Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh. My name is Malaika and I am a New York-born Maranao. It has been one year since the Marawi Siege and the declaration of Martial law – and my relatives have still not returned. One year later and the Meranaos are still displaced. As we speak, there are one year old children – bomba kids as my Tita Unok lovingly says – who are growing up in a world without roots. For whom war torn lives is all they know.
One year later and the closest thing to “closure” that the Maranaos have are corrupt government plans, unanswered searches for the missing, a brief visit to the rubbles and looted houses of our one-year ago lives. Today, my relatives live 4 or 5 families to one small home in neighboring cities after being driven out of shelters. We are left out — left out of the news, left out of our homes, left out of the decisions on how to rebuild our city and left out of history. Worse than displaced – we are being actively replaced — replaced by lies, profit, and by military stronghold. Simply put, the Maranaos have suffered land grabbing and a loss of livelihood. As martial law stifles the voices calling for basic human decency, for accountability – they steal our land in the name of the War on Terror and sell it to the highest bidders. Hoping to replace us with a “virtual paradise”, to render our ancient city an empty shell of itself. Hoping to turn us indigenous people into brief captions of a storied past and turn living into dead museum pieces.
But the truth they try to obscure with the smoke screen of Bangon Marawi and superficial political players arguing over the crumbs they are trying to pass off as genuine efforts – the truth is my very existence even as an internationally displaced Moro is that the power to rebuild Marawi lies in the hands of the Maranao themselves. While they continue to try to actively keep us scattered, disconnected, and humiliated – the truth is our connectedness cannot be so easily erased. Panandem. I remember, the fierce spirit of the Maranao, the unconquered, who resisted the Spanish, who resisted the Americans and whose strength rages through my veins. Standing before you today, I carry the voice of the United Mothers of Marawi, of the fierce Maranao youth, of the people power that will always demand for justice. My duty today as a Maranao in New York – our duty as Filipinos, and allies- is to amplify the voices demanding justice for the Maranaos and the oppressed. We will not let Marawi be another overlooked destroyed culture and perpetually impoverished Muslim community – among the many littered throughout the global “War on Terror”. One year later, and we should not be defeated. One year later and the Maranao will be louder than ever. We will not be quiet. We will not be ignored.
We need to demand that Marawi is for the Maranaos not for foreign investors! We need to demand that the Maranaos be allowed to rebuild their own city. We need to stand with the Maranaos. Unite with us, fast with us, remember our hunger, and demand justice.
Please join our Muslim brothers and sisters in solidarity – amplify their voices and join them in their struggle. During this month of Ramadan, I urge you to fast in solidarity, break fast with us, build with us, and strengthen our collective struggles. Fight displacement! Defend ancestral land! Let the Maranaos return home!