Michael Gerson

The genocide in Darfur is no longer a trendy, breathless global cause. But the women of Darfur haven't gotten the message.

On May 15, a woman near the Al Hamadiya Camp in Zalingei was collecting firewood. Three armed men in khaki uniforms raped her, stabbed her in the leg, inflicted genital injuries and left her bleeding. She spent 45 days in the hospital. In 2003, the same woman had been raped and shot while fleeing her village.

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Her story is contained in a recent, exhaustive, chilling report on Sudan, written by a panel of experts at the United Nations. A U.N. official told me, "We have not talked to a single woman (in Darfur) who has not stated that sexual violence is their first concern." The panel documented sexual assault against pregnant women and 12-year-old girls. Prosecutions are nonexistent. Local officials are indifferent.

The Darfur revealed in the report is a heavily armed state of nature. Uniformed troops, Janjaweed militias and rebel groups all abuse civilians. The Sudanese government routinely violates the Darfur arms embargo imposed by the U.N. Security Council in 2004, unloading weapons, according to the U.N. official, "openly, in front of you." Arms and ammunition manufactured by Chinese companies can be found everywhere. Child soldiers are recruited. Political dissent is repressed.

This is not, at present, the active phase of Darfur's genocide, involving mass attacks on civilians. Instead, it is the evidence of a genocide that has already succeeded. The Sudanese regime achieved its policy aims -- targeting disfavored ethnic groups, destroying their way of life and forcing millions into camps. And now it is threatening to forcibly relocate these victims in 2010 -- a plan of Stalinist scale and brutality.

Global attention has been diverted by the complexity of the conflict, the unsympathetic nature of Darfur's fractious rebels, and the threat of renewed war between Sudan's north and south -- a war that would overwhelm the region.

But the suffering in Darfur is also being actively hidden from view. In March, the Sudanese regime expelled several international relief organizations, including those dealing with sexual violence. This cut an important pipeline of humanitarian information to the outside world -- which was precisely the goal. Sudan's regime is pulling a curtain across Darfur, which may also be a shroud.


Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
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