Thursday, April 6, 2006
A monthlong effort to focus attention on the atrocities being committed in Sudan will begin tonight with a gathering of survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, Nanking and Bosnia at a San Francisco synagogue.
Eltayeb Ibrahim, whose family has lost more than 200 relatives in Sudan's genocide since early 2003, will be one of several speakers at Temple Emanu-El.
The event marks the beginning of an effort called "National Days of Conscience," a grassroots campaign that will culminate on April 30 with a silent vigil on the Golden Gate Bridge, a rally at Crissy Field, and similar demonstrations in Washington and other U.S. cities.
Ibrahim, whose family is of the tribe of Tunjur Sultanates that ruled Darfur since the 12th century, lives in Oakland. He said the whereabouts of many of his family members are unknown, as the genocide, by the Arab-dominated Sudanese troops and militias against non-Arab Darfurians goes on.
"My home village of Korma and the villages surrounding it were burned last year, and 132 people were killed," said Ibrahim, who left Sudan 15 years ago to study economics in India. "All of them were related to me. These are people from my tribe."
Violence is escalating in Sudan's provinces of Darfur, according to the United Nations. Earlier this week, the Sudanese government refused to allow a U.N. representative to enter Sudan.
"Four months ago, the Janjaweed (militia) came and burned all the homes in my cousin's village. ... They killed him in front of his wife and five kids," Ibrahim said. "He was like my brother. We grew up in the same house. He was a very simple man. He didn't even understand politics.
"A week ago, I called home and got the news that two of my cousins were killed. It's painful to hear that a relative got killed. But it's even more painful to have a relative and not know whether they are alive or dead."
Six other survivors of genocides will also share their memories of atrocities committed and light candles in honor of lives lost, including Elvir Camdzic, a survivor of the genocide in Bosnia.
Salih Booker, executive director of the Africa Action humanitarian group, plans to speak about the systemic use of rape against Darfurian women by Sudanese troops and militias.
The rallies scheduled for later this month are part of the "Million Voices for Darfur" campaign to collect signatures for tens of thousands of postcards for delivery to the White House -- cards urging President Bush to redouble his efforts to stop the genocide in Sudan. The rallies are being organized by the Save Darfur Coalition (www.SaveDarfur.org), an alliance of more than 150 religious and humanitarian organizations.
"How can we as a civilized nation sit around for three years while it happens again?" said Gayle Donsky, a coordinator of tonight's event for the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition, which includes dozens of nonprofit organizations, religious denominations and human rights groups.