Monday, November 13, 2006

NewU: DAC Drops Dead for Darfur

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DAC Drops Dead for Darfur
By Madelyne Oliver

During a Darfur Action Committee rally last Monday at UC Irvine, the beat of drums coincided with the cheers of members who proudly displayed posters calling to “Save Darfur.” Darfur is a region in Sudan in which an estimated 400,000 people have been killed in what the U.S. government and others have called “genocide.”

DAC members with green T-shirts and ribbons passed out information on the situation in Darfur and offered to educate passersby on what actions can be taken in response.

DAC also set up a booth which was used for recruiting members, accepting donations and selling armbands promoting the message of peace.

But nothing was more effective than when DAC members put down their posters and fell dead on the ground, appearing as a mass of bodies clumped together. Smaller signs saying “I’m a Victim of Genocide” lay strewn across their chests.

This method of protesting, referred to as a “die in,” naturally sparked curiosity in some students, giving DAC the chance to further educate them on the situation in Darfur.

DAC Co-President Anita Issagholyan, a second-year political science and studio art double major, suggested how students could help with the situation in Darfur.

“In order to decide what you want to contribute to Darfur, one must understand and be able to comprehend different outlooks and opinions regarding the multiple issues hovering over Darfur, such as the U.N. peace-keeping, U.S. intervention as well as economic or medical aid,” Issagholyan said. “One thing is for certain—the time to act is now.”

Last week’s demonstration, in which DAC members’ bodies were numbed by cold cement, was only one of many such demonstrations that DAC has organized, and the club hopes to continue to hold such events in the future. One planned future event will bring the ambassador for Chad to UCI for a chance to speak on the relationship that Darfur now has with Chad because of the 200,000 people that have sought refuge in the latter country.

DAC also hopes to get its message across to UCI students by appealing to them through arts, music and politics.

DAC’s projects include educating students on campus, staging high school outreach and writing letters to President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In “Camp for Darfur,” an event that DAC hosted last school year, club members camped out in tents for three days with limited food supplies and no luxury items—conditions meant to resemble those in refugee camps. This event is also on the club’s agenda for next year.

The Genocide Intervention Network recently reported that on Oct. 26, U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer responded to calls for concrete action against Darfur by pledging to “hold accountable those individuals responsible for atrocities.”

However, the situation in Darfur remains severe. Last week, 63 people, including 27 children under the age of 12 and a staff member from the International Committee of the Red Cross, were reportedly killed. There were also two separate attacks on U.N. aid convoys in the south part of Darfur.

The 3.2 million people that have been directly affected by genocide in Darfur still need assistance, as do those who are barely surviving in refugee camps.

The British Red Cross has raised 5.9 million pounds (over 11 million U.S. dollars) to provide family kits, tarpaulins, blankets and food to Darfur and Chad, but more help is needed.

The World Food Program estimates that 2.7 million Darfurians will require assistance by the end of 2006.

According to Mark Hanis, executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network, “at least $240 million from the United States alone will be required to support” African Union peacekeepers, which are a ”vital firebreak against genocide.” This is almost four times the current amount being given by the United States

All funds raised by the DAC on campus will be given directly to the International Medical Corps, a group that aids refugees on the border of Chad and Darfur.

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