Events at U to examine Darfur genocide

No protection exists for the people of Darfur, many of whom will face bloody deaths.

In Sudan’s Darfur region, an area roughly the size of France, Arab Muslim militia members called the Janjaweed, heavily armed by the Sudanese government, have hunted down, raped and killed more than 200,000 black Muslim farmers and their families, creating what the United Nations has declared the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. They have displaced another 2 million people from their homes, driving them into neighboring Chad where the conflict now is spreading. What began as a struggle for land and water between Arab herders and black farmers has evolved into an ethnic cleansing, designed, according to Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, to free up the land for nomadic Arabs and their camels.

Although the Bush administration has called the situation “genocide,” if you haven’t heard about what’s happening in Darfur, you’re not alone. Because of scant media coverage, most Americans are unaware of the disastrous state of affairs.

But three independent filmmakers – Aisha Bain, Jen Marlowe and Adam Shapiro – are hoping to change that with their documentary “Darfur Diaries: Message from Home,” which co-director Marlowe on Friday introduced to the Twin Cities. In late 2004 the filmmakers trekked to Darfurian refugee camps in eastern Chad to interview displaced people – civilians and fighters resisting the Sudanese government, teachers, students, parents, children and community leaders. A teach-in will be at 3:30 p.m. April 11 in 140 Nolte Hall.

The filmmakers faced considerable danger; the region is so threatening and lawless that it’s currently off limits to diplomats and United Nations aid workers. Only one human-rights organization, Doctors Without Borders, is helping people in Koloy, Chad.

“What we see from the Darfur situation is that ‘never again’ is a cliché,” says Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. “They were the watchwords in 1945 with the end of the Holocaust, and now we tolerate people becoming the victims of genocide. The Arabs and Muslims don’t seem to be concerned, even though the victims are Muslims. Africa is off the radar for almost the entire world.”

Despite the Bush administration’s declaration of genocide a year and a half ago, only the United States has made a few strides to help. China looks the other way while deferring to its own economic self-interests in trade with Sudan and the export of Sudanese oil. The European community is quiet despite the fact that Sudan was a British colony. While serving its monthlong presidency on the United Nations Security Council in February, the United States began talking with its allies about sending United Nations peacekeeping troops to Darfur to help the African Union, a lightly armed and underfunded peacekeeping group that currently has 7,000 troops on the ground.

On April 11, the University will present more insights into the Darfur situation. Mark Hanis, chief executive of the Genocide Intervention Network in Washington, will speak about the conflict from 12:10 to 1 p.m. Leaders in Transition, a University living and learning community, is sponsoring the event.

The Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the Human Rights Center and the Space and Place Research Group are sponsoring “Darfur Diaries: Message from Home.” To learn more about the film, visit www.darfurdiaries.org.

Cass Erickson is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]