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Alvaro Ybarra Zavala and Ian Gavan

In 2005, we were all talking about Darfur. Two years prior, a war of words emerged between the uprising of liberated group against the Sudanese government, who they believed were oppressing the non-Arab community. The latter’s answer to the conflict was slaughtering hundreds of innocent civilians. Eleven years later, George Clooney, along with John Prendergast and Akshaya Kumarand, have shared their thoughts in  The New York Times as a reminder to world that the horror in Darfur is still happening and the battlefield is littered even more with an epidemic of raping the women and girls there.

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A decade ago, Americans were moved to react as the Save Darfur organization was created in New York, and Ryan Gosling put on a white shirt that read “Darfur” in simple black text at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, forcing the tragedy to be recognized by a pop culture audience. Yet it has taken an Academy Award winner to place it back on our international conscious. George Clooney on Sudan’s Rape of Darfur contains neither an angry or desperate tone, but a moralistic one. Clooney, Prendergast and Kumarand know that the world has forgotten about Darfur, but that’s exactly what the Sudanese government wants.

“Over time, international outrage has shifted away from Darfur. When change doesn’t come fast enough, attention spans are short — especially for places that appear to have no strategic importance.”

The trio disclosed that journalists have tried to give updates and first-hand accounts, just to be treated as trespassers and humanitarians have only been able to offer little help, as some of the Darfuris have already been denied basic food and water. Speaking from a place of heavy research and a passion to unearth the truth, news of rape, described as “mass” were the most deafening details in the piece.

With direct quotes below, rape in Darfur is an epidemic and is used as a controlling tactic:

“After collecting more than 130 witness and survivor testimonies over the phone, its researchers concluded that at least 221 women had been raped by soldiers of the Sudanese Army over a 36-hour period last October. The peacekeepers’ attempts to investigate this incident were obstructed by the government, which allowed them into the town briefly for interviews that were conducted in a climate of intimidation.

The sexual violence has no military objective; rather, it is a tactic of social control, ethnic domination and demographic change. Acting with impunity, government forces victimize the entire community. Racial subordination is also an underlying message, as non-Arab groups are singled out for abuse.

Human rights courts around the world have found that rapes by army officials or police officers can constitute torture. When issuing its findings about crimes committed in a similar situation in Bosnia, the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia determined that the rapes of women at two camps were acts of torture since sexual violence was used as an instrument of terror. The mass rapes in Tabit follow the same pattern.

During our own visits to Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and refugee camps in neighboring countries, we have heard story after story like those from Tabit. These “torture rapes” are just one tool in Sudan’s criminal arsenal, which also includes aerial bombing of hospitals and agricultural fields, burning of villages and the denial of food aid.”

These reports are uncomfortable and real. The Times article comes two weeks after the Human Rights Watch published their own 48-page expose on the Darfur rapes, with further detailed stories of the heightened sexual assaults. The women and girls, as young as eleven, are being subjected as props in the Sudanese armies effort to transfer terror. The same October attack Clooney included above was an organized (sexist) crime. How is it that the American media is just being notified of these calamities? It is upsetting, and to think that around the same time, Nigerian schoolgirls were still trying to escape Boko Haram, as they were kidnapped in April 2014. The emotive hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was this year’s Save Darfur. It was just last fall when Americans became fixated on Ebola. We remained in the dark about the disturbing number of women being beaten and raped by the Sudanese government.

Clooney has A-list power, but he is also a known humanitarian. He and his team want this letter to be a call to action for America and other countries to start pressuring Sudanese forces to stop the genocide. And this has been a mission since 2009. The celebrity influence on politics can be a tricky road because for a some, it only goes as far as Twitter updates.

In the past, Clooney has spoken against injustice and the greater good, whether it was the paparazzi death of Princess Diana in 1997, consulting foreign policies with President Obama or standing with Je Sui Charlie after the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo journalists in January. Even his marriage reflects what matters to him. His wife Amal is also an activist. Celebrities that have followed his trusty track record include John Legend, an education advocate, Kerry Washington, who spoke at the 2012 Democratic Convention and encourages women to vote and our personal fave Jesse Williams who became a voice for #BLACKLIVESMATTER even before the hashtag was birthed. Celebrities like Clooney and his philanthropic counterparts carry weight when speaking on world issues because their contribution goes beyond media hearsay.

Would you be thinking of the carnage in Darfur had the New York Times never published it? What if no did and it was never written? We wouldn’t know that Darfur still needs saving. Darfur still needs the world’s help to exhaust the Sudanese government to stop its “torture rapes” and violence. If it takes a celeb of Clooney’s status to get the resolution back on track, we stand behind this A-list clout.


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