Friday, August 29, 2008

Doctor reports back from Darfur

On August 10, 2008, Dr. Samina Khan gave a talk in a private home in Boston about her recent trip to Sudan, where she attended the Peace and Reconciliation Conference on July 25 and 26, 2008 in Al-Fashir, Darfur. Two representatives from Dorchester People for Peace, Jeff Klein and Hayat Imam, were among the attendees, as well as David Rolde and Elaine Antonia of BAZA (Boston Anti-Zionist Action).

Dr. Khan, a kidney specialist at Tufts Medical Center joined a Muslim delegation led by British parliamentarian, Lord Nazir Ahmed in collaboration with Sudan's University of Science and Technology, to help resolve the inter-tribal conflicts in Darfur, which have killed tens of thousands and displaced millions. She represented "Claiming Our World," an organization providing mentorship to women in underdeveloped countries.

While the Jewish-organized Save Darfur Coalition has focused on punitive economic measures and military intervention, the Muslim delegation aimed for a grassroots solution to regional problems without interference from foreign political agendas and oil companies.

The delegation met with 250 leaders and representatives of Darfur's 178 tribes, the governor of Darfur, the city chairman of Al-Fashir, leaders of all the Sudanese political parties, including the former prime minister Imam al-Mahdi, representatives from Sudan Women's General Union, representing 4 million members, and a Sufi religious organization. Professors from Sudan's University of Science and Technology moderated the conference.

Dr. Khan toured Darfur's oldest IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp near Al-Fashir, capital of North Darfur, which hosts over 50,000 people that fled their homes in surrounding villages four years ago. With the help from the UN and international charities, the Sudanese government provides water, sanitation, a daily meal, safety, health care and schooling for the children. She said most kids know basic English.

Nearby, foreign contractors are building fancy hotels and fast food joints with our tax dollars to service the UN aid workers. Supplies arrive via air transport because Darfur has no paved roads.

"People come from all over the world to cash money out of this," said the doctor.

She reported that the general public and even the opposition parties fear that the frivolous genocide allegations against President Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court before would invigorate foreign-aided rebels and derail the ongoing peace negotiations.

While visiting al-Fashir hospital, Dr. Khan asked the hospital superintendent for a list of needs. The Sudanese Health Ministry immediately released the money for new dialysis machines upon her request. She will return this year to set up a teaching program.

Dr. Khan visited the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir at the president's house in Khartoum. He was very enthusiastic about this tribal reconciliation initiative.

Dr. Khan was impressed with the eloquence and intellect of everyone she met in Sudan, and by the high level of women's participation in Sudanese society. Women contribute significantly to the Sudanese work force. President Al-Bashir agreed to meet with the women from the British Muslim delegation and from the Women's Union to discuss their concerns for the peace process. The women told the doctor that if the men won't end the war, they would take things into their own hands.

A peace formula drawn up by local leaders at the conclusion of the conference, advised that the historic tensions between nomadic herders and farmers would decrease with more water access, human and veterinarian health care, disarming the citizenry and simultaneously creating an official local police force, and rural development projects.

Dr. Khan felt it important to counteract the media demonization stories about Sudan. For example, there is no government militia called the "Janjaweed," and there is no ethnic conflict between Blacks and Arabs, nor between Muslims and Christians. Everyone in Darfur is Black and speaks Arabic. They are all Muslim. The humanitarian situation in Somalia is far worse, where the US has bombed. In fact the UN has been sending refugees from Iraq to live in Darfur.

"They have so many resources if you just take away the negative publicity. They need real guidance. Don't leave them alone but don't bash them all the time. Let the government and others take care of the people. [There's] a lot of potential in that country," said Dr. Khan.

The demonization in the media and the ICC arrest warrant against President Al-Bashir seem to be a prelude to attempting to overthrow the Sudanese government leading to privatization and foreign exploitation of Sudan's natural resources. Hostile US sanctions make it illegal for any American to invest in developing Sudan except through military corporations.

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