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Darfur: A Blow to Al-Bashir

In recent weeks, the courageous Nicholas Kristof, accompanied by George Clooney, has been revisiting the hell on earth that has enveloped Darfur and eastern Chad. In one of his searing columns, he wrote about a 27 year-old woman named Suad … Read More

By / March 4, 2009

In recent weeks, the courageous Nicholas Kristof, accompanied by George Clooney, has been revisiting the hell on earth that has enveloped Darfur and eastern Chad. In one of his searing columns, he wrote about a 27 year-old woman named Suad Ahmed.

Suad fled from Darfur to a refugee camp in Chad five years ago with her husband and beloved younger sister, Halima, who is now 12 – if she is still alive.

Then Sudan dispatched its janjaweed militias into Chad to slaughter members of black African tribes – applying to eastern Chad the same genocidal policies that had already gutted Darfur.

Shortly before I met Suad two years ago, she was out gathering firewood with Halima. A group of janjaweed fired into the air and yelled at them to stop.

Suad, who was married with two children and another on the way, ordered Halima to run back to camp. Then Suad made a decoy of herself and ran loudly in the opposite direction, making sure that the janjaweed saw her.

That night, after the janjaweed had left, the men from the camp found Suad semiconscious in the bush, brutally beaten and raped.

Suad refused medical treatment, for fear that word would get out that she had been raped, and she didn’t even tell her husband, instead saying that she had been robbed and beaten. Yet she revealed the full story to me and allowed me to use her name.

I grilled her to make absolutely sure she understood the dangers of publicity – from stigma and revenge – and finally asked her why she was willing to assume the risks. She replied simply, “This is the only way I have to fight genocide.”

This, of course, is a genocide that is ongoing. Just yesterday, an AP reporter in Sudan’s Zamzam camp filed this harrowing report:

The tall 14-year-old’s parents were killed when government soldiers swept into his hometown in Darfur to chase out rebels. Then Arab militias went after the survivors. That’s when the teenager fled atop a truck piled with mattresses and pots.

Mohammed Bahreddine arrived at this refugee camp last week after a two-day journey, joining more than 26,000 people from the region around the town of Muhajeria who have flooded into the crowded camp in recent weeks.

It’s one of the largest single flights of refugees in the past year in Darfur — a sign how civilians are bearing the brunt of a war that entered its seventh year in February. At least 10,000 more people from the Muhajeria area are expected at Zamzam soon, camp leaders say.

There are several individuals responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths and for the misery of millions of forcibly displaced – but one man, in the form of Sudanese tyrant Omar al-Bashir, stands at the top of the pyramid. That is why the decision of the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for him marks another critical milestone in the long march of international justice. Bashir has now joined the genocidaires of Nuremburg, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda as a target for an international court whose mandate enables the trial of those whose national courts are either unwilling or unable to put them in the dock.

Bashir’s contempt for the court is expressed through both the demonstrations on the streets of Khartoum and in the belligerent statements of his spokesman, Mustafa Osman Ismail. Adopting the idiom of anti-colonialism, Ismail thundered that there “will be no recognition of or dealing with the white man’s court, which has no mandate in Sudan or against any of its people.” The warrant is – isn’t it always? – a nefarious foreign plot. To be more precise, Bashir has described the devastation in Darfur as a “Zionist” plot. Colonel Gaddafi of Libya, for one, agrees with him.

In the west, the only people who will get taken in by this bluster are the “We are all Hezbollah” crowd. Those of us driven by the primacy and universality of human rights will find them irritating, even nauseating, but let’s not be distracted by them. Energy is better spent rallying around this call from Save Darfur for the Obama Administration to appoint a Special Envoy on Sudan with the ultimate goal of ending the genocide.

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