February 12, 2009
ACTIVISTS, EXPERTS UNITE NATIONWIDE TO HELP END VIOLENCE AGAINST DARFURI WOMEN
Save Darfur, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum host headline event featuring actress Maria Bello
WASHINGTON – On Wednesday evening, hundreds of area Darfur activists joined actress Maria Bello and nearly two hundred communities across the country and on five continents to press for an end to violence against Darfuri women. The event – One Night, One Voice – featured the nationwide premiere of a Save Darfur Coalition-produced short film on the issue, and an interactive panel discussion that was live-streamed from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to local participating communities. Panelists included coalition Darfuri liaison officer Niemat Ahmadi, international justice expert Dr. Kelly Askin, the Museum’s Genocide Prevention Initiative director John Heffernan, and coalition board chairwoman Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond.
“Rape has been used as weapon of war in Darfur and is a proven tool of genocide in the ongoing conflict. It’s not something that is happening as the result of chaos or uncontrollable troops during the conflict; it’s systematic, well planned and orchestrated in a calculation to destroy a community,” said coalition Darfuri liaison officer Niemat Ahmadi. “In order to stop these horrendous crimes, we must seek justice for women, and those who have committed crimes against Darfuri women should and must be held accountable.”
The Sudanese government and its allied janjaweed militias continue to conduct a targeted campaign of sexual violence against women and girls in Darfur. International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in his request for an arrest warrant for Sudanese President al-Bashir that “rape is an integral part of the pattern of destruction” in Darfur. In conflicts around the world, rape has been used as an act of genocide.
“The landmark 1998 decision by the International Criminal Court for Rwanda established that rape can be an act of genocide to destroy a group,” said John Heffernan, Director of the Museum’s Genocide Prevention Initiative. “Rape continues to play a major role as an instrument of war in conflicts worldwide, as we have seen in Darfur and Congo.”
Following the event, activists recorded messages of support for displaced Darfuris living in refugee and internally displaced persons camps. The messages will be translated and broadcast into the camps by local radio stations in the coming weeks.
More information about the campaign and a video of the panel discussion can be found at www.savedarfur.org/women or at www.ushmm.org/conscience. To view the coalition’s short film, Violence Against Women and the Darfur Genocide, please visit: http://www.savedarfur.org/VAWfilm.
To obtain footage from the Darfur border region, coalition events, various interviews, and more, please visit the Save Darfur Coalition media gallery at http://media.savedarfur.org. All footage may be previewed in non-broadcast quality and may be purchased in broadcast quality by filling out the purchase request form provided on the site.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s World is Witness initiative opens a window into the lives of people affected by genocide and its long-term consequences, including people who are targets for sexual violence. World is Witness can be found in Google Earth’s Global Awareness folder under the heading, USHMM: World is Witness, or at the Museum’s Web site, www.ushmm.org/maps/.
About the coalition: The Save Darfur Coalition – an alliance of more than 180 faith-based, advocacy and human rights organizations – raises public awareness about the ongoing genocide in Darfur and mobilizes a unified response to the atrocities that threaten the lives of people throughout the Darfur region. The coalition’s member organizations represent 130 million people of all ages, races, religions and political affiliations united together to help the people of Darfur. For more information on the coalition, please visit www.SaveDarfur.org.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders to promote human dignity, confront hatred, and prevent genocide. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by the generosity of donors nationwide. For more information visit: www.ushmm.org.