In an era where violence is met increasingly by violence by State and non-State actors alike, and where ordinary civilians are most often the casualties, ASHA is the story of a woman who attempts a path out of this cycle.
On April 4th 2014, in Nairobi, Kenya, police indiscriminately rounded up people living in a Somali area including Kenyan Muslims. Over 4000 people were detained in a sports stadium for days and months, without formal arrest or recourse. The reason for the roundup was initially stated to be a search for terrorists, but with increasing outcries by civil rights groups and others, this reason was modified to say that police were searching for illegal immigrants. The vast majority of those detained were legally in the country and had done nothing wrong.The incident echoes a much more violent time when over a million Kenyans – mostly Kikuyus – were indiscriminately taken from their homes and thrown into detention camps or reservations by the British in the 1950s. Although in the colonial period the violence was far more brutal, wide-ranging and sustained for over almost a decade – the idea of indiscriminate detention of populations simply because of their religious or national identity – is the same, and in direct contravention of civil rights and human rights.
Filmed in Nairobi, Kenya and inspired by the April 4 events, Asha is about a house-maid who is stopped by police simply because she has “the wrong name”. In appealing to a shared history rather than situating herself in opposition to the policeman, Asha creates a space for reflection and dialog, and thereby opens up a path for conciliation rather than enmity.