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    Young girl with infant child at refugee camp in Darfur. Photo by Dan Scandling, Office of U.S. Representative Frank Wolf

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The Passion of the Present (the essay)


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    In Darfur, a region in western Sudan approximately the size of Texas, over a million people are threatened with torture and death at the hands of marauding militia and a complicit government. Genocide evokes not only the moral, but also, the legal responsibility of the world community. Under international agreement, a nation must intervene to stop a genocide when it is officially acknowledged.

    "Officially" is the key word here. So far, no nation in the international community has "officially" acknowledged the truth: Sudan is a bleeding ground of genocide. In this void, the Sudanese government continues to act with brutal impunity.

    Thankfully, there are individuals working in human rights organizations who are watching - and witnessing - and organizing, in support of the victims in Darfur. These individuals represent, for all of us, a personal capacity to bear witness to the passion of the present; one candle lit against the darkness.

    However, before one can light a candle, someone has to strike a match: a donation to any of the human rights organizations active in Sudan, contacting your government representative, local newspaper, radio and t.v. station. Our individual activism is essential for the candlepower of witness to overcome and extinguish the firepower of genocide.

    This world has long endured wars that take lives. Let us be part of one that saves them.

    About: The Passion of the Present site is a totally non-profit labor of love and hope - in peace. Thanks for joining the effort.

  • Detailed administrative map of Sudan
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  • Climate and biogeography of Sudan
  • Satellite Images of destruction in Darfur, from USAID

About this blog

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  • GOOGLE SEARCH THIS SITE: More than 2966 chronological posts from April, 2004. Try "oil" "China" "women" "genocide treaty" "UN" "Kofi Annan" "timelines" "grassroots".


  • Our name comes from an essay entitled "The Passion of the Present" that one of our grassroots founders wrote and circulated by email in March of 2004. The blog started at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School.

    The editors are semi-anonymous in order to keep the focus on Sudan. This site is a resource for a blog-based information community now numbering several hundred interlinked bloggers and sites. Visitors come from around the world. Daily traffic ranges from just under a thousand visitors, to more than eight thousand on days when news attention peaks.

    Our technology cost for a public blog service, with no special discount, is still just $13.46 per month! Start a blog if you don't have one already!

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« Labels do matter: Call Darfur a "genocide" | Main | No news from UN on action to halt Darfur Sudan genocide »

July 09, 2004

Comments

Sheryl Hutchens

I am posting portions of an email I received from my daughter who is a child protection officer for UNICEF in Darfur, Sudan. This gives you a very personal, eyewitness account.

"Today is (almost) my two week anniversary in El Fashir. I returned on Thursday from my first field visit to an IDP settlement about an hour and a half from El Fashir in a town (large village) called Tawilla. This visit is what I will try and describe to you - now .

First of all - the drive to Tawilla was literally through the desert. No really, through the desert . no roads, no semi-obvious landmarks - just the occasional shrub and every once in a while we would fly past a woman or a girl on a donkey - carrying food or water. We past a few small villages before getting to Tawilla - at these villages you will see more donkeys, sheep, horses, and every once in a while - a camel. I was just thinking - how on earth does the driver know where he is going? But - no worries - somehow they know the way through the desert.

We arrived in Tawilla and first met with the official or unofficial (unclear) deputy commissioner of Tawilla. He told us a little about the situation of the IDP's there. There are an estimated 3,718 IDP households in Tawilla. If you average about 6 people per household (mostly children) you come up with about 22,000 people. 22,000 new residents that have been forced to flee from their own villages due to aerial bombs, Janjaweed (militia) attacks (setting fire to their huts and more), fighting between the govt of sudan and the rebels- and related conflict. He told us that just under half of the IDP children have recently started to attend school. These schools are operating with support from UNICEF. Right now about 1600 IDP children (girls and boys) are going to school and many more need to be registered.

After this meeting, we walked over the basic school for girls. When we entered the school grounds - we were taken by complete surprise when about 100 or more girl school children lined up in a square - started to sing to me and Anna. One of the teachers told the children we were with UNICEF and we were supporting the school. The children sang about 4 songs for us. I was so taken a back - I started crying. Never in my life have I been so touched by a gesture from children like this. My heart was swelling - and I was trying to take it all in . Something I will never forget and be thankful for always.

After visiting the school -we went to the health clinic. There are two national doctors and five nurses there and they see an average of 220 patients a day. Can you imagine? The doctors were very kind and provided us with a lot of information about the safety and security of the IDPs in Tawilla. We then visited a therapeutic and supplementary feeding centers - these centers are for infants and children who are severely and moderately malnourished. Again, this was an experience that could have been depressing, hard to witness. Instead, what I saw were 18 strong, brave, resilient mothers and babies. I took some photos of the mothers and babies and since I have a digital camera - I showed the women the pictures after taking them on the screen. They all smiled and almost laughed and wanted to see them again and again. An unexpected bonus of the digital camera!!

After these two stops - from now on -- the trip became a lot more sad and guilt provoking - a sense of urgency was felt. We sat under a tree and talked to some women about what has happened to them (this is all through a translator). I heard unbelievable stories here. Women whose husbands, brothers, sons killed. Sons and daughters abducted. I met one very young looking woman who husband and sister were killed - she is right now taking care of 15 children. This leads me to my firmest belief and impression after being in Darfur for 2 weeks. The women are the true warriors. The woman are the heart, muscle, and courage of Darfur. The do not wonder around with guns - wreaking havoc and causing humanitarian disasters. No, they do everything but that. And I do mean everything. The women and girls here grow the food, carry the food to markets on donkeys, horses, sell the food, pump the water, carry the water, feed everyone, raise the children, and on and on ....... We heard a story while in Tawilla that some bandits came and stole about 40 sheep from some IDP families - the men were too afraid to go and get the sheep back -so the women went and got them all back!

And it goes for fair, to poor, to horrible. After Tawilla - we went only 15 minutes away to another village called Dali. There we saw a horrible situation. About 3000 IDPs living in tiny "shelters" made of tree branches only. These shelters are about the size of a refrigerator - made only of things found in the land (completely vulnerable to rain, sun, etc.) No proper temporary shelters, no latrines, and no food at all. The IDPs in Dali had a very urgent and desperate energy to them. We told them that UNICEF will go back to El Fashir and plead their case immediately with WFP (the world food program - provides food) and ICRC (the international committee of the red cross - they provide shelters.) Anna is to meet with these groups ASAP and we hope to act immediately.

But being in Dali - I felt intensely guilty that no one had taken care of these people by now. That we were just going to come and go and not leave them anything - not even a bit of food. And knowing realistically, it will be at least a week before concrete help arrives there.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I am going to Kabkabiya - a town/ large village about 4 hours from El Fashir. We will sleep one night there and come back Monday. . ."

P.S. For all of you wondering what you can do from the US:

The International Crisis Group's webpage has good analysis and many links to more information, including a good "What You Can Do" section with details for

contacting elected representatives around the world:

http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?id=2700&l=1

Some examples of what your money can buy:

$100 buys one of the recreation kits we have put together with enough footballs, volleyballs, skipping ropes, colored pencils, notebooks, paints, etc. for 50 children.

$700 buys construction of one temporary classroom/tent for 130 children to attend school (in double shifts).

$2888 buys the classroom, mats for the floor, blackboard, text books, school supplies, teacher

training, latrines, and a water hand pump for the same 130 children.


amend gharaya

TO THE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATE; PLEASE HELP STOP THE KILLINGS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE IN SUDAN;I AM PRESENTLY IN GERMANY ASKING FOR ASSYLUM; I ESCAPED FROM SUDAN AS A RESULT OF TREATH TO MY LIFE; I AM IN HARBERSTADT REFUGEE CAMP; MY DATE OF BIRTH IS 1ST-DECEMBER-1967 PLEASE HELP TELL THE GERMAN GOVERMENT THAT I SHOULD NOT BE RETURNED TO MY WAR TURN COUNTRY;I WAS SENTENCE TO DEATH BY THE PRESENT BASHIR GOVERMENT; BUT LUCKY TO HAVE EXCAPED:

amend gharaya

TO THE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATE; PLEASE HELP STOP THE KILLINGS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE IN SUDAN;I AM PRESENTLY IN GERMANY ASKING FOR ASSYLUM; I ESCAPED FROM SUDAN AS A RESULT OF TREATH TO MY LIFE; I AM IN HARBERSTADT REFUGEE CAMP; MY DATE OF BIRTH IS 1ST-DECEMBER-1967 PLEASE HELP TELL THE GERMAN GOVERMENT THAT I SHOULD NOT BE RETURNED TO MY WAR TURN COUNTRY;I WAS SENTENCE TO DEATH BY THE PRESENT BASHIR GOVERMENT; BUT LUCKY TO HAVE EXCAPED:

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