Instead of spendin billions on the war
I can use that money
So I can feed the poor
Cuz I know some so poor
When it rains that’s when dey shower
Screamin fight the power
That’s when the vulture devours
Wyclef Jean, “If I were President”
2005 was the year of the disaster: Tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes. But for the tragedy that nature has bestowed upon us, there’s been a growing human calamity that’s gone almost unnoticed. The migration of peoples from Africa away from war, famine, and desperation has been met with massive tragedy twice in the closing months of the year. Early Friday, 20 refugees from Sudan were killed in the streets of Cairo, dozens more were injured, thousands more were displaced.
At least 20 Sudanese refugees were killed and 50 injured yesterday as Egyptian police forced an end to a three-month sit-in outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Cairo office.
Since late September, 2,000 refugees from southern Sudan and the western province of Darfur had been camped in squalid conditions outside UNHCR offices in an affluent Cairo neighbourhood. They were de-manding full refugee status and relocation from Egypt, where they complain of poor treatment and racial discrimination.
Witnesses said police, after attempting negotiations, sprayed the protesters with water cannon before moving in with truncheons to force them on to buses.
One witness who followed the buses after watching events from a nearby building, said some of the refugees had been taken to a state security camp in the desert outside Cairo. “We could hear children screaming, and we saw women being dragged along the ground by their hair, and men being beaten all the way on to the buses,” she said.
In the face of this tragedy, there’s silence. We can make excuses. They’re so far away (read they’re Africans.) I can’t relate to them (read they’re black Africans.) What can we do? (read they’re poor black Africans, such is life.) More shameful than the silence of the media, is the deafening silence from the blogosphere. All I hear is the Banshee’s wail, and never did the wretch sound so right.
God bless you MSOC, and god damn those who turn away now.
The concept of international law has been “rendered” quaint these days by the machinations of the Bush Admininstration, but there was a time when we as a nation were shining light to a dark era.
When the rest of the world cowered in fear, a great American said that all “we have to fear is fear itself”, going on the declare the Four Freedoms:
In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression –everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way– everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants –everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor –anywhere in the wold.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception –the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
FDR would not live to see the defeat of the fascist threat and the establishment of the United Nations, but the his wife Elanor would go on to chair the committee that would issue the Universal Declaration of Human Rights among its many achievements was the recognition of the right to asylum in Article 14 of the declaration:
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
The right to asylum and the definition of what consitute a refugee where expanded upon in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which defines a refugee in Article 1 of the document as a person who:
owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
The US while not a signatory to the 1951 convention, did acede to the the 1967 protocol in which the text of the 1951 document was subsumed.
The UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has drawn a stron distinction in the events of the past days between those coming from Darfur where there is active, armed conflict, and those coming frm South Sudan where the Arab government of Khartoum has reached an understanding with the Black Christians and Animists of the South. It’s interesting to note that on the web page of the UNHCR, there’s a section dedicated to the “organized repatriation” of refugees from South Sudan. On the web page it states that:
After many years in exile, Sudanese refugees are finally returning to their homeland – with the long-awaited organized repatriation launched by UNHCR on 17 December 2005.
The Egyptians must be pleased, they’ve long held a desire to expel the hundreds of thousands of Sudanese present in the country. The operation that led to the deaths in Cairo is not the first in Egypt, today’s Guardian reveals that 3 years ago Egyptian authorities launched an operation referred to as Operation Track Down Blacks on police documents to clear Africans from the streets. Jim Crow lives….. in Cairo.
There’s a disturbing parallel here to events earlier this year. All the accounts of the eviction I’ve read state that the Sudanese were gathered onto buses and taken to “camps” in the desert. In October of this year, hundreds of Sub-Sahran migrants made a rush on the border fence at Melilla, a Spanish North African possession. 14 were killed, and Morrocan authorities rounded up the rest, and putting them onto buses to be removed from the area around Melilla. The migrants who were rounded up were unceremoniously dumped in the desert and left to die. 400 were dumped in an arid region in the south of the country including allegations that some were dropped in mine fields, without food or water.
So when the Egyptians say that they’ve taken the refugees to “camps” in the desert it makes me suspicous that they’re going to dump them out of sight and hope no one pursues the matter. The world needs to be asking to see the refugees and confirm their humane treatment, and there needs to be action. Instead of spending billions on the war maybe we could drop a little change for our brothers left without a home. Since 1975, Egypt has received more than $50 billion in foreign aid, and it remains one of the largest recipients of American largesse, this is a payback for making peace with Israel Given our own record of late, we’re probably not the best messenger, but we should question whether the US should continue to channel billions of dollars in aid to Egypt given the events in Cairo. Perhaps at least a portion of that money could be earmarked to support refugees instead of buying F-16’s? At the very least, for all talk about democracy and human rights, it would be nice to see Washington take Cairo to task for what they’ve done.
And we should not remain silent ourselves.