Friday, May 16, 2008

They are speaking, will you listen?

Last night I went to see a presentation at my school entitled Voices from Darfur. It's a national speaking tour with survivors from the genocide in Darfur who have come to America as refugees. It was not well put together, and the announcer guy from the Muslim student group that put it on was not prepared or professional in being the announcer-emcee person. He kept saying "the refugees are late" and "if you have questions for the refugees, then raise your hand" or "here are the refugees." It just sounded weird and offensive, in a way. Maybe the fact that I had a fever and a touch of the stomach flu made it seem worse than it was. I left halfway through the two and half hour presentation because I was so sick, but we had already watched a DVD and heard both speakers talk, so I got a good feel for the situation. I have been keeping aprised of the genocide in Darfur since 2006 and sent out emails with information alot and even tried (unsuccessfully :( ) to start a Darfur students group. I am happy I went but I was so surprised at the small turnout.

The first man was from Darfur, but came here before the genocide began. He runs a native Darfuri organization in Chicago. He gave us a long history of the region and how this genocide has roots back in the 60's and it's a continuing struggle for power that has always been violent. He had a very thick accent and I missed alot of what he said. But he said that the genocide is still going on today, as we speak, as you read this... People are dying. The Sudanese government is killing its people.

The second man was from Darfur also. He came here a few years ago. He spoke of the villages of Darfur and how each village is an entire family, 75-100 people: all related. He is one of 16 children, many of his siblings are married and then have their own children (so you have an idea how it got so big). He left Darfur to go to Khartoum city to go to university, like he said many young men do. In America, we tend to think they are not as formally educated but he said they attend school like grammar and high school. While he was away at college the Sudanese government was responding to the uprising of the agrarian workers (a result of a lack of resources and that they were being inequitably distributed). The government began recruiting the male students to serve in the Janjaweed (army serving the government) and attack the native farming communities. The man who was speaking says he refused since that would mean attacking villagers like his family, and perhaps one day, his family. It was no longer safe for him to stay in the city and he could not travel back to the country to be with his family so he escaped to America. His family's village was attacked and many were killed. He spoke of that last week finally talking to his mom on a cellphone that he sent to her. There are now 50 members of his family living in a single family house in a city in Sudan. He spoke of the Janjaweed shooting his grandma in the face and beating her. He spoke of the fear he has for his family. He spoke of the choices they had to make in a split second- like what child to grab as they run because you cant carry them all. He spoke of his grandma's inability to walk for the days on end and his mother got a donkey but then that made them a huge target because a donkey is hard to hide and loud. (When people hear a donkey coming they just shoot without looking) The rest of the family and neighbors wouldnt walk or sleep by them as they traveled to safety because of this hightened risk of violence, so the mom and grandma were alone with a few other very elderly and slow traveling women in the family. He spoke of his very young nieces and nephews, 4 and 5, having to walk for 7 hours a day because the mom was carrying the younger children. He spoke of his decision to stay in America because over everything they are in need of, they need money the most and he can work for more money here in America. I could see how heart wrenching it was to make that choice for him. He says he works very hard and sends his money back home. He speaks out all the time about Darfur because he says if people know then they would surely act. He writes letters to the government all the time asking the American government to make them stop the genocide. He had a very positive view of Bush and the government here. He says that if the American government took a stronger stand then the Sudanese government would take notice and stop. I felt bad that he seemed to think that somehow the inaction on the governments part here is ignorance, like they arent sure exactly what is going on or something. It really made me sad.

He showed pictures of the aircraft flying over the Darfuri villages and bombing and said they are Russian aircraft. He said the guns and ammunition is supplied by the Chinese. He said the Sudanese government is very close with the CHinese government because Sudan supplies China with oil. I bet if America got its oil from there we would care a hell of alot more.

Both of the speakers spoke very highly of the US government and Bush. I was like WHAT? but then they explained that Bush is the first government to acknowledge and declare the situation a genocide and they are grateful. They said the US sends lots of aid. A girl in the audience said that we should send more, that we send 2/3 of all the aid we give out to Israel. The speakers were quick to defend American government and said they are so appreciative of what Bush has done. I felt they didnt have the whole picture. But maybe they were just so thankful for any show of support. I think we can do alot more. The billion dollars a week spent in that stupid freaking war can go to save innocent people's lives in Darfur. I mean this is another complete Holocaust going on right now! Right now, as you read this more people are being killed by the Sudanese government. And raped. and poisoned. and beaten. WHY? for money. for power. for silence against the atrocities having been committed for years. because of hate and racism. because of classism.

Dare to care. Its hard and people just shut off and turn away. Dont be that person.

Go to and see how you can help. Send emails to people about the situation. Email me and we can talk about it too.
And Pray. alot.

1 comment:

Meridith said...

I'm currently reading the book "Not On Our Watch, the Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond" by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast. The more we know about what's going on in the Sudan region, then the more we can tell others so that they can be aware of the atrocities that are taking place. Then we all must pray, write letters, get involved with organizations like, but most of all, as you write, pray, a lot.