(From WVWriters member Tim Nichols
I've really begun to feel the burden of Darfur since I visited the Holocaust Museum a few weeks ago. Another holocaust is in progress in Darfur and Chad and it seems that there has been little notice of it in our news media. I have written something (below) to submit to our newspaper, but I believe that this effort to educate and activate could be multiplied if similar letters or op-ed pieces were to go to every newspaper in West Virginia.
So I challenge you to write something on Darfur for your local paper and report back to this forum (keeping this subject line) when your writing has been published. Let's see how many papers will print our educational pieces by the end of July. I hope you'll all join me in making this a serious project.
Thanks, friends. -- Tim Nichols
This Time the Photographs are in Color
How many times have you looked at old black-and-white photographs of starving and dying Jews in Nazi concentration camps and asked how such things could happen in the modern world? The Nazi Third Reich deliberately set out to systematically eradicate every Jew within their expanding borders. Soldiers, feeling justified in their atrocities because they acted as agents of their government, tortured, humiliated, and murdered millions of innocent men, women, and children while the world stood by. Most of the world stood by in blissful ignorance. Many averted their eyes when confronted with compelling evidence. The allies liberated the camps and their old newsreels and still photographs tell the truth that is still difficult to believe. Many refused to believe it, but no reasonable soul who has examined the facts can now deny it.
We build museums to remember those awful events, as we should. We hold “Days of Remembrance” to remind ourselves that tyrants are capable of inflicting unthinkable horrors upon their own defenseless citizens and that good and decent people must never avert their eyes. We make virtuous pronouncements that this will never happen again, that we will not tolerate genocide in our world ever again. We puff out our chests and exclaim, “Not on our watch!” We speak with conviction, but do we proceed with deeds when the time comes to act?
It is happening again, in Sudan, and this time the photographs are in full color. Perhaps for the first time in history a government is systematically and purposely targeting a specific ethnic group and attempting to wipe the very memory of that “race” from the face of the earth while the rest of the world is watching and aware. The victims are completely innocent and in most cases they have no idea why their government rains bombs on their homes, why militia soldiers slaughter their families, castrate their men, and use rape as a weapon to humiliate and alienate. Even those who manage to escape across desolate lands infested with hostile militia forces and find their way to refugee camps across the border in Chad face attacks from their oppressors. Women venture outside the camps for firewood instead of men because they face “only” brutal rape while the men will almost certainly be tortured, castrated, and left to die slow agonizing deaths.
This is genocide. It is not about religion. Both the victims and the perpetrators are, for the most part, Muslims. It is not a civil war involving two armed forces in conflict. It is about race. The nomadic lighter-skinned Arabs of Sudan have long marginalized the black Africans of the Darfur region. Under the pretext of fighting against rebels, the government of Sudan has armed and aided the Arab Janjaweed (translated, “Devils on Horseback”) to murder and drive the defenseless Darfurians from their lands forever.
Only the government of Sudan denies its involvement. Eyewitness accounts – lots of them – are available to you and the facts are undeniable. Sudanese soldiers work in concert with the Janjeweed butchers. The government-controlled communications system cuts off just before attacks, leaving observers powerless to contact the outside world until the executioners have finished their work. The government of Sudan has been carrying out this crusade of terror since 2003, yet the average American knows far more about the private life of Anna Nicole Smith and the pitiful comments of Don Imus than they know of this. The networks serve up the latest gossip to comfortable spectators, presumably for the sake of ratings, while leaving us in delightful ignorance of the world’s most unspeakable crime that is now in progress.
Please take the time to learn more about this. Do not avert your eyes until it’s too late. Readers can visit my webpage (http://timothynichols.com/page13.html) to access more of the facts or write to me at Tim Nichols, Mineral County for Darfur, Route 1, Box 206A, Burlington, WV 26710. I would be delighted to provide more information about what is happening and a few suggestions about what you can do to help put a stop to it.
For now:You can "divest" your personal funds from companies that are doing business with Sudan and helping to fund the genocide. It's easier than you might think. Go to http://www.sudandivestment.org/home.asp . You can urge your state and national leaders to pull state money out of Sudan in the same way. Several states have done this already. Colorado did it just the other day. You can educate more people by urging them to look carefully at what is available online. I'm putting together a presentation to educate my community wherever anyone will let me come and talk to them. There are lots of powerful media aids here: http://www.genocideintervention.net/educate/.
This is among the more valuable things to do. I meet well-educated people every day who know little or nothing about this genocide. Darfur is going unnoticed and we have a moral obligation to get it on the radar screen.You could actually join or start a group to raise awareness and funds in your area. Some of us are working on that in West Virginia. This is morally more catastrophic than natural disasters and famines that are also terrible. Maybe we should refuse to talk about what is “happening” in Darfur. Genocide does not passively “happen.” People actively do this to others. This involves a government and thousands of criminals who are deliberately and systematically wiping out a whole population of innocent and helpless men, women, and children -- solely because they were born into the "wrong" ethnic family. In Chad where most of the refugee camps are, some of the refugees have actually decided to send the women to gather firewood outside the camps instead of the men because the women face "only" rape while the men will almost certainly be murdered and mutilated. Can you imagine being forced to make such choices? You can educate your neighbors in simple ways. I have a sign in my front yard that simply says, "NOT ON OUR WATCH, www.SAVEDARFUR.ORG." Lots of traffic goes by there, so I hope my little sign is working. I have also made myself a walking billboard by wearing clothing with the same message and website printed on it. I've never done that before. You can purchase such things at www.savedarfur.org.
I wrote a letter to President Bush the other day. Letters are going out to my governor and congressmen very soon. Maybe others could do that.
Do not let this continue on our watch. When our grandchildren and great-grandchildren read of this in their history books, let's give them the right to say that we did what we could to stop it -- and let's give them the ability to say that we were successful in bringing it to an end.
Tim Nichols, Director of Student Support Services
Adjunct Instructor, Philosophy
Potomac State College of WVU
101 Fort Avenue
Keyser, WV 26726