UN Book Wish Foundation Organization Conference October 17, NYC
Mohamed Yahya, Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy
Video link of October 17, 2011 conference – John Prendergast, Mohamed Yahya, Udo Janz, and Grainne O’Hara– U.N. Conference on Libraries in Chad for Sudanese Refugees
Ladies and Gentlemen –
Good afternoon. My name is Mohamed Yahya, and I am a survivor of the genocide in Sudan and Darfur. I lead the Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy. I would like to thank the UNHCR, the UN Office for Partnerships, and the Book Wish Foundation for the invitation to speak to you today. I am deeply moved and grateful that proceeds from the book “What You Wish For” will be used to develop libraries in Eastern Chad refugee camps where many of my fellow Sudanese refuges live. They need hope, they need dreams, and they need their culture and history. I too was a refugee from Sudan, before ultimately coming to this country, and so I can tell you it means a lot to me. This is a great initiative by the Book Wish Foundation, and we can’t thank you enough for this program to help provide libraries of books to help the lives of the surviving refugees in Chad. We express our great gratitude in your efforts to help Sudanese refugees in Chad who had lost hope in getting an education. With the ongoing genocidal war, they lost the lives of their loved ones, lands, farms, belongings, animals, and properties. We also extend our thanks to those you who visited Darfur and Chad several times, putting your lives in the front to save the lives of others, providing them with the necessary means for survival or education.
As human beings, we are inspired by our wishes, our ideas, and our dreams. Many of these we find in books. Books help us grow. Books help make us who we are. Books help give us freedom.
In the West, I have read books that speak of great ideas and philosophy, including writing by Nelson Mandela. I have read great poetry and I enjoy Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry. I have read great books of drama and struggle such as those by Leo Tolstoy. I have read great religious books from people of all faiths and different philosophers. I have read many inspirational and historical books from around the world and in different languages. These books tell great stories, provide great education, and inspire great ideas.
I ask you to imagine this. What if you were not allowed to read them? What if you were not allowed to read books, poems, history books about your culture and your heritage? Books help us grow. But what if someone refuses to let you read them? This is what has happened in Sudan and Darfur, under Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.
Imagine if someone tried to take your imagination, your history, your culture, and your books away from you? That has been the case in Sudan and Darfur.
Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir has led a long genocide against people in Darfur and Sudan. But the genocide is not just killing my brothers and sisters there. The genocide is also trying to erase their culture, their heritage, their ideas, and their dreams.
Imagine if someone tried to prevent books on your culture, your history, and your dreams – to try to erase your identity. That is how genocide begins.
It is a crime against all of humanity, including all of you here. We need the genocide to stop, and we need to heal the Sudanese and Darfuri people who have suffered.
This is why the work you are doing with this initiative is so important not only just for the Sudanese refugees, but also for humanity. We thank you and humanity thanks you.
I wish to recognize all those involved who have sought to defend in some way, the struggle of the Sudanese and Darfuri people from the genocidal war. I wish to recognize all those even killed, raped, or kidnapped while performing their duties, from UN peace keepers to individuals, workers, staffers, teachers of the World Food Program, UNHCR, US AIDS, International Rescue Committee, Enough, Our Humanity In The Balance, Darfuri Associations, African Union, European Community, Physicians for Human Rights, I-ACT, Stop Genocide Now, Save Darfur, American Jews Service, Mia Farrow, human rights organizations, UNICEF, Save the Children, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Darfur Interfaith Network, Eric Reeves, Humanity United, Responsible for Equality And Liberty, Change the World It Just takes Cents, American Jewish World Service, Jewish World Watch, Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur, Refugees International, Radio Dabenga, Amnesty International, US Holocaust Museum, Sudan Now,Africa Action, and more.
Someday, you too will be in the books of history. We need to finish the job to end the genocide and to bring freedom to Darfur and Sudan, so that those people will be allowed to read such books.
The Darfuri refugee camps have asked me to bring to your attention, including the UNSC and the US Mission through the UNHCR, the following actions that are urgently needed:
1- The Darfuri refugees are asking for a Non-Fly Zone over Darfur and all the affected areas to stop the Sudanese government’s bombings and protect their lives outside and inside camps and villages.
2- The Darfuri refugees are in need of help to build them more schools, libraries, and a refugees’ university near the Chad border with Darfur to absorb students, who might otherwise end up on the streets or become recruited as a child soldier after high school.
3- We appreciate your ongoing efforts for a peaceful settlement to the Darfur conflict. But the real lasting solution to Darfur conflict should start with justice. Therefore, we need you to support the ICC to bring Al-Bashir and all suspects to justice. Then peace will come and all refugees will peacefully returns back home.
4- We ask all to give full access to the humanitarian organizations and aid workers to reach all refugee camp with shelters, medicine, clean water and food supplies.
Once again we thank you all for your efforts and this wonderful initiative for libraries for the refugees. We share your commitment to ideas, learning, education, and hope for a future of peace, respect, dignity, and human rights for all people.