Sunday, July 31, 2011

1/5 of a decade later....

The air of depression was so pungent in Khartoum it almost masked the residue of the passing "kataha" (sandstorm) that filled the skies as much as it found its way into your nasal passage.

It's been two years. Not only two years since my last blog entry but also since I last visited Sudan.

Much has changed over the past couple of years - globally and within my birth country. And as I prepared for my visit "home" just 2-weeks after the official inauguration of South Sudan, I could not help but wonder how SO much of nothing has probably changed. A country's split, redrawing of the borders, a tear across the land - is not something I feel a regular citizen walking across the street notices or outwardly feels. I did not anticipate any difference, regardless of all the despair splashed across my peers' social networking platforms. I just didn't buy it.

I wasn't incredibly wrong, either. Generally speaking, what I came across was not the feelings of loss at a redrawn border, rather an increased level of depression and discontentment among, primarily, the youth. It was a heightened level of what I had seen a couple of years earlier. The regular citizen was just - fed up. Even friends who were working decent jobs, were well traveled, educated etc, were shadowed by a certain gloom that surpassed all walks of life.

It baffled me. Nothing drastic has happened within the past 2 years (aside from the obvious split into 2 countries, and I could tell that this somber mood had been brewing since before the South’s secession). Was it the soaring food prices? The fact that our neighbors and nations across the way were fighting (and semi-achieving) their rights and we were benched during the big game? Rising unemployment? Was it internal politics? Or was it just the damn heat?

It could be none of the above or it could be a blend of all. What I can probably say with confidence is: protests are ignited by overarching feelings of misery at the state of your country. Calm down, overly-zealous news stations, I doubt there’s going to be a need for headlining "Sudan uprising " anytime soon, there are entirely too many pieces missing in the puzzle (which I will get into in a later blog – hey, I’m back why not?!).

However, you can’t start a fire without a spark.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Terrorism of Labeling

I've always despised the word "terrorism".  Just the way it was used, solely targeting specific ethnic groups was extremely grotesque and ignorant to me.  I thought of the many many incidents - DOMESTIC incidents that occur where masses of innocent people are killed for reasons unknown.  Columbine massacre.  Oklahoma City bombings.  The KKK. The Jewish Defense League.  The list goes on.

I want to refer you to an interesting article published on the Huffington Post.  It starts off 
"Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism. It's shocking to write. But it's time to start calling it what it is."

My first instinct upon reading this article was to immediately post it on my blog, with a description of how terrorism should NOT just be denoted to people of Arab of Islamic ethnicity.  That terrorism goes far beyond the Gulf and Arab world and is located within the U.S. among OTHER faiths.  But then I started thinking, really thinking about the whole concept.
I find it somewhat.... interesting when people attach a faith to the word "terrorism".  Seems like an oxymoron to me.  It creates a feeling of ignorance and antipathy surrounding a certain religion.  It builds upon our already looming sense of misunderstanding of each other that exists in today's world.  I strongly feel we need to reconsider and reflect on how we label certain acts.  

One person's 'Christian Fundamental Terrorist' is another person's devout leader.  One person's 'Radical Islamist' is another person's desperate 17-year old orphan.  
Don't take this the wrong way.  I am not excusing these random acts of violence.  However, I AM making a statement that religion does not equate terrorism and should not be forced into the equation because it will add up to increasing hate. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Imprisoned Promises

I watched Obama on that screen, heart swelling with happiness when he announced the closing down of the torture chamber better known as Guantanamo Bay.


Yes! The change we were looking for.  Way to break free of the previous 8 years of complete and utter uselessness! Way to show the world that you are ABLE and WILLLING to restore America's image.  Good job, O!


Then there's all this talk about Senate pulling funding for the closing, and that the U.S. President is left with, ultimately, 3 choices:

1) veto

2) fundraise for alternate funds

3) go along with the decision to just kind of, put off the prison - closing -issue- thing.


What in the world happened?  This may not seem like such a big deal in retrospect, but, it reinforced some old feelings I once had about Presidents being Puppets.  You are the face of America, you say pretty things, you make us smile and applaud (sometimes, if your act is good enough).  But essentially you are being pulled and played by "others" - others of higher position.  The 'REAL' decision makers.


O, don't tell me you're like that, please.  


As President of a DEMOCRACY you uphold your right and RESPONSIBILTY to do what you promise.  The closing down of this prison is symbolic.  It has many levels of meaning - it is saying "no" to torture, "no" to evil hypocritical ways, "no" to American ruthlessness and "yes" to progression, to humanity.  Some of those prisoners were brutes, yes.  But you cannot be a nation that condemns inhumane treatment of human beings, a nation that denounces undemocratic approaches to justice, and then turn around and build a torture chamber on an island where prisoners (Some of who are indeed, innocent) know no justice and undergo unheard of techniques (water boarding and such) in an attempt to hear them suffer.  That is not what you preach.


Relations with the East (especially the Arab world) are vital right now, O.  Keep to your word, uphold your promises. You are the President of change - that's what you told us all.  

Allow me to introduce you to 'Save Darfur'

"What about the "Save Darfur" campaign, what kind of stuff do they do here?" I asked a local woman in Al  Fasher.
"The who?" she responded quizzically.

The governor of Darfur stated:
"As the governor of the State of Darfur for 5 years, I will go on the record and tell you this: from the $310 million raised by this Save Darfur organization, not ONE dollar has been received by the people of Darfur."

I spoke to another source who said that no, Save Darfur has actually sent some funds to Darfur.  That amount? $3000.  Three thousand out of 31 million - what is that, one one-thousandth of their so called "Funds for Darfur"?  Well let me ask you this, dear readers, and you are all pretty smart people.  Logical.

Zero dollars or 3000 dollars: what happened to the rest of the rest of the money?

Some background.

"Saviors and Survivors" by Mahmood Mamadani does an excellent job of breaking down the conflict in Darfur, the Save Darfur movement and the controversies.   

In reading this marvelous book, researching on my own and speaking to various intellectuals in this field, I began to slowly make sense and understand this movement.  "Save Darfur" is an organization founded in a synagogue by Zionist Jews.  It was a business move. I dare anyone to challenge this statement. And let me prove to you why.

Darfur is a gold mine.  A friend of mine said, "it's like this: Darfur is like a chocolate cake..and everyone wants a piece of it." True.  The Darfur region is rich with gold, uranium, Arabic gum, OIL and the land is sitting on top of that good ol' H2O. Yes, water.  Very very useful to, like, EVERYONE in the world given the global water shortages.  But especially for Israel.
 An article in BBC:

"The Lebanese have long accused Israel of having designs on the waters of the River Litani, and Syria accuses it of being reluctant to withdraw from the banks of the Sea of Galilee, the source of up to 30% of Israel's water. Israelis in the West Bank use four times as much water as their Palestinian neighbours."

And on the

"Israel is currently experiencing its fourth consecutive year of droughtThe drought is so bad that last winter’s rainfall was only 65 percent of the long-term average. Even though the main pipeline transporting water from the Sea of Galilee to the rest of the nation was closed for part of the year, the water level in the sea has dropped close to the danger line." 

So, suffering water shortages.  A looming issue for the coming years.  Where to turn, where to turn?
Question: Where is a region with an unstable governance structure (Darfur is home to more 100 tribes and has undergone about 90 civil conflicts since the 80s) that will make it easy to instigate domestic struggles? And a region with the resources needed? 
Answer: The western region of Darfur.

There has always been civil conflicts in the Darfur region.  It goes back to the cattle grazers and the nomadic horse-riders.  Strategically and intelligently frame the issue as an Arab versus African conflict.  Ruthless Islamist Arabs violently killing, slaughtering, raping, innocent poor Black Africans  Who could this issue be exposed to? Who would care so deeply about the poor Black people?

African Americans.

And this is what the coalition did.  Upon their launching, Save Darfur implemented their campaign in every Black publication, college, community and television station. Howard University even sponsored a day off of school to host a Save Darfur rally.  And they did it well.  They told African Americans that BLACK people were being killed. They were being tortured and captured by these Arabs.  And it was their responsibility to help out their fellow Africans. 
And so the t-shirts shouting: "Save Darfur" and the images with the poor Black baby and a tear running down his dirt-stained cheek was paraded on Constitution Ave., and George Clooney stood atop that podium and called for an END to the killing of innocent AFRICANS, calling it "ethnic cleansing", and Black Entertainment Television (BET) advertised a-plenty, and "Save Darfur" become a household name. A fad.  A call to action.  

For all the wrong reasons.

The Darfurian tribes who committed atrocities against civilians in Darfur are as black as those they murdered, and just as indigenous. It is not a Black/non-Black issue.  Check your facts, "Save Darfur."
Walk down the street in Darfur, the people look like replicas of the people in downtown Khartoum.  Ever wonder why Save Darfur never had a picture of President Omar Bashir swaying in the wind alongside the "Government of Terror" slogans they posted? Because Mr. Bashir is Black.  That would not have made sense. It would not have equated the Arab versus Black analogy.

Do the research.  Ask questions.  

Monday, May 18, 2009

Revelations in Al Fasher

Darfur is Africa.

Riding down the dirt road in the Northern city of Al-Fasher, our bus seemed to be cruising down a familiar path, not foreign to many of the passengers. Beside me, a young Ghanian man said to himself: "This, this is what the fuss is about?" An established professor from Gambia looked out the window and exclaimed: "This is like many cities in Gambia. This is like Nigeria. This is like Sierra Leone. You know, this is

He was right. Al Fasher was not just like Africa, it resembled the donkey-drawn carts, the kids running barefoot in the dirt, the mud-built huts, the very air of Sudan's capital. It was a sight all too familiar.

We eagerly walked out of the bus, keen to interact with the locals and discover the region. A young woman, maybe a few years older than me joined my group and I.  She was modestly dressed in a headscarf and loose gown.She mustered up the English that she has been taught and proudly said: "I was student in Al Fasher University."
I later learned that Al Fasher University is home to more than 11,000 students and a variety of schools including the School of Engineering.
And they call it a genocide.

I had a million facts I wanted cleared up, a million questions I wanted answers, a million skepticisms I wanted voided.  On behalf of the figures splashed on TV screens, the images on magazines, the accusations on Congress' lips, the fingers pointed towards the Sudanese government, John Prendegrast and Jerry Fowler (ENOUGH project founder and Save Darfur president, respectively), I impulsively and blatantly  asked the young woman in Arabic: "Is there a war in Darfur?"
She smiled at my straightforwardness, a trait not common to the evasiveness of Sudanese dialogue.  
"To be honest with you I have not seen an exchange of fire since 2004 when the situation was at its worst," she responded.
I was quite surprised at this new fact, and urged my group to come around so that I could translate this new piece of knowledge.
"What is going on then?" I thought to myself.  This cannot be a crisis built out of absolute nothingness.

We passed a secure building, quite possibly the largest in Al Fasher.  The United Nations African-Union Mission in Darfur, it spelle
d out.  According to the village tribal leader we later conversed with, UNAMID was operating effectively and successfully in the region.  Soon, we drove passed the dilapidated OXFAM site.  Shut down permanently by the Sudanese government.

We were lead to speak to the Al Fasher
 tribal leader.  I chuckled to myself as I looked up at his jolly round face thought of an African Santa Clause. 
He began to explain to us, as the 
leader of the village, the situation in Darfur.  He spoke to us about the operating schools, university, the growing health care system and mostly of the Darfurian pride.  And as if on que, an old man dressed in a torn up jalabiya stained with dirt, said to our group: "We do not want your pity, we don't need your help -- we are a proud people of Sudan and are living just fine!"
Typically Sudanese, I thought to myself.  
Nationalistic, patriotic and dignity for days.  

We wandered around the Abu Shook camp for internally displaced people.  I knew in an instant we were in one of the better sites. 
 I first noticed the food piled high.  Watermelons were stacked one on another in the beating sun.  Women were busily working, molding clay into bricks for their homes.  Men were bartering and conversing at the market.  People were being productive.

And they call it genocide.

The Backdrop

When people find out I'm really not from D.C. or the Northern Virginia area, and that I am indeed from Sudan the first question that pops out (most) of their mouths is: "Oh my goodness: like, Darfur? It's pretty bad over there isn't it?" My reaction is usually one of the following: general agreement, wishy-washy arguments or a smile and a nod.
So when I was offered the opportunity to take a 7-day trip to Khartoum including a visit to Darfur on a "fact finding mission" - I was thrilled. I could finally see beyond the CNN's, the BBC's and the Sudan TV's - and discover, on my own, what truly lies behind the troubled zone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dehumanizing Palestinians via T-shirts

T-shirts symbolizing a culture of hate, of inhumanity.