Market Violence

©2009 Jerry Redfern

Soldiers patrol a market in Pattani, in southern Thailand, where more than 3,500 people have been killed in an insurgency since 2004.

More than 90 people died and 200 were injured in a car bombing that ruptured a market Wednesday in Peshawar, Pakistan. As the BBC reports, “The market mostly sells products for women, and most of the dead were women and children.” The photos are sickening.

Sickening, as all such violence is, but even more so because of the venue. A market. Women. Children. Wednesday shoppers, dead.

I have not been to Peshawar, nor have I reported in Pakistan. But I have visited markets under threat of attack. I have strolled the aisles for vegetables and herbs while everyone’s nerves go shaky in the presence of men with guns.

The above photo was taken at a local market in Pattani, where thousands have died in violent attacks that bewilder Buddhists and Muslims alike. When Jerry and I visited, locals told us to steer clear of soldiers because they are often the targets of bombings. We were advised to limit our time in crowded places. “Just do your business and go,” a Pattani shop owner told us. That morning in the market, as soldiers patrolled, the aisles cleared as in the parting of the Red Sea.

When I woke to the news from Pakistan today, I wondered how many people have died in market violence around the world. Google “market bombings” and you’ll find a long string of incidents, mostly in Pakistan and Iraq, but also in places such as Uzbekistan, North Ossetia, Indonesia, and, yes, Thailand, too. How many women die each year while buying a leg of lamb? How many kids are sent out for tomatoes, never to return? What price does the world really pay for a sack of groceries?

And who will publish these important food-issue stories?

5 thoughts on “Market Violence

  1. I bought a motorcycle in Costa Rica and did Central America earlier this year and met some crazy people. One of the girls I met was from Tel Aviv. I asked her what it was like to grow up with the bus bombings all over the place. Her family was well off, so she didn’t take the bus.

    I met another American guy who grew up in Ethiopia, about my age, and asked him about the famine. He said there was no famine in the city, where he grew up.

    They say when the rain falls, water pools up in some places, and it’s dry in others.

  2. Wandering Foodie, thanks for the astute observations. I’m reminded of Kolkata, where we seemed to find squalor and sickness down every road. Then we met a few people who had grown up there, in nice homes, and they spoke of the endless beauty in that city.

  3. Over the years people have asked about my husband’s family still living in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. They want to know about bombings and such like that. It is the more mundane tragedies that have plagued them: can’t go shopping because they are afraid that the teenaged boys will be conscripted into the rebel army, or can’t go because of a hartal (enforced boycott) or because of the fear of bombs, or just that there is nothing to buy at the moment, now matter how much money is sent to them by foreign relatives.) I think that the disavowal and ignorance of both big and petty evils in one’s homeland (including here in the U.S.) is the only way the haves can sleep at night in a comfy bed or sit down to a sumptious meal without overwhelming guilt all the time.

  4. Thanks for reminding us in comfortable calm quiet places that we are very lucky.

    I did buy the Friends International cookbook BTW. Mailorder to Canada is indeed possible.

    Lisa in Toronto

  5. Mary, thank you for this. Several years ago in Jaffna, we befriended a taxi driver. He took us all across the north and down through Elephant Pass and Kilinochchi. In Jaffna, he’d escort us safely between guesthouse and restaurant after dark, when the rest of the city shuttered itself inside. He had been a Tamil Tiger but gave up fighting because he wanted a better life for his kids. He didn’t want to see them die. And he hoped we would see something informative and return home to talk about it. I have no idea what’s happened to him in the interim. I think about him all the time.

    Lisa, thanks. Enjoy the cookbook!

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