Monday, November 21, 2005

Never again, again?

The latest from the Coalition for Darfur published in the NY Times.
20 November 2005
The New York Times

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.

TAMA, Sudan -- So who killed 2-year-old Zahra Abdullah for belonging
to the Fur tribe?

At one level, the answer is simple: The murderers were members of the
janjaweed militia that stormed into this mud-brick village in the
South Darfur region at dawn four weeks ago on horses, camels and
trucks. Zahra's mother, Fatima Omar Adam, woke to gunfire and smoke
and knew at once what was happening.

She jumped up from her sleeping mat and put Zahra on her back, then
grabbed the hands of her two older children and raced out of her
thatch-roof hut with her husband.

Some of the marauders were right outside. They yanked Zahra from Ms.
Fatima's back and began bludgeoning her on the ground in front of her
shrieking mother and sister. Then the men began beating Ms. Fatima and
the other two children, so she grabbed them and fled -- and the men
returned to beating the life out of Zahra.

At another level, responsibility belongs to the Sudanese government,
which armed the janjaweed and gave them license to slaughter and rape
members of several African tribes, including the Fur.

Then some responsibility attaches to the rebels in Darfur. They claim
to be representing the tribes being ethnically cleansed, but they have
been fighting each other instead of negotiating a peace with the
government that would end the bloodbath.

And finally, responsibility belongs to the international community --
to you and me -- for acquiescing in yet another genocide.

Tama is just the latest of many hundreds of villages that have been
methodically destroyed in the killing fields of Darfur over the last
two years. Ms. Fatima sat on the ground and told me her story -- which
was confirmed by other eyewitnesses -- in a dull, choked monotone, as
she described her guilt at leaving her child to die.

''Zahra was on the ground, and they were beating her with sticks, but
I ran away,'' she said. Her 4-year-old son, Adam, was also beaten
badly but survived. A 9-year-old daughter, Khadija, has only minor
injuries but she told me that she had constant nightmares about the

At least Ms. Fatima knows what happened to her daughter. A neighbor,
Aisha Yagoub Abdurahman, is beside herself because she says she saw
her 10-year-old son Adil carried off by the janjaweed. He is still
missing, and everyone knows that the janjaweed regularly enslave
children like him, using them as servants or sexual playthings. In
all, 37 people were killed in Tama, and another 12 are missing.

The survivors fled five miles to another village that had been
abandoned after being attacked by the janjaweed a year earlier. Now
the survivors are terrified, and they surrounded me to ask for advice
about how to stay alive.

None of them dared accompany me back to Tama, which is an eerie ghost
town, doors hanging off hinges and pots and sandals strewn about. The
only inhabitants I saw in Tama were camels, which are now using the
village as a pasture -- and which the villagers say belong to the
janjaweed. On the road back, I saw a group of six janjaweed, one
displaying his rifle.

Darfur is just the latest chapter in a sorry history of repeated
inaction in the face of genocide, from that of Armenians, through the
Holocaust, to the slaughter of Cambodians, Bosnians and Rwandans. If
we had acted more resolutely last year, then Zahra would probably
still be alive.

Attacks on villages like Tama occur regularly. Over the last week, one
tribe called the Falata, backed and armed by the Sudanese government,
has burned villages belonging to the Masalit tribe south of here.
Dozens of bodies are said to be lying unclaimed on the ground.

President Bush, where are you? You emphasize your willingness to speak
bluntly about evil, but you barely let the word Darfur pass your lips.
The central lesson of the history of genocide is that the essential
starting point of any response is to bellow moral outrage -- but
instead, Mr. President, you're whispering.

In a later column, I'll talk more specifically about actions we should
take, and it's true that this is a complex mess without easy
solutions. But for starters we need a dose of moral clarity. For all
the myriad complexities of Darfur, what history will remember is that
this is where little girls were bashed to death in front of their
parents because of their tribe -- and because the world couldn't be
bothered to notice.

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