Prof links Darfur, 2008 ‘Genocide Olympics’ in China
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (Catholic Courier) - Having lived in Rochester since 2000, Sudanese native Mohamed Bilal has fully adjusted to the cold weather.
Even so, he feels the chill of fear every day.
He worries daily about his mother, who lives in the northern part of the Darfur region in western Sudan. Bilal is afraid that she one day might become a target of the Janjaweed, a collective term for several nomadic outlaw militias with thousands of members. Human-rights organizations say the Janjaweed have brutally raped, murdered and terrorized millions of subsistence farmers.
“(They) burn the whole village without even thinking about it,” said Bilal, 43.
Although his mother lives in a large city, Bilal worries because she belongs to the Fur tribe, one of three tribes comprising individuals who have rebelled against the Sudanese government. He talks to cousins and other family members in Sudan every several weeks, anxious for news about his mother and other relatives in Darfur. They are at risk, he explained, because of their ethnicity.
Although estimates vary, about one-third of the 6 million people in the Darfur region have been driven by the warring Janjaweed from their villages into camps for “internally displaced persons,” where they subsist by scrounging for food, water and aid from day to day. Another third remain in their homes but are dependent on foreign aid. Estimates of the dead range from 200,000 to 400,000.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who human-rights activists claim has had a history of lying and blocking international efforts to stop the bloodshed, recently claimed that only 9,000 have died.
Following a 20-month investigation, an International Criminal Court prosecutor last week recently issued an indictment against a Janjaweed commander and a high-level Sudanese government official close to al-Bashir for their alleged roles in 51 crimes against humanity and for war crimes in Darfur during 2003 and 2004. Al-Bashir has refused to hand over the officials, questioning the legitimacy of the court.
Meanwhile, more than 500 people in Rochester came together during a rally Jan. 21 to protest what some have called the first genocide of the 21st century. Bilal, who recently graduated from Monroe Community College and has been accepted at Rochester Institute of Technology, said the turnout at the rally gives him hope for Darfur’s future.
“That’s just telling me that American people are really caring,” Bilal said.
In making his case for international intervention to stop the killings in Darfur, Smith College Professor Eric Reeves recalled another time in history when the world's apathy allowed genocide to continue.
In 1936, most of the world’s major countries agreed to participate in the Berlin Olympics, unaware that just days before the games opened, anti-Semitic signs had been removed, police had rounded up Gypsies and anti-homosexuality laws had been suspended for foreign visitors, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Few then realized that the Nazis had genocidal ambitions that would eventually lead to the deaths of 6 million Jews, the museum points out.
Reeves - who has become one of the foremost experts on Darfur and is writing a book about the conflict - now foresees another Olympics overshadowed by genocide.
China, scheduled to host the 2008 Olympic Summer Games, is Sudan’s biggest financier, buying the bulk of the country’s $3 billion in oil exports a year, he explained.
That’s why Reeves announced during a Feb. 8 University of Rochester lecture that he has launched a viral media campaign (a type of marketing that is spread from person to person) to dub the 2008 Olympics “Genocide Olympics.” He said his goal is to show the world how China has bankrolled a genocidal regime.
“We can take this message to every single computer in the world,” he said.
According to the indictment by the International Criminal Court, clashes between rebel forces and the Sudanese government escalated in 2003 when rebels attacked an airport in North Darfur, killing military personnel and kidnapping the Sudanese air force commander. Working together, the government and the Janjaweed wiped out entire villages, burning every building and forcibly uprooting up to 7,000 residents in one instance, the indictment claims. Reeves also charged that the Sudanese military has bombed villages using Chinese and Eastern European helicopters, planes and weapons it had purchased with oil-export money.
The indictment details the alleged brutality of just two officials involved in incidents in 2003 and 2004. One of them, Ahmed Muhammed Harun, was then head of the government's Darfur Security Desk and is now Sudan’s humanitarian-affairs minister.
The indictment claims Harun ...
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