Tuesday, March 06, 2007

And We Think That We've Got It Bad

So here I am worrying about my Student Loans, my uncertainty for next year, my placement, hell, even what I'm going to eat for dinner and I stumble across this, the US State Department's list of the World's Biggest Human Right Violations. I gave a couple of countries a quick peak and any of my worries went away.

The first country I looked at was Sudan, home of course to the infamous Darfur region. On this very list, it was ranked as the worst violator of Human Rights. Here is an excerpt from its report:

The government's human rights record remained poor, and there were numerous serious problems, including evidence of continuing genocide in Darfur, for which the government and janjaweed continued to bear responsibility. Abuses included: abridgement of citizens' rights to change their government; extrajudicial and other unlawful killings by government forces and other government-aligned groups throughout the country; torture, beatings, rape and other cruel, inhumane treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention of suspected government opponents, and prolonged pretrial detention; executive interference with the judiciary and denial of due process; forced military conscription of underage men; obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian assistance; infringement on citizens' right to privacy, freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; the harassment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and of local and international human rights and humanitarian organizations; violence and discrimination against women, including the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM); child abuse, including sexual violence and recruitment as child soldiers, particularly in Darfur; trafficking in persons; discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities; denial of workers' rights; and forced labor, including child labor, by security forces and both aligned and non-aligned militias in Southern Sudan and Darfur.


Scary eh?

They also give several reported examples of the worst violations that they could find. Here are a couple that blew my mind in particular.

On June 12, NISS officers detained and tortured a male student from the Islamic University in Omdurman. The student had distributed flyers calling for the university to reinstate several students who had been expelled for nonpayment of fees. The officials took the student to a room on campus, blindfolded him, and hung him by his feet from a ceiling fan. They then attempted to insert a glass bottle into his anus, beat him with a metal bar, and shocked his hands and feet with electric wires. They released him after he signed documents obliging him to pay over $7,000 (SDD 1.5 million). The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) later verified the victim's injuries with a medical certificate.
On November 12, police raided an IDP camp near Masteri, West Darfur, following an exchange of fire between militiamen and suspected SLA members. Two Masalit men who were gathering firewood near the camp disappeared during the raid. Three days later, the local police commissioner stated that the two men were taken into custody for supporting the SLA but acknowledged that he did not have evidence to support the charges. Despite assurances to UNMIS that the men would be released after several days, the men reportedly remained in detention at year's end.
There were reports that the government sometimes denied defense counsel access to the courts or did not allow the calling of defense witnesses. For example, in May 2005 an appeals court upheld a judge's 2004 ruling that banned lawyers from representing 28 defendants on trial for allegedly plotting a coup and ordered them to pick new counsel or accept government-appointed lawyers. Thereafter 43 additional persons were charged. Forty-nine out of the 81 defendants were convicted of plotting a coup and sentenced from five to 15 years in prison; the others were released. However, on March 13, a special court in Bahri, Khartoum North, dropped charges against eight of the 49 defendants for lack of evidence. The same court acquitted an additional 10 defendants on April 26 because their confessions had been obtained under torture by NISS officers.
On October 29, hundreds of armed militiamen in green uniforms attacked several villages and the Aro Sharow IDP camp near Jebel Moon, in West Darfur. At least 50 civilians were killed, including 26 children, most of whom were under the age of 10. According to survivor accounts obtained by UNMIS, the attackers told residents in one village "We have come to destroy you," and shouted "Come out, slaves!" One boy was heard pleading for his life, telling his attacker, "You have killed this other boy, so please let me go." The attacker responded, "If I let you go, you will grow up. I will not let you go." He then shot the boy. As many as 7,000 people in the area were displaced by the violence, many fleeing across the border into Chad.
Just last night I was having a conversation with my step-mother about getting involved in other countries. We were talking in particular about leading pro-democracy movements in developing nations, something I fear is still generations away in Sudan, but I still think that it is applicable. I said that there are people out there who need our help and that we have the means to do so, it is irresponsible of us not to take action. She said that if you go to another country and take action against the government. She on the other hand, said that if we (as in Westerners, not in the we in the singular sense) go and cause a ruckus than we can leave if things get bad. The people we helped on the other hand, could be held accountable for our actions and punished harshly.
I found this to be an interesting argument that I have been wrestling with for a while. See I am quite young and naive, and very set on changing the world somehow. I plan on travelling extensively and in my wilder of dreams I could see myself leading some anti-government rallies in countries where it is needed. But her opinion rings true to me. Is it selfish of my to try and help? Is gradualism the way to go? Should we be like Captain Picard and obey the Prime Directive?...sorry, I let my nerdiness slip out there.
I don't really know to be honest, I guess we have to all figure out what we are capable of doing and do what we can.
But before I get to any of these stages, I have to ask myself, what can I do now for these poor people in Darfur (or anywhere else for that matter)? Again, I guess I really don't know. I suppose as a teacher I have the powerful tool of education, and hope that maybe I can pass the buck on to a student of mine, but is that enough? Probably not...I guess this is less of a post than a plea. Can any of you out there think of someway that I can help people far away who are in need from where I am right now? It really would make me feel good about myself, and hopefully make help someone else feel good to.
Until next time,

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