Virginia, a concept/proposal for the creation of a permanent democracy and rule of law educational institute in Africa. She was seekinReg funding for this project when she was offered the opportunity to serve democracy and the people of Iraq. I'm proud to inform you that this project was recently funded; Freedom House was granted "seed money" for the creation of a Fern Holland Democracy Institute in Africa.

I recently returned from Guinea West Africa where I spent two weeks retracing Fern's steps and documenting her work. The legal aid clinic in Nzerekore now bears her name and the staff of the clinic in Kissidougou requested a name change as well. I interviewed numerous women and men who worked with Fern and who benefited from the services of the clinics. I also interviewed Guinean lawyers who worked many long hours investigating the crimes, researching the laws, and helping to create the clinics. Still to this day, as they speak of Fern, tears spill down their checks....I found Fern still alive in the hearts of these amazing people, 8000 miles away from our home, in her beloved Africa.

There has been a tremendous amount of interest, from the film industry, in Fern's murder. But my sister would not want to be remembered because of her death or the brutal way she died. She would want to be remembered because of her life and the way she lived. Fern held two core beliefs: that all people deserve basic human rights, and that one person really can make a difference in the lives of others - and, she did.

All the best and warm wishes David.

Vi Holland

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's a verse I added to the song Glory, Glory halleluyah for Fern:

Glory, glory to Fern.
Glory, glory to Fern
Glory, glory to Fern.
She died in the service of Love.

Born in West Virgina, the youngest of four kids. She enlisted in the army, she knew what she would give.
She went to help her sisters.
Across the deep blue sea.
They just wanted to be free.

Glory, glory to Fern.
Glory, glory to Fern.
Glory, glory to Fern.
Her truth is marching on.

Just another American hero.
Another American hero.
Just one more American hero,
who died in the service of love.

Glory, glory to Fern.
Glory, glory to Fern.
Glory, glory to Fern.
Her truth is marching on.

Eve Pearl