When I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) I attended the installation From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide. This is an interactive installation that you walk through and in the first room, there are a series of screens with various people talking about their experiences with genocide.
The walk through installation has three sections, from top to bottom: Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur
One of the people I saw talking was Brian Steidle. Brian had gone to Darfur as an observer and he was so shocked by what he saw there, that he has returned to the US and now spends his time sharing his story, experiences and photographs that he took in Darfur. His aim is to raise awareness of what is happening there.
I really appreciated this first video as Brian tries to explain in terms that we may understand, in Western historical and military terms, what is actually happening in Darfur. The benefit of this is that the conflict in Darfur often seems so far away and he puts it in language that enables you to relate to what is happening.
“We on the ground didn’t distinguish between the government and the Janjaweed as two separate groups; they were one entity. It’s as if you had a regular army unit with say the 101st Airbourne fighting with a Special Forces unit. Fighting side by side, killing innocent people” – Brian Steidle
Brian spoke at the USHMM on 27 July 2005 in an event called In Darfur, My Camera Was Not Enough. This video highlights some of the terrible human suffering that has occurred in Darfur.
I’ve included the last video (in two parts) because it is quite well done and really moving.
“He was armed with only a camera and a pen”.
The video includes a large amount of the photos Brian took as well as his verbal logs which give great insight into what he encountered.
“They clearly stated they knew the government was supporting the Janjaweed. They said there is no grey area, it is either genocide or not. Are people being killed because they are Africans and not Arabs? Yes. It was plain and simple to them. He said everyone knew these things. Everyone. Why then won’t we? The countries of the world, UN, US; call it like we see it? What is going on here is most definitely crimes against humanity and most definitely genocide. There is no question about that. They are being burned alive only because they are too dark” – Brian Steidle
I can honestly say there is no longer any question in my mind. When will they do something about this? They say the crisis in Darfur has been elevated above more worthy crises but refugee camps do not spring up for no reason and populate themselves overnight. Gross human rights violations are occurring in this region – what will it take to make us realise this?