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September 26, 2008

Forgotten Voices

From a blog posted by Niemat
The forgotten voices of Darfuris

While the United Nations Security Council and diplomats at the UN General Assembly were discussing Darfur this week, they forgot to listen to the voices of Darfurians – who are the most important voices to be heard in this crisis. Darfurians feel that they are being left behind, and that their voices should be considered that is why we decided to meet with Mr Luis Moreno Ocampo. On September 24, myself and a group of about 150 Darfurians and Sudanese from different parts of the United States gathered in Brooklyn, New York to meet with Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and have a Ramadan Iftar with him. They wanted to stand with him and support his work – and make sure that he knows that they are the ones whose voices need to be heard.

When Ocampo entered the room, we as Darfurians stood up and showed our appreciation to him with one voice. We clapped and welcomed him with chants of support for over 10 minutes. People shouted things like, “Thank you” and “Justice for Darfur Now.” We as Darfurians said that we are there to show our unanimous support of the ICC to continue its work and indict Bashir – because at this critical moment we feel like we have been left behind. So many African and other international leaders have come to New York to figure out how to protect al-Bashir, who has committed genocide against our people. They have not, instead, thought of how to protect the IDPs and refugees and the Darfuri people who have suffered over the last six years.

He greeted us warmly and stood up and looked at every ones face carefully, and then he asked, how many of you were in Darfur when the crises started? The majority raised their hands up, and then followed by another question: how many of you who lost a family member or friend? All of us raised our hands up; he responded that this is why we do our work. All spoke in one voice said Mr. Ocampo you are making history, we must all stand together to make it happened, we have faith in what you are doing, because it’s a legal process and the law must be above all. We all admired him, a man with less speech and great deeds.

I heard my fellow Darfuians and Sudanese at the meeting express passionately their support for Mr. Ocampo’s bold efforts. For example, Motasim Adam - who spoke on behalf of the Darfur Peoples Association of NY - stated that we are here today to support your effort and to let the world know that perpetrators of genocide should held accountable. Brothers and sisters let us rally ourselves and unite behind our people’s right to justice. Omer Ismail - who came with the Darfuri and Sudanese group living in the Washington metropolitan, Virginia and Maryland area - stated: “Mr. Luis, what you have done is great work and we cannot allow others to let you down. We believe that this is the most important moment for Darfur and that we should stand for our people and voice our support for your work loudly.” And then there was Hisham from New Jersey - a Sudanese human rights activist from New York who attended with members of his community. He said, “Mr. Ocampo, Sudanese have long suffered under this regime and now Darfurians are currently suffering. We believe al-Bashir and all those who have committed crimes in Darfur should be held accountable. On behalf of many Sudanese human rights organizations, we are fully supporting you. Justice must be achieved in Darfur. We are against any delay or suspension of al-Bashir’s indictment.”

A Darfuri leader who has spoken out about the crimes committed in Darfur since 2003, Mohamed Yahya, spoke emotionally: “For those speaking about a suspension of the ICC’s work in Darfur, do they not believe that the murder of 21 members of my family are not enough to bring al-Bashir to justice?” He added, “Let us know whatever obstacles are facing you. We will do whatever we can to help you achieve justice in Darfur.” Abdou Abdalla, a young Darfuri leader who arrived with five others from Des Moines after an eighteen hour drive to New York, said, “We came 18 hours because we believe that the work you have done is most important to our people, and that it will help bring peace to our people. This is why we wanted to come and show our appreciation and support to you. And to speak out on behalf of victims who are currently suffering.”

Another Sudanese leader, Nouraddin Abdulmannan, from rescue Nubia - the Sudanese organization based in Washington DC, advocating for the right of the marginalized people of Sudan - spoke on behalf of the millions of marginalized people in Sudan. He said, “All marginalized people in Sudan support the indictment of al-Bashir and they believe that justice should be implemented in our country. No one will accept al-Bashir receiving another year to continue his crimes against the people of Darfur.” Amira who currently lives in Philadelphia, but just recently returned from a trip to Sudan, mentioned that “while she was in al-Fashir, she saw Bashir come to the town.” His supporters said that unless people support the government they will lose their jobs. He also threatened IDPs and refugees to return to their homes. She reported that the situation is worsening in the camps and throughout Darfur. With tears in her eyes, she pleaded, “How! I have just seen people suffering in the camps. But how are people considering delaying the indictment of al-Bashir to allow him to continue committing crimes against our people. I appeal to you Mr. Ocampo, please do not allow anyone to stop your work and stop your prosecution of the people who committed these crimes against our people.”

Samira Karar, a Sudanese woman from Khartoum who represents the Ramadan Family Martyrs organization, spoke by telephone from New Hampshire. She said, “I am one of the people who have suffered the most from this regime which killed 28 martyrs who were slaughtered during the holy month of Ramadan and buried in mass graves in 1990. The regime left family members like myself suffering until this day. I thank you for your historical stand with the people of Darfur. I support you, and I appeal to you and the entire international community to bring this genocidal criminal to justice. Justice must be implemented without any delay we the Sudanese people of Sudan who are eager to see these dictators brought to justice”

Finally, I was given a chance to speak and this was my message to Mr. Ocampo: “With the magnitude of the crisis in Darfur, the most who have suffered are the women. I am speaking on their behalf today. We stand for justice for those in the IDPS camps, and women like myself who have been repeatedly rape and subjected to different kinds of violence on a daily basis. No one should ask them to compromise their rights to justice. All Darfuri women believe that the perpetrators should be held accountable and that the indictment should not be delayed for one day or even one hour. My message to those African leaders: we are the African victims; the ICC is working to protect us. We hope that a day will come when African leaders can take care of us – instead of protecting al-Bashir who continues to commit crimes. We should be given a chance to make our voices heard and given a chance to give the opinions of the people inside Darfur, the refugee camps, and the diaspora. All of us unanimously support the indictment of al-Bashir. As we have received letters and other messages from the people living in the camps in Darfur and other Sudanese like organizations of the Ramadan martyrs. They all call for the indictment of al-Bashir without any delay.”
I believe you fulfilled your part, the UNSC must live up to its responsibility and do its part, they should say if al-Bashir will react against the people of Darfur and the humanitarian organizations, the court must proceed and we will protect the civilians and move forward.

You can view a letter sent to the UN Security Council two days ago from 120 representatives of Darfuri and Sudanese organizations and human rights activist that urged world leaders not to consider any delay or suspension of the decision by the ICC to indict al-Bashir. The letter is here: www.savedarfur.org/pages/sudanese_voices.

Photo credit: Meryl Tihanyi
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Tags: humanitiarian aid, ICC, Justice, Security Council, UN

This entry was posted on Friday, September 26th, 2008 at 1:10 pm and is filed under ICC, Justice, Security Council, UN, humanitarian aid. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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