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Darfur/Darfur: The Crisis

10/15/2009 7:00 PM 32"123
Robert Rotberg, Director, Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Belfer Center, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director, Physicians for Human Rights; Marcus Bleasdale, Author: One Hundred Years of Darkness

Description: Six years after Darfur made its appearance on the world stage, the horrific crisis burns on, as these panelists vividly attest. In a forum companion to the traveling exhibit DARFUR/DARFUR, the speakers provide big picture political context, as well as actual images from the field, which are not for the faint of heart.

While the conflict may no longer be "hot news," the "genocidal years are continuing," says Robert Rotberg. Three million Darfuris are languishing in refugee camps on the border with Chad and in their own country. The leader of this desert nation, President Omar al"Bashir, has been accused by the International Court of war crimes, yet militias under his direction, including the feared Janjaweed, continue to rain death down on villages and refugee camps. Neither the world's condemnation, nor a multilateral force, has stopped the violence. China's support of Sudan (with its rich oil fields) presents another obstacle to peace. Rotberg worries about the appointment by President Obama of a special envoy, J. Scott Gration, who "has made welcoming noises to Bashiroffering carrots without carrying a big stick." A plan for peace, says Rotberg, should include a ban on overflights; dismantling of the Janjaweed and all the militias, and their repatriation into village life; a mechanism for power"sharing at all levels; compensation for genocide; and support for reconstruction.

Susannah Sirkin and her investigators from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) are among those who have documented the Sudanese government's atrocities against the people of Darfur. People have been bombed, strafed and burnt out of their villages. Says Sirkin, "The government of Sudan knew full well what would happen when hundreds of thousands of people were forced out of their homes, knew they wouldn't make it to a place where they could receive the basic necessities of survival."

In spite of harrowing conditions, including the regime's persecution of aid workers, PHR has collected ample evidence of "the crime of mass rape as a weapon in this war," a crime that goes on even at the refugee camps. The peaceful pre"war existence of women, tending animals, family and farming, is brutally shattered when militias massacre their families, and assault them sexually. PHR doctors describe their suffering as "unimaginable." Sirkin recounts the tragic story of one 18"year"old, whose experiences stand for the thousands who endure comparable horrors.

The finale of the panel is a slideshow by photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale of his 12 trips to Darfur in the past six years. He captures the fear -- entire communities huddled under trees for fear of detection by government planes _ and the aftermath of Janjaweed attacks. There are charred villages, bodies left to rot in the sun and people burned by white phosphorus, dumped by helicopter. At the camps, there are child soldiers with amputated limbs, starving mothers and babies, and long lines for the plastic bottles of water provided by aid agencies. Says Bleasdale, "These aren't singular stories; they're happening thousands of times, in every village."

About the Speaker(s): Robert I. Rotberg previously served as Professor of Political Science and History, MIT; Academic Vice President, Tufts University; and President, Lafayette College. He is the author and editor of numerous books and articles on US foreign policy, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, most recently, China into Africa: Trade, Aid, and Influence (2008); Worst of the Worst: Dealing with Repressive and Rogue Nations (2007); Building a New Afghanistan (2007); A Leadership for Peace: How Edwin Ginn Tried to Change the World (2006); Battling Terrorism in the Horn of Africa (2005); and When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (2004), among others. Susannah Sirkin joined Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in 1987. Previously, she was director of membership programs for Amnesty International USA.

Sirkin has organized health and human rights investigations in many nations, including recent documentation of genocide and systematic rape in Darfur and Sudan, exhumations of mass graves in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda for the International Criminal Tribunals, investigations into consequences of human rights abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kosovo, Kuwait, Somalia, Turkey, Zimbabwe, and the United States, among others. She has conducted studies of sexual violence in Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Chad, and published numerous reports on the medical consequences of human rights violations, physical evidence of human rights abuses, and physician complicity in violations.

Sirkin co"developed and directed the first postgraduate course in medicine and human rights initiated at Harvard Medical School in 1992, and lectures regularly on health and human rights in medical schools and schools of public health. She also served from 1992 to 2001 for PHR as a member of the Coordination Committee of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the co"recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace. Marcus Bleasdale has spent eight years covering the brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and his work was published in the book One Hundred Years of Darkness. His new book, The Rape of a Nation, was published in 2009.

He is widely published in the UK, Europe and the USA in publications such as TIME, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Harpers, Stern, Geo Magazine and National Geographic Magazine.

In 2004 he was awarded UNICEF Photographer of the Year Award, the 3p Grant and the Alexia Foundation Grant. He exhibited in New York at Moving Walls 2005 and was awarded the OSI Distribution Grant 2005. Bleasdale's images have also been chosen by PDN as one of the most iconic of the 21st Century. In 2005, Bleasdalewas named Magazine Photographer of the Year by POYi. In 2006 Marcus was awarded a World Press Daily Life award and won the prestigious OPC Olivier Rebbot Award. In 2007, he was awarded a Freedom of Expression grant for his new project on our relationship with oil. He was also shortlisted for the Amnesty International Photojournalism Awards. Bleasdale was awarded a first prize in POYi for his work on DRC in 2009.

Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, Center for International Studies

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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