Darfur Day of Action
Why has Darfur remained an afterthought in the mind’s eye of America?
Since 2003, the conflict in Western Sudan has spiraled out of control. The government of Sudan and pro-government Arab militias have committed what most consider war crimes against the regions “Black African” population. Then Secretary Colin Powell recognized the violence in Darfur as genocide as far back as September of 2004.
Two million Darfurians have been displaced and are living in camps. While Khartoum says that 9,000 have died since the conflict began, the U.N. puts the death toll at well over 200,000. The level of sexual violence against women and girls has skyrocketed.
These females often do not admit to being sexually abused because they fear social stigmatization and do not trust the authorities to take action. Some of the accounts of the atrocities that are taking place:
In the course of a large-scale attack, government soldiers and Janjaweed from the neighboring town of Um Sayalah, which hosts a military base, abducted eight women and girls, brutally raped at least three, and forced them to walk back to their village naked.
Large numbers of militia and government forces killed civilians and abducted and raped dozens of women and girls. One witness told UN human rights officers, “they were raped by any man who wanted. Whenever any man came to them, the women were supposed to comply, otherwise they were badly beaten.
In an example from West Darfur, a 12-year-old Erenga girl described how in December 2007, an armed Arab man in uniform lured her and her younger sister into a secluded area by pretending to help them find their lost donkey. “He said if we went with him he would show us. He grabbed me and took off my clothes to do bad things to me. My younger sister ran back to the camp.”
What is the cause of the conflict?
Centuries of tension between Arabs and Africans? Overpopulation? A fight for limited resources? For faces like the ones above, does it really matter?
After the genocide that occurred in Rwanda over a decade ago, it would seem as if the international community would have learned a lesson. Though the Sudanese government classifies the War in Darfur as “tribal clashes,” it is clear that something much more calculated and organized is in progress. And few in the world are willing to act.
While protesters have recently targeted the Beijing Olympics as an opportunity to highlight human rights violations of China against Tibet, there is also a need to highlight what is happening in Darfur. And by the way, countries singling out China as not doing enough to end the violence in Darfur is akin to washing their hands of the matter.
It is time that we all pay attention to the plight of those being wiped out in Darfur. In this space I promise to do my part and I hope the readers of this site will do their part as well. None of us can be expected to do it all, but there’s no doubt that this is an international crisis that deserves all of our attention.
It’s not easy topic to broach, and there is not an easy solution to the problems that are faced. I will call upon the United States Presidential candidates to speak more about Darfur in their foreign policy discussions. The time for action is now. The day to stand up for Darfur is today.