Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Don't mention Darfur and spoil the party

We are doing nothing at all to stop this tyranny, just as we didn't when Rwanda was bleeding to death
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The Independent Online

Imagine this scene. As diehard settlers in Gaza are made to hand over Palestinian lands in August, we see an explosion of violence which leads eventually to the deaths of 200,000 Palestinians. Europe sits by and wrings its hands. The Israeli government makes promises which it has no intention of keeping because it tacitly backs the settlers. Arabs slothfully try to arrange some vague Middle East conferences. Muslim activists argue the massacres are not easy to interpret, that the situation is mired in complexity. The killings carry on.

Imagine this scene. As diehard settlers in Gaza are made to hand over Palestinian lands in August, we see an explosion of violence which leads eventually to the deaths of 200,000 Palestinians. Europe sits by and wrings its hands. The Israeli government makes promises which it has no intention of keeping because it tacitly backs the settlers. Arabs slothfully try to arrange some vague Middle East conferences. Muslim activists argue the massacres are not easy to interpret, that the situation is mired in complexity. The killings carry on.

Couldn't ever happen of course. The world would not tolerate such bloodshed; there would rightly be an international outcry. Plays and books would be written on the horrors; sombre, heartbreaking reports would appear on our screens. Israel would never be forgiven.

Soon it is the 10th anniversary of the gruesome slaughter of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica by Serb nationalists in a area where the UN was meant to be keeping them safe. Serbia will never be forgiven for these crimes against humanity. Serbs have never seriously sought to bring the instigators to justice and they do not acknowledge the wrong that was done. The victims were sacrificed and Europe let it happen.

This horror did more to turn young Muslims away from the West than any other. They took up arms and joined militant organisations. Chechnya, Palestine and Iraq went on to swell the numbers of these combatants, who see themselves as Islamic vigilantes, the saviours of persecuted Muslims the world over.

So where are the greatest number of Muslims being killed today? In Sudan, a country predominantly Muslim and run by an Islamicist government. This is the place where 200,000 plus really have been killed - 193,000 more than in Srebrenica. An uncounted number have been raped and maimed, and two million dispossessed of their land and meagre homes. The sufferers are Allah-fearing Muslims.

Are the brave jihadis in there, masked in their intifada checked scarves, blowing themselves up to protect the helpless victims of an ethnic genocide? Not that I know of. Too busy elsewhere, where it is easier to name the eternal villains (Christians, Hindus and Jews) and the perpetually blameless (Muslims).

The victims are black, blue-black Africans. They are being hounded and murdered by the Janjaweed militia, who are of Arab origin. The Sudanese state, which already encourages the maltreatment of Christians, now sanctions a racist genocide. It is the worst manifestation of Muslim-on-Muslim killing, common around the world but here moving up a gear towards mass extermination. The militia are encouraged by the Sudanese government led by President Omar el Bashir, who, I am sure, purifies his thoughts before praying five times a day in clean white clothes. Religion can be a miraculous cleanser of guilt and shame.

Much deceit slips out of the slithery tongues of Sudanese diplomats in London when they are called to answer this accusation. They tell us it is a very complicated internal issue which needs aid from us but no interference. They claim the citizens of Darfur are rebels who started the trouble and that Janjaweed are a law unto themselves. Yet Eva Darimani, a political risk analyst and commentator on the BBC, alleges that the militia are not only getting arms from Chad and Libya but that "as they have been provided with official Sudanese armed force uniforms one presumes they would also have free access to the weapons and ammunition from the arsenals of the Sudanese army".

The Arab League, Muslim nations and the entire Ummah are culpable here of criminal cowardice and connivance in the genocide of African Muslims. Such inaction and complicity should never be exonerated. Let history judge them harshly. A number of conscientious Muslim individuals and NGOs are speaking up, to their credit, but what hope do they have when the majority of Muslims are content to let this one pass?

The West appears to care even less. Arms sales to Africa now run to one billion pounds per annum. These arms then get used to oppress the unarmed and poor. When he was US Secretary of State, the discredited Colin Powell refused to call the Darfur genocide by its name, saying blithely: "Let us not put a label on things." It was left to Donald Payne, the black Democrat member of Congress for New Jersey, to remind his country: "The atrocities in Darfur meet the requirements of the 1948 UN Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide and therefore we have an obligation under the law to act."

We are doing nothing at all to stop this tyranny. Just as we failed to do when Rwanda was bleeding to death. Just as we avert our eyes from the Congo where millions of black people have perished and more are added each day. They are only Africans, used to barbarisms. Not our problem. When a pathetic few refugees from Darfur flee to Britain, we violate their rights officially, as if the refugee convention is last week's newspaper. Human rights bodies in the UK report that we are sending back asylum-seekers, to Sudan, where torture is so commonplace they joke about it.

Tony Blair has promised a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in asylum approvals. It is a target. It must be met. The Home Office has issued area reports and guidance to independent immigration adjudicators instructing them to refuse applications because refugees from Darfur can easily move to another part of the country. The refugees say they will be killed by the government. Multiple rape victims, broken men, women and children are being parcelled over to tyrannical countries which the Foreign Office knows well are extremely dangerous for dissidents. There is a target. It must be met.

A fortnight ago, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, issued his findings on Britain in a scathing, erudite report. In precise language he criticised the appropriateness of absolute targets for refugees. How can these be fair, as they settle numbers regardless of the situation in the world, regardless of the legitimacy of each claim? But that's what we do, send the most vulnerable Sudanese and others to their graves under the African sun because there is a target; must keep to it.

We will all soon be singing to aid and save Africa ( Brown and Blair, the Lennon and McCartney of politics most of all). Just don't mention Darfur and spoil the charity mega-gig.

Betrayed by Muslim complicity and Western hypocrisy, there seems to be no hope left for Darfuris. Except the permanent relief death can bring.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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