A Decision

Amira Talking We visited Amira again today, a woman we met on our second day in the camps. But this time we were able to sit down with her for more than hour and really hear her story. She told two stories of young girls and violence against them during attacks in Darfur. The one I will tell here reflects the decisions that we are forced to make when faced with no water or food, when we are faced with life or death.

Cornoye remains only in name, Amira reminded us as she began to tell the story.

After fleeing from the attack, children were lost, and adults began to protect who ever they could. When most of the women and children finally were able to gather, they were in such shock they were unable to move very far from their destroyed village. As the days past, they group needed water. There were two water sources they could pull from: a nearby village that was Janjaweed controlled or walk to Chad and back, about a week’s time. The group made a decision that they would attempt to pull from the well in the village at night when perhaps the Janjaweed and government troops were no longer there.

moms and babies.JPG They could not send any boys. Because here boys are considered men, and they are all targets, no matter the age. They believed that the men would not harm young girls. That they would be safe from evil, so they sent a group of 6 to bring back water for the large group in the darkness of the desert night. The Janjaweed did not leave the well at night, instead they captured the girls and locked them away for two days, with no food, and no water – the very resource they risked their lives for.

Back at the makeshift encampment in the wadi, the group began to worry about the girls who had not returned. They decided to send a group of men to the village in search of them, knowing that their lives were at risk. Once they reached the well, they did not notice any government soldiers or militas. Instead the scene seemed calm, and they decided to drink from the well.

But it was not safe. From the bushes and behind the huts, rapid ammunition began. They shot all the men dead.

Two of the girls had to eventually be evacuated to a clinic in Cameroon for medical attention. One of them died, and the other is permanently deaf and mute. Her scars, the memories of their men, and the ashes of Cornoye remain to tell the story.

Have you ever been faced with such a decision? Why are we exempt from having to decide, send my husband or brother to death or send my baby girl or sister to sexual assault and kidnapping?

What do you tell Amira? To stay strong? To believe that things will get better?

No. We tell her that we will ensure that al-Bashir is prosecuted for his crimes. We tell her we will work to bring Peace, Protection, and Justice so she can return home and rebuild her life.

cu big eyes.JPG And we will not give up. We will not allow our lives to go back to being normal citizens of this earth. With this knowledge, we must act. And we can not give up until we can say to Amira, “I will walk with you home to Darfur. I will help you rebuild your home, your life. I will not desert you as the world has.”

Katie-Jay keeps i-ACT running on several levels. Much of her work entails coordinating partnerships with other grassroots organizations and implementing the campaigns developed by Gabriel and seeing through the details. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She has previously worked as a community organizer in Thailand, Guatemala, and with grassroots organizations across the United States.

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4 Responses to “A Decision”
  1. marv steinberg says:

    Please tell Amira that we have heard her story and that it will be forwarded to 150 people in Redding tonight. We hope and pray that one day soon, she will be able to return to Darfur and rebuild her life and the lives of all of her family members. Thank you and Gabriel for taking the time to talk to us. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you.

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Thank you Marv for passing on Amira’s voice and for continuing to be the voice for the people. As I said on the phone call, keep it up, you energy is also our energy.
      best, ktj

  2. Tim Nonn says:

    Hi Katie-Jay,

    What struck me most deeply about Amira’s story was not the awful decision they had to make, but the girl who was left deaf and mute from the attack. It’s difficult, maybe impossible, for me to understand the terror and suffering they have experienced. When I think of the forced silence the girl has to live with now, I wonder if she is a symbol of the Darfuri people who have been silenced by the genocide and the world’s indifference. How does she cope with the silence? How does she survive the silence? Indifference is a different sort of silence. It’s a silence that comes from a decision to turn away from genocide. It is is a soul destroying silence. But her silence was forced upon her against her will. Since she can no longer speak, it is our responsibility to discover her words for her. We must speak them to the world on her behalf. We must use these words to persuade the indifferent to open their hearts to our little sister in Chad. I am going to reflect on her in the coming days, and listen for her words to come through the silence. There are so many spoken words. Her silence can teach us more than words if we listen with open hearts. Genocide creates a terrible silence. We must find our voice so she can find hers.

    Tim

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Thank you Tim!

      Your questions are ones that we should all be asking, and then turning them upon ourselves – how would I cope with such silence and out of her control desertion. It is not fair. And in my world, we need to be reaching for compassionate equality – every day. There is no vacations from this. We need to continue working to bring Amira’s voice forward to the people.

      Thank you for all the work you do Tim, you have inspired thousands of people around the world to stand up for Amira, and find their voice to be hers.

      In peace, ktj

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