Students Depict Darfur Refugee Conditions
In anticipation of the UC Board of Regents' vote on divestment from Sudan, the UCLA Darfur Action Committee staged a mock refugee camp in Schoenberg Quad.
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006
This article was first published in the Daily Bruin.
By Jackie Brosamer, Daily Bruin contributor
Walking to class Jan. 11, students came face-to-face with the impoverished conditions faced by those affected by the current violence halfway across the world in Sudan.
To raise support for the University of California divestment from Sudan, the Darfur Action Committee staged a mock refugee camp in Schoenberg Quad.
The camp is one of the events held by DAC in anticipation of the UC Board of Regents' vote on divestment from Sudan on Jan. 19 at UC San Diego.
"We want to show the regents that they need to be accountable to students," said Megan Markoff, DAC refugee camp coordinator. "If students make this an issue, then the regents will have to take action. This is a great opportunity to use our power as students for social good."
Called "Reality of the Refugees," the mock camp featured tents simulating living conditions for Darfurians displaced to refugee camps on the border of Chad due to ongoing genocide in Sudan.
Photographs and posters provided additional information about the violence in Sudan.
"By experiencing what the refugees are going through, students can raise their awareness about this crisis," said Adam Sterling, an executive member of DAC. "We want everyone to know about what is going on in Sudan and how the people are suffering there."
After a conflict between rebel groups and militia, the Sudanese government began ethnic cleansing of black Darfurians in Feb. 2003, killing over 400,000 civilians, displacing nearly 2.5 million, and impoverishing 3 million. In July 2004, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives unanimously adopted a joint resolution declaring the atrocities in Darfur to be genocide, the first time a genocide has been officially recognized while still occurring.
"Those who are lucky enough to survive the violence still face tremendous hardship," said Ruth Dawson, DAC programming committee member. "Refugees have to walk miles to shanties where they usually await death from starvation, dehydration or disease. What's happening to these people is horrible, and there's no excuse to ignore it."
One of DAC's primary goals in the coming week is to recruit students to attend the regents meeting and demonstrate support for divestment by signing a petition, Dawson said.
"It's essential that we have a large turnout so that we can clearly show the regents that students across California are strongly in favor of divestment. We need as many students as we can to show solidarity and that we are going to stand up to this," Dawson said.
Other universities, including Stanford, Harvard and Dartmouth, have recently divested funds from the Sudanese government. Divestment has been successfully employed by the UC in the past for economic opposition to tobacco companies and South African apartheid.
First-year biology student Shuo Wang said that the mock camp was very effective.
"I had no idea that this was going on in Sudan, so when I saw the display I was really shocked that something like this is going on today," Wang said. "I've always thought of genocide as something in a history book. I'm definitely motivated to find out more about what's going on."
The mock camp will remain in Schoenberg Quad today and will move to Bruin Plaza on Friday. Other upcoming events include a mock regents meeting and a documentary screening.