The Chagos Islands represents a historical episode out of which none of the governments involved comes out well. As we now know, some 2000 people who had lived on those islands for many generations were viciously expelled and unceremoniously dumped on the quayside in Mauritius and the Seychelles. For many years leading up to and after these events, the British and American governments pretended, internally and externally, that these people did not exist; though there were early attempts by the islanders to get justice, it was not till Olivier Bancoult started the Chagos Refugee Group’s series of challenges in the late 1990s and early 2000s, that the grim truth about the Chagossians’ treatment emerged to public view. Papers released by the British Public Records Office, under the thirty-year rule, and dug up by the enterprising journalist Robin Mardemotoo, showed how these people had been pawns in a distant game of brutal realpolitik.
Fast forward to the present day, some legal victories and a few defeats later. A month ago I staged a play in London, based on these events, A Few Man Fridays, – researched in close collaboration with the distinguished Mauritian theatre maker, Henri Favory – and it was striking how few of our audience knew this story, and how much they were moved by it. Actually a number of Mauritians came who also knew little of the real history, though they were familiar with the underclass of  ‘Ilwa’ they grew up with. And when it comes to the Americans, they were probably the least familiar of all with this egregious episode in which their government was one of the main players. So this petition is extra-important, and I would urge everyone to sign it. To date, Congress has only ever given one day of debate to this vital human subject, in September 1975. If this petition reaches its required number, many more in the United States and the world over will be forced to confront the reality that the Chagossians do exist, that they have been treated abysmally by the governments of three nations in successive decades, and that it lies within the power of nations to right that wrong now, and allow them and their descendants to return to the land of their birth.