Oct 28, 2004 — The crisis in Darfur, Sudan, was the focus of a panel discussion at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on Oct. 26, 2004. Panelists at “Death and Destruction in Darfur, Sudan: The Human Dimension and the Moral Imperative,” addressed the humanitarian and political complexities and the international response to the situation in Darfur. The program was sponsored by Cardozo’s Program in Holocaust and Human Rights Studies
More than 1.5 million people have left their homes in Darfur, fleeing to refugee camps to escape the violence that erupted in February 2003 when two rebel groups launched a revolt against the Arab-dominated government. “It’s convenient to reduce this to a racial problem,” said Gerald Martone, director of emergency response for the International Rescue Committee. “It’s not the case. There’s another distinction that drives this animosity,” Martone said, describing the intense competition between two lifestyles – the African farmers and Arab nomads – for what little usable land there is.
Martone discussed the effects on the displaced population, especially on the children who make up the majority of the camps. He described life in the camps as bleak and a “toxic environment for a child,” and said that providing children with structure for their days is a new challenge for aid organizations to tackle.
Ruth Messinger, president and executive director of American Jewish World Service, recently returned from visiting the refugee camps and stressed the need for aid and political action. “You need to figure out what you as a person can do to help,” Messinger told the audience.
In her remarks, Messinger described the violence against women and explained how they are being raped and abused. The simple task of collecting scarce firewood puts them at risk since they have to venture outside the camps to collect it for cooking. “I believe the situation is more likely to get worse than not,” Messinger said. “There’s not really enough being done.”
Other panelists included Gregory D’Elia, senior political advisor for the United States Mission to the United Nations, and Iain Levine, program director for Human Rights Watch. The event was co-sponsored by the Cardozo Black Law Students Association, the Cardozo Jewish Law Students Association, and the Dr. Marcia Robbins-Wilf Scholar in Residence Program of Stern College.