Hotline for Darfur genocide starts

by Lindsay Guentzel

When the violent clashes in Darfur, Sudan commenced, anti-genocide organizations lobbied for support from the United States and the United Nations.

Now, local constituents have the opportunity to support the anti-genocide movement with the help of an everyday invention: the telephone.

Started in February 2007, the Minnesota Genocide Intervention Network’s Anti-Genocide Hotline allows citizens nationwide to call their political representatives and voice their concerns.

Students have shown a lot of support for the hotline, said Dr. Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University.

“A lot of people are asking for information on it,” Feinstein said.

“We’ve had more student support on this, or interest in this, than any other thing that I can remember in a long time.”

Since its creation, people have made more than 8,000 calls to political representatives across the country in support of the anti-genocide movement.

After calling the hotline and entering their ZIP code, individuals are able to select their contact: a representative, a senator, the governor, or the White House. Before the caller is connected, talking points on the current legislation are given.

“The politicians that do know about the hotline find it really helpful because their constituents are actually providing them substantive information on what they can do,” founder of the Minnesota Genocide Intervention Network Mark Hanis said.

“They can get back to their constituents to show them that they are part of the solution of helping stop this genocide.”

Hannah Baldwin an art history junior, president of the University’s chapter of STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, said she wants her group’s work on campus to raise awareness of the hotline.

“I hope that the hotline’s simplicity encourages a lot of people to make the call,” Baldwin said. “We just want to use it to help more students become involved with the situation, especially when it is something this easy.”

On July 31, the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act, which protects U.S. cities and states that decide to divest in companies that support the violence in Sudan, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 418-1 and is now sitting in the Senate.

Also proposed is the Genocide Accountability Act, a bill that would close a legal loophole preventing the United States from prosecuting individuals living in the United States for their crimes of genocide in foreign countries.

Hanis said he hopes the hotline’s purpose expands in the future.

“The goal would be for it to be the 911 of stopping genocide, where if anyone knows of a potential genocide, we want it to be sort of second nature (to call),” he said.