Darfur Rally Discloses Reality of Genocide

A rally held in support of victims of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan drew approximately 200 community members to the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in Eugene on Sunday.

The demonstration corresponded with 19 other similar rallies across the country Sunday, including a larger gathering in front of the U.S. capitol in Washington, D.C., according to the Save Darfur Coalition Web site.

Eugene’s rally was organized by the Lane County Darfur Coalition.

Speakers included Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Mayor Kitty Piercy and photojournalist Paul Jeffrey, who spent three weeks in Darfur in 2005.

Ibrahim Hamide, a local human rights activist who also spoke, stressed that people cannot simply rely on the U.S. government to act, but must take initiative themselves.

“We need to do something. We can’t wait for our government that seems to be tunnel-visioned about the war in Iraq and the war on terror,” Hamide said. “It is about time we walk the walk.”

Since 2003, an allegedly government-backed militia called the Janjaweed has eradicated civilian villages in a genocidal campaign against tribal farmers in Darfur, according to the Save Darfur Coalition Web site. The campaign has left more than 400,000 dead and about 2.5 million more displaced.

Demonstrators on Sunday collected blankets to be sent to victims without homes or adequate shelter, and donations tables were set up around the plaza. Two collection boxes for blankets were filled beyond capacity by the end of the rally.

The event began with supporters forming a large circle around a small band that played a prayer song for victims. Jeffrey spoke next, bringing a more personal touch to the rally with the story of a Sudanese woman he interviewed during his work in Darfur. The woman, who he called Hawa Awad in a story published by Response magazine, was gang-raped by six men in an attack on her village in Darfur, and lost her husband, Jeffrey said. She became pregnant from the rape and now has a daughter to tend to.

“What can they be hopeful for?” Jeffrey asked, saying that the people of Darfur have to fear being killed by their government, and that humanitarian efforts by other countries are either running out of resources or simply not doing enough.

“We gather today because we are concerned for them, but also because we are concerned for ourselves, concerned for our lack of outrage,” he said. He also expressed the feeling of uncertainty the Sudanese victims like Awad feel each day.

“Does she rise with hope that things will change in that blood-stained land?” Jeffrey said. “The answer lies with you and I.”

Piercy declared April 30 “Rally to Stop Genocide Day” as part of the day’s events, and called upon the U.S. government to do more in the effort to combat the genocide in Darfur.

Jeffrey said that he had seen increased support for the victims’ cause over the past year, and noted that something as grave as genocide goes beyond political boundaries in the U.S.

“This is not a blue-state, red-state issue,” he said. “You’ve got people across the political spectrum concerned about Darfur.”