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Darfuris tell of troubles in war-torn homeland

Post by News Tribune Staff on Nov. 2, 2007 at 8:29 pm with No Comments »
November 2, 2007 8:29 pm

Ibrahim Mousa Adam starts his day like most people. He says he wakes up, thinks about what he has planned and mentally schedules his activities.

It’s not that simple for his countrymen.

"If you are in Darfur, you think differently," he said. "If you are a woman, you think, could I be raped today? Could my sister? Could my 12-year-old daughter?

"If you are a man, you think, could I be killed today? Could my brother? Could my father?"

Adam and Daoud Hari have an unenviable task: The two Darfuris are on a speaking tour, asking anyone who will listen to support their people’s fight against the conflict in the western region of Sudan. The two attracted a crowd of about 250 people at Kilworth Chapel at the University of Puget Sound on Friday. The presentation started with a video about the history of the violence and interviews with those affected.

The conflict in Darfur has claimed up to 450,000 lives and displaced about 2.5 million people since early 2003, according to United Nations estimates.

The Sudanese government has armed and trained brutal militias called Janjaweed, who have carried out most of the violence in what the United States calls genocide.

Hari and Adam shared gruesome tales.

Hari fled his home village, Musbat, and lived in a refugee camp in Chad. He wanted to spread the message of the violence to an international audience, so he became a translator for journalists. He described his horror in watching dogs eating human corpses and talking to small children who were raped.

An assignment translating for Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek was his last. They were captured, and Hari says he was tortured. The two were released a month later after international mediation, and Hari came to the United States as a refugee in March.

Adam came to the United States in early 2003. That July, his hometown was overrun by the Janjaweed ­ 80 people were killed, including 20 members of his family. More than 100 of his relatives are scattered among refugee camps across Sudan and Chad.

Most of the question-and-answer session revolved around how to help at the grassroots level and about the latest developments with a proposed international peacekeeping force.

A 7,000-troop African Union force is on the ground in Darfur, but it lacks air support and is largely impotent. A joint United Nations-African Union force has been approved but isn’t yet on the ground. Questions about the force’s inadequate logistics and air support linger.

And there can be no progress without security, Adam said.

"Today, if we sent $1 million to the refugees in Chad, they could get food and medicine and things like that," he said. "But there is no security for those people. They could be killed the next day. What are most important are peacekeeping forces. What is most important is security."

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