Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Where in the world is...DARFUR?

DARFUR: Religious Cleansing; Genocide; Terrorism

That was my original title. As I read about the conflict in Darfur, I cannot help but think about the conflict in Iraq. In Darfur, the Arab world and its Islamic faith plays a very important and vital role in that region's way of existence. Again, this Islamic faith is brought to such extremes that have branched off what are known as radical Muslims. And again, these Arabs practicing this radical philosophy that "it is okay to kill people in order to order to order to control" are doing what they do best when consumed with this mindset: Committing acts of terror.

gen·o·cide n.

The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.
Why are villages of African tribal farmers being wiped out by the Janjaweed?

Why are the African men and boys being murdered and the African women and girls being raped and branded? Forced to serve as slaves and others as wives (read: "domestic servant") to these Arab militia men.

Washington Post, Jan 18 - Tens of thousands of people in Darfur have been killed and at least 1.85 million people forced from their homes since early 2003 when rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. The government has backed Arab militiamen, known as Janjaweed, who have been massacring and raping the black African residents of the region.
Darfur. A region in Sudan. Sudan is located below Egypt and to the left of the Red Sea. The Nile River runs through Sudan.

It is a region rich with oil. According to this Washington Post article, a French oil company renewed oil agreements this past December that were abandoned in 1985 due to civil war between the Sudan People's Liberation Army, (SPLA) a black African insurgent group in the south, and the Sudanese government. A Houston-based oil company is also interested in Sudan. But China has half of the oil revenues from Sudan's current exports.
"China National Petroleum Corporation won an oil exploitation bid there in 1995, and when Washington cut ties two years later, the Chinese were ready to fill the void left by retreating Western oil companies," he reports. "Sudan, which was an oil importer before the Chinese arrived, now earns $2 billion in oil exports each year, half of which goes to China."

But a story in the Crimes Of War Project gives light to the roots of the current genocide.

The black African Fur tribe makes up over half of the population, hence the name of the province Dar (home) of the Fur, and the rest is divided between over fifteen different ethnic/linguistic groups. All the inhabitants are Sunni Muslims.
The site tells the story of how the region of Darfur was annexed to Sudan in 1916. The northern part of Sudan identified with Muslims and the southern part identified with Christians. Apparently, at some point between the 1960s and 1989 -- which was the year that the National Islamic Front (NIF) radical Muslim organization took power in a military coup -- there began to be a realization from "African" Muslims that they were not socially equal to the "Arab" Muslims. Lo and behold, there was prejudice running through the middle of the Islamic Brotherhood.

There has been a mixing of Arabs and Africans in this region. There are no truly "pure" Arabs or Africans, so the Crimes of War page places quotations around the ethnic groups: "Arab" and "African".

The insurrection started slowly in February and March 2003 and went into high gear on April 25 when the SLM rebels attacked the provincial capital at el-Fasher, killing 72 troops of the garrison, destroying four aircraft on the ground and capturing General Ibrahim Bushra, the garrison commander. The reaction of the Khartoum government was a mixture of panic, unrealistic accusation (Israel, the United States, the southern Sudanese rebel movement the SPLA and Eritrea were all held responsible for the uprising) and denial of the political reality. The insurgents were either called “armed bandits” or else described as nomadic groups fighting each other in “traditional conflicts over grazing rights”. Although this last claim contains more than a grain of truth (the “Arabs” are nomads while the “Africans” are settled peasants and in a drought period part of the motivation for fighting is indeed related to grazing) it is far from a full account of the situation. Economic deprivation, cultural spite and administrative marginalization are the key causes of the conflict.
Even when the United States is minding our own darned business, we still get blamed. Funny what suspicious and guilty minds will come up with for a scapegoat. The other thing that came to mind when I read this was Abraham's and Lot's herdsmen arguing. I could imagine their herdsmen arguing over grazing rights until Abraham says to Lot, "The land is big enough for the both of us. We should not fight. How about we split up? If you go to the left, then I'll go to the right. If you go to the right, then I'll go to the left." Pretty simple resolution huh? Maybe these people should try it. "If you go to the North, then I'll go to the South. If you go to the South, then I'll go to the North."

But really, it's not that easy.

What's really going on?
Nobody wants to go to the left or to the right. Not the people who are being wiped out from their villages anyway. The reason is: They have thriving land. These people are living in the central region of Sudan in the best fertile land that Darfur could possibly offer to its inhabitants. The Jebel Marra massif is the richest and most stable area in terms of soil fertility and water resources and is located in this central zone. The Furs are splat in the middle, surrounded by Arabs. The Arab cattle herders to the north and the Arab camel herders to the east and south have waged a violent war on these non-Arab sedentary farmers so they can have the fertile land.

Well, this is how all these people -- Arab and non-Arab -- got their weapons for war:

In the 1980s, a political party called the Umma Party came into government and began arming the Arabs in the north and south. The tragedy is that the Furs also supported the Umma Party, but little did they know that the Umma Party preferred to be supported by wealthier citizens - not peasant farmers. So the "jallaba" merchants had more influence on the government. These merchants had a vested commercial interest in the livestock that the Arab nomads raised.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring country of Chad, an opposition on the Chadian government and its President, Hissene Habre, was being strategically operated within Sudanese territory. Kind of like the way the countries of Jordan, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan are being used to launch attacks into Iraq by certain of the Arabs in that region. But I digress. So anyway, the non-Arabs to the north...the Zaghawa...were given arms. They were in a unique position because their ethnic group straddled the border, so they supported the opposition to the Chadian government but yet they supported the Umma Party in Sudan. So they got weapons from both alliances. But Habre gave weapons to the Furs when this happened.

So now everyone was armed.

But then, the fight for the fertile region in the Jebel Marra area was encouraged and supported from an outside country...and leader. Twenty-seven Arab tribes formed an alliance together against the Fur: the Maraheel - which today have become called Janjaweed. The Janjaweed appeared to be backed by the Sudanese government.

Colonel Ghadafi of Libya encouraged the notion of an Arab "corridor" into central Africa, which lent at least moral support for the Darfur Arabs' incursion into the fertile Jebel Marra area hitherto occupied by the Fur. Arabs and Fur clashed bloodily around both Jebel Marra and the southwest of the region in 1988-89.
And then we are brought to the present-day war in that land where now the Arab militia is not only perceived to be backed by the Sudanese government but also encouraged to continue in their on-going slaughter of these Fur peoples.

As if it were their God-given right to deprive these people of their habitations and farmlands.
These acts are terrorist in nature.

Perhaps we need to stop turning a deaf ear to the cries of Darfur. Perhaps we should educate ourselves on that region and take the time to read and learn, as I did today, about what has happened to bring today's unchecked Nazi-like strategy to that land. We should not turn a blind eye to them simply because we do not know where Darfur is located on the World Map. Or because we cannot relate to the people of Darfur. Or because we just want to be left alone in this world. Or we don't want to hear anymore tragedies and heartaches because it seems the news has nothing good to report anymore.

There might be a reason for that last statement.
Could it be...there is hardly ANYTHING good to report anymore?
At least where World relations are concerned.

Notice how a lot of conflict in this world really revolves around this one single proponent in life:

First, it starts in the homes among families. Father and son fighting. Mother and daughter fighting. Siblings fighting. Husband and wives fighting.

Then, it spreads out into the community. This family and that family competing. (Because the daughter of this family married the son of that family and now the two don't get along. Holiday seasons are spent trying to forget there's another part of their family out there celebrating the same day.)

Then, it branches out into the world. This group of people fighting that group of people.


Anyone ever read the Old Testament? More particularly, the book of Genesis?
Really fascinating historical stuff, man. It's amazing to learn how these Arabic tribes -- along with their Jewish brothers in Israel -- are all related. Basically, it's brother fighting brother...all over this world.

But because they don't understand each others' languages (might have something to do with that tower of Babel situation, DOH!) and they all have their own way of worshipping God (remember Aaron, Moses' brother, and the golden calf? Double DOH! Oh and the tower of Babel again, Triple DOH!)...they don't get along. Here's a great story: Joseph. The one who got a coat of many colors from his dad. Then all the brothers turned on him. That's a great metaphorical story. Mainly because it puts ALL the brothers into ONE family and shows the disharmony, disagreement, jealousy, resentment, mockery, treachery, and betrayal...all in one bloodline.

Anyone remember when the Kurds in Iraq were treated the same way by Saddam Hussein's regime? In fact, Hussein had the Shah of Iran sign an agreement (Agreement of Algiers) to basically no longer support the Kurds. The Kurds were a group of pastoral tribes (kind of like the current Darfur tribes) who lived in an area where Turkey, Iraq, and Iran borders met. For years this area was known as "Kurdistan". They have their own language. They are mainly Sunni Muslim, but they welcome Jews, Christians, Yazidis, and other religious sects.

As a side note: Isn't it strange -- and true to form -- that Saddam Hussein, as a young boy growing up, was fascinated with the German Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler? Like spirits attract.

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."
-- Edmund Burke

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