Niemat Ahmadi is a quiet badass. She is a native of North Darfur, founder and president of Darfur Women Action Group and the director of Global Partnerships for United to End Genocide and has been a friend and colleague for many years. She is soft-spoken but passionate when it comes to her country and the atrocities that are still being committed there. She has seen things and her family and friends have and are experiencing things that no human being should ever encounter.
This weekend I am joining her in Washington, D.C. for Darfur Women Action Group's symposium on "Women and Genocide in the 21st Century," it is taking place this month in D.C. to draw the attention of the advocates and policy makers to the plight of the women of Darfur who have long suffered and to take with us on our journey of women empowerment by developing practical strategies for women. The symposium will also be bringing Sudanese diaspora leaders from various regions of Sudan to set strategies of how to bring about change in Sudan that will sustainably end the crisis in Sudan.
What do you know about the crisis in Darfur today? Here is what I know and am horrified by:
First off, it's far from over and women continue to bear the brunt of the suffering. Today, after almost 10 years, the situation for women in Darfur remains tragic. The widespread systematic use of rape and sexual violence against women and girls is now spreading beyond Darfur into other regions of Sudan, including the capital city of Khartoum. There is also an increase in violence against female civil society leaders in Sudan. These women are continuously abused after raising their concerns about the Sudanese's repressive laws that restrict women's freedoms and allow impunity for security agents to abuse women.
Despite the outcry and the attention built around the Darfur genocide movement, little has been done to affect the situation on the ground. I am really wondering why and I feel that the international community owe the people of Darfur an answer.
It's worth noting that Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan has already been indicted as a genocidal criminal. In 2004, the United States government declared the crises in Darfur as genocide and in 2009 the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrant against Al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. I am still wondering what other confirmation the world community and its leaders needs before they can take serious action and stop the ongoing genocide and hold the perpetrators accountable.
As expressed by my friend Niemat:
Imagine, your mother who is over 70 years old and is sadly caught up under the threat of fire with nowhere to turn, you are constantly getting news about a beloved relative just shot dead or a best friend who has been brutally raped with total impunity or sisters whose children are left to die because they have no access to and cannot afford medical treatment, you may never be able to imagine that. For those of us lucky enough to escape the genocide, you cannot believe how much pain we carry with us daily, with little hope for the situation to change. It's devastating and it is indeed far from over.
As Niemat points out:
In spite of the suffering, Darfuri women are emerging throughout the grassroots as potential leaders; they serve as healers and keepers of their families and acting as spokespersons for their people in articulating the demands of their community. Further, they demonstrate a unique resilience and outstanding capacity to lead the potential to sustain their society. However, they are rarely recognized for these tremendous contributions, despite the enormous challenges that they face.
I know you join me with the belief that women should not be treated as victims but as equal partners in resolving the crisis. Hence, civilian protection, response to women's emergency needs, education and economic empowerment of women, along with facilitating women's access to justice and peace-making forums are of particular importance in combating violence and in achieving a sustainable end to the atrocities in Darfur and Sudan at large.
There is nothing more powerful in fighting genocide than empowering the affected communities. At its core, empowering women is of particular importance to help the Darfuri and the Sudanese people at large to stand for themselves, work together to end the crisis and to bring democracy to their homeland. That is what the Darfur Women Action Group is all about and that is why I will do whatever I can to support it. By asking questions, listening and using my voice to speak up for women and I call up on you to join me. Only with our collective effort can we end violence, protect the vulnerable and empower men and women to make our world a peaceful and just place to live.
Please visit http://DarfurWomenAction.org website to learn more, volunteer, or whatever it is you wish to participate in helping bring some peace to this situation. If you are in D.C, I invite you to sign up and join us at this event. [Darfur Women Symposium in D.C. Oct. 27th-28th.]