Sunday, February 13, 2005

This is a really heart-breaking story about Darfur - Darfur's Babies of Rape Are on Trial From Birth. One woman who was raped by janjaweed said about her newborn daughter, "She is a janjaweed" - "When people see her light skin and her soft hair, they will know she is a janjaweed."

A recent United Nations investigation into war crimes in Darfur laid out, in page after graphic page, evidence of widespread and systematic rape in the two-year conflict. In one incident, a woman in Wadi Tina was raped 14 times by different men in January 2003. In March 2004, 150 soldiers and janjaweed abducted and raped 16 girls in Kutum, the report said. In Kailek, it said girls as young as 10 were raped by militants.

The fruit of these attacks is now being born in Darfur, and will inevitably become a long-term legacy of the conflict. In a society where deep taboos surrounding rape persist and identity is passed, according to Muslim tradition, from father to child, the fate of these children and their mothers is uncertain.

"She will stay with us for now," Adoum Muhammad Abdulla, the sheik of Fatouma's village, said of the days-old infant. "We will treat her like our own. But we will watch carefully when she grows up, to see if she becomes like a janjaweed. If she behaves like janjaweed, she cannot stay among us."

The fact that he and the new mothers call the children janjaweed, a local insult that means "devil on horseback," underscores just how bitter the division between those who identify themselves as Africans and those who see themselves as Arabs has become, and points to the potential difficulty of acceptance and integration in the years ahead.


In my Judaism class this semester, we are reading Elie Wiesel's book Night, and then discussing the meaning of the vow "never again" in the context of ongoing genocide since 1945 - especially now, in Darfur. What does it mean to say "never again" and really mean it? How can the world act in such a way as to prevent genocides or to stop them when they are occurring?

Last week on NPR's Morning Edition, Scott Simon interviewed Romeo Dallaire, who was the commander of the U.N. mission in Rwanda in 1994 - when the U.N. did not order him to do anything to stop the genocide. Simon asked him what could be done today to stop the killing in Darfur, and he said that he thought a "medium power," like France or Germany, should step in with troops to stop the fighting and enable relief organizations to help the millions of refugees in Darfur.

On today's Morning Edition, John Garang, the leader of the People's Liberation Movement in southern Sudan, which has just signed an agreement with the Sudanese central government to end decades of fighting and death, and whose group is in an alliance with the rebel groups in Darfur, called upon African Union troops and others to band together to stop the fighting and janjaweed attacks in Darfur.

It seems clear what the solution is - a sizable military force must enter the Darfur region to stop the attacks on civilians by the janjaweed and Sudanese government soldiers, bring a ceasefire between the rebels and the government forces, in order to allow aid agencies to feed people and get them medical care. But who is going to do this? The U.S. is now involved in a fruitless fight at the U.N. over how to try accused Sudanese war criminals - with the U.S. arguing that they shouldn't be tried in the International Criminal Court. I don't understand why this argument is happening while the killing is still going on. Isn't the most important thing to stop the killing? It seems like an excuse for everyone, including the U.S. government, to avoid actually doing anything.

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