This year, for Genocide Awareness Month, the American Red Cross hosted a panel on the experiences of genocide survivors and issues of justice for genocide-survivor communities. As a follow-up to that discussion, Darfur Women Action Group has shared a call-to-action regarding raising awareness of the on-going genocide in Darfur.
Darfur needs you now more than ever before. We need people to speak up because silence kills more people every day!
The Urgency of the Situation
Thirteen years into Darfur’s catastrophe, civilian casualties increase each day while the world remains silent. Violence, rape, arrest and torture have devastated the lives of the innocent civilians in Darfur. Countless men, women, and children lose their lives while the living endure unimaginable suffering and have nowhere to turn.
In spite of the alarming rate at which the violence continues to be perpetrated, world leaders have faced the situation in Darfur with silence. Those who have spoken up have not moved beyond words of condemnation. 2015 was a very difficult year for our people in Darfur and we were hopeful that 2016 might be different. Unfortunately, attacks continue at an alarming rate and the international community is, once again, failing Darfur.
In January 2016, violent attacks, killing, rape, arrest and torture continued to devastate the lives of the people of Darfur. Many men, women and children have lost their lives, and those who have been forced to flee have nowhere to turn, as humanitarian aid has been restricted and controlled by the government of Sudan. The Janjaweed militants (Rapid Support Forces) have targeted several areas in West Darfur where fourteen people have been reported killed and over 150 have been reported wounded inside El Geneina (a region in West Darfur). Majorities of the victims were high school students, and due to the attacks, 5000 families have been forced to flee. A new surge of violence erupted in Central Darfur Jebel Marra where the government of Sudan has renewed and intensified both ground attacks and aerial bombings, targeting areas inhabited by civilians, majority of whom are women and children.
Civilians, mainly women and children, inhabit the majority of the targeted areas in Darfur. According to sources on the ground, about 124 villages have been completely destroyed and over 150,000 people have been forced to flee. The remainder of the individuals have been driven to camps and nearby cities where the UN has estimated that about 133,000 are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Reports also confirmed that many women and girls were raped and some taken hostage by Janjaweed and Government forces; their fates remain unknown. Many more of those who have not been able to flee are trapped in the top mountains living in caves without humanitarian’s assistance. Over 3 million people still remain in camps and have been there for 13 years as violence escalates and humanitarian efforts are severely restricted by the government of Sudan.
The Challenges Facing Darfur
President Omar al-Bashir, the mastermind behind the genocide in Darfur and a man wanted by the ICC, is still actively pursuing his genocidal policy in Darfur and other regions of Sudan. Despite the alarming situation in Darfur, the international community has chosen to ignore it. Similarly, the mainstream media has failed to cover the current situation and the ongoing genocide is no longer making headlines. The government of Sudan has made every effort to isolate Darfur from the outside world. For example, President Obama’s special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan has never been to Darfur since his appointment. The Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones has also failed to visit Darfur in recent years, even though rape continues unhindered and unreported.
UNAMID, the UN forces that were put in place to protect civilians, have failed to carry on their mandate and remain under severe restrictions. Al-Bashir, the indicted genocidal criminal, has successfully blocked access to information from Darfur in order to continue his crimes and get away with murder. They have been characterized by impartiality, incompetence and have under reported deaths and sexual violence committed by the regime forces which were previously reinforced by the former UNAMID spokesperson, Aicha Albasri.
Change in the Narrative
The international community has treated Darfur with less urgency because the Sudanese government has changed the narrative of the genocide, replacing it with the word “atrocity” to water down the urgency of the situation. The world may think the crisis in Darfur has ended because it is not reported in the news, but the truth is that over 2 million Darfuris were displaced in the last three years. In one day alone on October 31st, 2014, 221 women and girls were raped in Tabit village and the perpetrators have suffered no consequences. This is not an isolated incident, but it is a systematic tactic and deliberate policy of the regime, which continues to use rape as a weapon of war in Darfur.
In mid-December of 2015, 700 Darfuri refugees, who had escaped the genocide, were suddenly and forcibly deported from Jordan back to Sudan to face the very genocidal regime that they had fled for protection. In the beginning of 2016, a new surge of violence, using the same strategy of the Sudanese government’s “scorched earth” campaign, has begun and is on the way to kill more people. In a recent statement, the Sudanese vice president reported that the government of Sudan has declared a plan to end displacement by 2017. This means wiping out even those who are helpless within the internally displaced camps in Darfur. Furthermore, a referendum in Darfur was conducted to decide on the future of Darfur, even while Darfuri victims are under attack and still struggling for survival with no ability to vote.
This is why we need you, your voice, and your support
With the all persisting challenges, Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) and its supporters remained vigilant and refuse to stand idly by. We say NO to the silent conspiracy on Darfur and decide that we must empower the survivors and the ordinary citizens to speak up. We call upon our supporters and volunteers to stand with us. We are currently mobilizing and organizing the Diaspora within the United States and across the globe to use their voices, bring more attention to this terrible situation, and demand that our leaders act now before it is too late. We cannot do this without your support and that is why we are calling on you to stand by our side. We know you care and you will not be a bystander in the face of these horrific crimes.
DWAG believes that in the face of genocide, we must not let our leaders turn a blind eye or look the other way. We need you to add your voice, speak with us, and mobilize the masses. If we can reach out to more people, we will definitely compel our leaders to act promptly. We at Darfur Women Action Group are determined to continue to fight against these horrific crimes. Our voices have been loud and we have given home to the affected community that their plight will not be forgotten. We need you all. Together, we must continue to remind the world and must not let al-Bashir and his cronies get away with murder. In the coming days, we will continue to share with you our updates and provide you with opportunities to take action. Please help us spread the word and get more people involved.
Do what you can from where you are to empower us to continue to fight for justice in Darfur and across Sudan. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Time is always right to do the right things”.
We are grateful to have you all by our side.
President, Darfur Women Action Group