My name is El-Fadel Arbab. I am a survivor of the Darfur genocide and I currently live in Portland, Maine. Because of my experience during the genocide in Darfur, I made a lifetime commitment to speak out against the genocide in Darfur. I strongly support the Bashir Watch campaign and urge you to add your voice.
I grew up in a small village in Darfur as a member of the Fur tribe. I lived with my parents, who were farmers and cattle ranchers, and my brothers and sisters. Our lives were peaceful and beautiful, and the community worked together as one. Suddenly, we found ourselves in the middle of a war. We lost everything we owned; the Sudanese government, under the leadership of Bashir, supported the Janjaweed militia, who carried out most of the killings. Bashir provided the Janjaweed with all their resources, including the weapons to kill us.
One early morning, the Janjaweed surrounded our village. They started attacking people, killing them in their homes, and setting houses on fire. They slaughtered people indiscriminately, including children. These attacks occurred all over Darfur, resulting in the deaths of more than 300,000 and the displacement of more than 3 million people.
I am one of the lucky ones who managed to escape the genocide. When the Janjaweed attacked my village, my mother woke us up and told us that our house was on fire and that we had to run to the woods and hide. I was the last one to get out of the house before it collapsed. Most of my body was burned as I escaped. My family and I were scattered. I decided to run and climb a tree; I stayed there all day to be safe. From the tree I could see the Janjaweed and the Sudanese military killing people. At night, I decided to follow lights because they pointed me to a town or a city. During this time, I climbed up in trees during the day and traveled on foot at night. It took me one week to reach a town.
From the town that I found, it took me 12 more days by lorry to get to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. I lived in Khartoum for several years as homeless child. I was only 12 years old. I was chased by the police every day; I could not find enough to eat and could not sleep at night because of the heat or the cold. Finally, a relative found me and helped me make my way to Egypt, where I stayed until 2004 when I came to the United States. I am fortunate that ultimately I reunited with several members of my family in this country.
What has happened and is still taking place in Darfur is an unspeakable tragedy not only for my family, but also for the entire Darfur people. Every day I think of those we left behind. The violence has been going on for ten years now and is getting worse every day. In addition to the attacks in Darfur, people in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and in the South and East Sudan have also suffered from the actions of the Sudanese government. It is important that Bashir be held accountable for his actions. If not, then peace will never come to Sudan and the genocide will never end in Darfur. It is also important that the international community holds leaders accountable for their actions. I do not understand why leaders of countries visited by Bashir, including countries like Chad which is a signatory to the ICC, do not arrest him for his actions.
Even if we are far away from the African continent, we are all human beings who are responsible for the welfare of one another. I hope that the international community will take stronger actions to protect civilians. The best way to accomplish this would be to ensure that Bashir and all those who commit crimes in Darfur and across Sudan are brought to justice. What I have seen is enough. I do not want to see other people suffer the way my tribe, my community, my family, and I have suffered.
El-Fadel Arbab is a speaker and educator who now lives in Portland, Maine. El-Fadel is the executive director of Fur Cultural Revival Organization. He was 12 years old when he survived the genocide in Darfur.