May 27, 2006

Muslims Fighting Muslims in Sudan

Posted in Middle East, Sudan at 3:50 pm by greatparanoiac

sudan-janjaweed.jpgI wrote 10 days about the reluctance of Arab countries to speak against the Sudanese government over the crises in Darfur or pressure them to allow a UN peacekeeping force. I found this opinion column on Beliefnet. com, a website on spirituality and religion.

I’m not sure when this column was written, it’s by Hesham Hassaballa, a physcian from Chicago who contributes regularly to the website on issues of Islam. The essay, Shameful Hypocrisy, looks at the history of the different ethnic groups in Western Sudan and also references what the Qu’ran says about Muslims fighting each other. On the site, there is a sidebar with readers’ comments. I’m posting the whole thing. Check out Hassballa’s blog God, Faith and a Pen for more postings on Islam in the face of terrorism.

By Hesham Hassaballa 
When the photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib first emerged, the Muslim world rose up in condemnation. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, for instance, “expressed its strong condemnation of the brutal acts of torture perpetrated against Iraqi prisoners…in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Yet as the chorus of condemnation loudly rang across the Muslim world, worse crimes were being committed within the Muslim world–crimes that also were in “flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” As angry fingers were wagged at the West, they passed over vicious genocide being committed in the Darfur region of Western Sudan.

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May 22, 2006

Rape as a Tool of War: Abortion Care Needs in Darfur

Posted in Sudan, Womens Rights at 9:05 pm by greatparanoiac


Raped women have to live with the threat of HIV/AIDS, with access to only minimal medical care in Darfur and in refugee camps in neighbouring Chad.

A colleague of mine brought this article to my attention. It’s in the latest issue of Forced Migration Review(May 2006), dealing with people trafficking. This is the in-house journal for the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford. The whole issue can be downloaded as a PDF. If you get a chance, check out Abortion Care Needs in Darfur and Chad by Tamara Fetters.  She is a researcher for Ipas, a non-governmental organization working to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

The writer examines why there is a lack of reproductive health services and treatment of complications that result from unsafe abortions or miscarriages in health facilities for refugees and those internally displaced.

The article states that violence against women in Darfur and in refugee camps in Chad are well-documented. These occur while women are foraging for water, fuel or animal fodder, or during imprisonment. There have also been cases of women being forced to submit to sex in exchange for ‘protection’ by police officers and male residents in the refugee camps.

In addition, Amnesty International reported that in armed conflicts that it investigated in 1999 and 2000, the torture of women was reported, most often in the form of sexual violence. Women and girls make up more than half of refugees in the world.  These women are more vulnerable to rape and sexual violence. In addition, unaccompanied women and girls are often regarded as common sexual property in camps and may face forced prostitution as well as coercion into sex in exchange for food, documents or refugee status.

Rape is not an accident of war, or an incidental adjunct to armed conflict. Its widespread use in times of conflict reflects the unique terror it holds for women, the unique power it gives the rapist over his victim, and the unique contempt is displays for its victims. The use of rape in conflict reflects the inequalities women face in their everyday lives in peace time. Until governments take responsibility for their obligations to ensure equality, and end discrimination against women, rape will continue to be a favored weapon of the aggressor. – Amnesty International

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May 19, 2006

Support Sudanese NGOs Facing Persecution

Posted in Sudan, Womens Rights at 12:38 am by greatparanoiac

I wanted to share this alert from Human Rights First. It calls on the Sudanese government to stop the harassment and legal persecution of NGOs, human rights and humanitarian organizations in Sudan, whose work has been critical in the Darfur crises.

President Omar al-Bashir’s officials have passed legislation in an effort to prevent independent organizations from documenting and publicizing human rights violations. This is in addition to human rights defenders being arrested, beaten, and “disappeared” while carrying out their work.

This is an excerpt from the press release:

“On April 11, 2006, the Sudanese government froze the assets of a local women’s rights organization called the Women’s Awareness Raising Group (AWOON) – Red Sea , making it impossible for the organization to continue its work. AWOON plays a vital role in promoting women’s rights in Sudan and addresses critical issues facing Sudanese women through human rights training, advocacy and free legal assistance.”

port-sudan.jpgAWOON is a local NGO of female lawyers who provide legal assistance and advocate to promote women’s & children’s rights in Port Sudan. They submitted a proposal last summer to the EU, seeking funds for a campaign to promote women’s rights to access a counsel and funds for a training course for lawyers and activists. Althought the request for this project was and got underway this March, it was abruptly bought to an end.  

At a time when Sudan has been complicit in crimes against humanity and failed to protect its citizens, it is important for nongovernmental organizations like AWOON to be able to carry out their work. Human Rights First is trying to put pressure on Sudan to stop persecuting human rights defenders by demanding that AWOON – Red Sea be allowed to resume its operations and have access to its financial resources.

You can sign the electronic petition to Ambassador H.E. Khidir Haroun Ahmed and H.E. Ambassador Omer Manis here.

May 17, 2006

Arab Reluctance toward Sudan

Posted in Middle East, Sudan at 6:26 pm by greatparanoiac

I wanted to follow up on a couple of items I mentioned yesterday about Arab countries not pressuring Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to allow an UN peacekeeping force in Darfur or that there isn’t much mention in the press about Muslims denouncing the genocide.

After much searching on Google, I found this interesting commentary “Darfur at the Crossroads” on ZNet by Farid Omar. It dates back to August 2004, but can be applied to the situation today:

“While western hypocrisy on the situation in Darfur is really problematic, Muslim complicity in the Darfur mayhem is equally disturbing. The Muslim people and their allies around the world should stand up for Darfuris, denounce and expose western double standards and condemn the AL and the OIC for their inaction and failure to put pressure on Sudan to contain the crisis in Darfur.”

Omar goes onto to state how the member states of the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference violate human rights in their own countries and do not have the moral authority to condemn the excesses of fellow-member state Sudan.

Omar also makes an interesting point refuting commonly held beliefs that the politicization of Islam is the mobilizing force behind the Janjaweed militia in Darfur. 

“The reactionary Islamist forces in Sudan do not command widespread support. In its heydays, Sudan’s main Islamist party, the National Islamic Front (NIF), has never commanded a significant popular following, and has gained and retained power only through intrigue and coup.”

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May 7, 2006

Can You Escape the Janjaweed?

Posted in Human Rights, Sudan at 1:55 am by greatparanoiac

Nicholas Kristoff has an op-ed in yesterday’s NYT called the Heroes of Darfur. It’a nice piece on what ordinary and famous people have done to raise awareness about Darfur. One interesting note–he says CBS Evening News dedicated two minutes of air-time to the conflict in 2005. Wow! With so many obligations to Viacom and their sponsors, I’m surprised they had the two minutes to spare.

The op-ed is in the Times Select section (silly NYT…to make $50 upfront they block their best writers from reaching a wider audience and having the impact a paper of record is suppose to have), so I can’t link or copy-paste it. But I can direct you to read the op-ed via blogger The Unknown Candidate who has disregarded the copyright. Good for him! Access to knowledge should be free.

Just to show you the power of interactive media and using it to educate young people. In his article Kristoff mentions Darfur is Dying a video game conceived by activists at UC-Berkeley and produced by MTV university as a part of its Sudan resource center. In the game, you can choose to be a Darfuri character and it simulates what it’s like for a person living under hostile conditions. I think you have to download Flash to open it.

It feels a bit strange at first, using your arrow keys to make a young girl retrieve water from a well while she’s being pursued by the Janjaweed. But it’s effective in how it engages people and help them understand a conflict from which they are so far removed. 

 western aid.jpg

In regards to global commitment to stopping the genocide in Darfur…Right of Center had this critique to make about Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay congratulating the Sudanese government on the accord and patting himself on the back too. It’s an excellent point to behavior that is mirrored in the G-8 countries:

” Funny, the AU has never mentioned Peter MacKay’s involvement in the peace agreement recently signed. But what about the $250M given to Darfur?” says the loyal [Progressive Conservative Party] supporter. In reality $250 million is nothing in terms of international and/or humanitarian aid. It’s a drop in the bucket for many governments, especially for Canada with her surplus’. Oh, and let’s not forget the extremely generous donation of $40M to non-government agencies working within Darfur. Oops, I meant to say $40 million since 2003. Drops in the bucket from one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Our “commitment” is anything but, and both Liberal & CPC governments are to blame for this laughable attempt at helping those who are dying every day.”

May 6, 2006

Darfuri Refugees Lack a Guarantee of Security

Posted in Human Rights, Sudan at 9:04 pm by greatparanoiac

Newly_arrived_refugees-2.jpgNewly arrived refugees receive assistance at UNHCR’s Gaga camp in eastern Chad….

Reuters‘ story yesterday on the latest situation in Darfur reports that only the largest rebel faction signed a peace deal with the Sudanese government. After two years of negotiations, this will not end the conflict. I hope–but doubt that it can still bring protection to the millions of refugees.

A faction of the SLA–Sudan Liberation Army signed the accord, but rival leader Abdel Wahed Muhammad al-Nor and the group Justice and Equality Movement refused.  The government has said it will allow UN peacekeeping forces once an agreement with the rebel groups has been met.

I’m afraid that all this accord accomplishes is deflecting international criticism and pressure. The sincerity of the government is doubtful because they have reneged on so many agreements in the past. Sudan is under no serious pressure from the rebels or any threats of an external military internvention. Why hasn’t there been any international effort to treat Sudan as an outlaw state?

“Signing an incomplete deal guarantees that there will be no peace in Darfur and that suits the government. I am sure the government will look to exploit divisions in the rebels to fuel fighting in Darfur.” –John Prendergast, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group.

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May 3, 2006

If Giving Peace A Chance Doesn’t Work

Posted in Human Rights, Sudan at 12:41 pm by greatparanoiac


I heard back from colleagues and friends who attended the “Save Darfur” rally in DC this past weekend. Thanks to everyone who was able to make the trip. They tell me they heard Barack Obama, Elie Wiesel, Samantha Powers and Rev Al Sharpton speak on the issue. I hope that the African Union can continue to mediate between the Sudanese government, rebels and tribal leaders for resolve in Darfur as the deadline for talks was extended yesterday.

The Washington Post had the article “Divisions Cast Aside” on the rally in Monday’s paper.  While more people need to know more about the issues and more voices need to be heard, it was great that so many different groups, beliefs and ethnicities came together to support this cause.

“…the Rally to Stop Genocide appeared to be distinctive for being one of the more diverse rallies the capital has seen in years. Most demonstrations attract fairly homogenous crowds, who often share political, religious and ethnic makeup, as was the case when Latinos dominated immigration protests last month. But yesterday’s rally brought together people from dozens of backgrounds and affiliations, many of whom strongly disagree politically and ideologically on many issues.” 

I’m not so sure about many strongly disagreeing politically.  From what I’ve been told the crowd was progressive and shared the same concern–stopping genocide. Yet, I wonder how many people have thought about—the many times when peace talks were in place and the government or militias continued to carry out atrocities against civilians.  It’s happened many times in Africa….Rwanda, DR Congo, Angola, West Africa and Somalia.  Mass protests are not always enough. We have to consider pressuring governments to carry out a military intervention if these peace talks fail in Sudan.

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May 1, 2006

Time’s Almost Up in Sudan

Posted in Sudan at 2:16 pm by greatparanoiac

Uh-oh…doesn’t look good. Doesn’t look like the rebel factions are going to agree on a peace deal by Tuesday’s deadline.

According to a Reuters article, the government of Sudan accepted an 85-page draft designed to end fighting that has makes tens-of-thousands of lives.  However, the holdouts are the three main rebel factions in Darfur.  They’re unhappy with the proposals on security, power-sharing and wealth-sharing. If pictures tell a thousand words….we can figure out exactly what went on in the meetings…

 rebel sudan.jpg                                                                                                                       

Here’s Minni Arcua Minnawi (L), leader of a Sudan Liberation Army faction (SLA) and Ibrahim Khalil, leader of the Sudanese Justice and Equity Movement (JEM) at the peace negotiation meeting with Sudan government representatives. This isn’t good. They look they’ve been listening to the school teacher from the Peanuts all afternoon.  

women rebels.jpgI was really surprised to see this photo. A bit taken aback, I wasn’t sure what to make of it…okay, at first I wasn’t sure they were women. Righteous Muslim sisters. Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) commanders Mariam Abdallah (L) and Roda Mohamed Ahmed were also at the peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria. They look tougher than their male counterparts. It’s obvious the talks aren’t going well…. Mariam looks really pissed. That is one angry woman who doesn’t like her time wasted. I can tell who wears the pants in her relationships.

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April 11, 2006

Avoiding a Casting Call for ‘Hotel Darfur’

Posted in Human Rights, Sudan at 8:39 am by greatparanoiac

genocide.jpgThis month human rights activists and concerned citizens are taking action to speak out against genocide in Darfur. While political leaders continue to debate over what action is needed in Darfur, there is a growing movement to force political actors to stop the genocide. Activism gives people a chance to realize we have a voice and responsibility to protect civilians as security in the region dissolves.

This is a round-up of information available on the Darfur crises. While our efforts to bring social change can seem futile at times, I think we should keep in mind of our strength in numbers. The more people protesting and demanding action from their representatives, the more likely those in position of authority will do something.

For more information, check out the Save Darfur website. They will be part of a rally in Washington DC on April 30 and a Congressional lobby day on May 1st to talk to legislators.

  • Go to Africa Action for campaign updates, an activist toolkit and other resources. This is a great site for different humanitarian emergencies in Africa that hardly get any attention in the West.

Here are more items of interest on the Darfur conflict. These columns are a few years old but they are written by journalists and human rights activist who have reported on the African conflict since the beginning. What these writers have to say is relevant to how the situation continues to deteriorate while very little is done.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also have petitions for you to sign. If you don’t have time, take action while you’re at work or school–chances are you’re underpaid/overworked/overcharged for tuition. Think of it as helping your institution be more socially responsible…

There’s an expression “Speak Truth to Power.” I never thought this was accurate because those in power already know what the truth is and want to subvert it (alright, maybe I’m slightly paranoid)–we have to “Speak Truth to the People.” The more people are aware of what’s going on, the more we can be effective in bringing about change.

April 10, 2006

Crawling Toward ‘Never Again’

Posted in International Politics, Sudan at 3:49 pm by greatparanoiac

I visited Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam some time ago. There was overcast that entire day–which I found fitting to match the somber mood of the exhibit and its visitors. I think when visiting memorials in general–be it Ground Zero, the Holocaust, or Irish Hunger Memorial, we walk away feeling sad and reflective, but hopeful in some way. Hopeful because we know as a society we would never allowed such tragedies to happen again. There are stronger mechanisms in place and an international community today which would prevent genocide or gross human rights abuses.

Or maybe people just like repeating the phrase ‘never again’ but never really do anything about it. The conflict in Darfur is in its third year and not much is being done to stop it. 

Today’s Washington Post has an article on the US supporting a limited NATO role in Sudan’s Darfur region.

“The NATO forces would assist in logistics, communications, intelligence and other areas but would not intervene on the ground in Darfur, the officials told the Post.”

That’s it! This is the best that can be done? No intervention? NATO intervened in the Balkans…maybe there’s not much to gain for stability in Sudan.

Up to 100,000 people in Darfur have been killed since October 2004 by government-backed Arab militias.  So mass murder in a post-Rwanda era doesn’t get the AU troops reinforcement?

The African Union recently had their mandate extended to keep its 7,000 poorly-equipped troops in Sudan until September 2006.  What can this accomplish? The AU mission has been unable to stop the violence and support from the West and neighboring Arab countries is desperately needed.

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