Sunday, July 02, 2006

Evacuation is not an option

Have you ever been terrified? I’m not talking about scary movie jitters. No, I am referring to the feelings that wash over you as you crouch behind a thorn bush desperately trying to go unnoticed by masked gunmen. It’s the kind of terror that comes with having no control over a deadly situation, knowing helplessly that if you are found, you will be tortured or even killed because of your natural skin color. It’s a fear that emanates from the inside and completely changes a person before it escapes the body through the eyes.

Unfortunately, this kind of primal terror caused by being helpless in the face of brutality is far too common among the men, women and children of the world. Westerners, like myself, growing up in Africa, Asia and South America have all been witnesses to such crime. However, as ex-patriots we tend to have a great advantage over the local population - when crisis hits, most of us have the luxury of evacuation. We get whisked away out of harm’s way while our native friends, classmates, and neighbors are left behind to survive. Granted, some families decide to stay put and ‘ride out the storm,’ but many wisely take the opportunity to move to safer grounds.

I remember my own personal evacuation story. It happened in 1990 when a rebel group was making a successful march across the country. My family was enjoying a peaceful night under the African stars when we were interrupted by thunderous bangs on our front gate. My father was greeted by two French Military soldiers who informed us we had only twenty minutes to pack our bags and get out of town before fighting began.

The next thing I know, I am bouncing around on a bench in the bowels of a windowless French military cargo plane. We were packed like sardines and unable to talk over the noise of the engines. I had nothing to do but stare at the scared faces of those sitting all around me. However, the faces that still haunt me are not those that surrounded me in the safe – albeit uncomfortable – confines of the airplane. No, the faces that I remember most are the ones of the local women and children desperately fighting for a chance to board our plane. As we boarded, soldiers fought back a mob of scared citizens desperately desiring to be saved from the coming bloodshed. They wanted to get on the plane as well, but there was no more room – it was full of fleeing ex-patriots. The tears of the mothers clutching their children as they were denied safety stick with me to this day. They were terrified, at the mercy of the rebels and helping them was out of my control.

That same feeling is back.

Over the past three years – in what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – over 300,000 of my friends have been slaughtered and over 1.5 million of them have been forced to flee in terror. They cannot evacuate like those of us from the West.

Innocent civilians are helplessly being hunted down and slaughtered for their skin color. If we, all of us - including you - continue to sit back and let this genocide unfold, we will all be held accountable for their extinction. History will judge you by your response. Please - save my friends. Save your neighbors. Save Darfur & Eastern Chad.

UN must police both Darfur and Chad - Amnesty

As the violent downward spiral in Eastern Chad - where I grew up - continues unabated, Amnesty International is calling upon the UN to send troops to this region as well. AI makes a good point that because the violence knows no borders, we cannot distinguish between Chad and Darfur anymore. To just look at solving the crisis in Darfur would be to ignore the hundreds of thousands of desperate people just minutes aways in Chad.

To read this article, click here.

To help save the lives of my friends, click on any of the links on the right side of this page.