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Eyewitness Testimony: Brian Steidle


This was one of the first photographs I took in Sudan. Her name is Mihad Hamid. She is one years old. During the attack on Alliet—the government attacked the village of Alliet—her mother was carrying her, wrapped around the side of her with cloth as they often do. And she was shot—entry wound in the upper right side of her back and the exit wound in the lower left. She wasn't breathing very well at that time and she wasn't expected to live.

Often when you encounter the people out in the IDP camps or in the villages, because I'm a white male, they automatically assume that I'm a doctor. On this day, she had thought that I was a doctor and she holds Mihad up to me to take a look at. Here's a baby laying on her back, laying on her lap, barely breathing. I motion her to please put the baby down and relax, and that, actually, kind of solidified in her mind that I was a doctor because I was telling her what to do with her child. Instead, all I was able to do was write my report and take the photograph.

Brian Steidle, African Union Monitor in Darfur, Sudan

In September 2004, former US Marine Brian Steidle was invited to serve in Darfur as an unarmed military observer and US representative to the African Union.

The African Union monitoring force Steidle joined was tasked with investigating and reporting on breaches of a never-honored 2004 cease-fire agreement between rebels and the Sudanese government.

Steidle witnessed systematic attacks against civilians carried out by the Sudanese government and its allied militias, the Janjaweed. He and his fellow members of the monitoring force were not mandated to protect civilians but to issue reports.

After six months, Brian's conscience would no longer allow him to remain a silent witness to genocide. He returned to the US convinced that he could do more to help Darfurian civilians by publicizing what he had seen. He began a speaking tour, wrote a book, and produced a documentary about his experiences in Darfur. Today, he remains an activist against genocide.