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Darfuri refugee to share harrowing tale

Daoud Ibarahaem Hari’s nightmare began in 2003 when soldiers, suspended by helicopters, unloaded a firestorm of bullets on his small Sudanese village, killing men, women and children.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, the Lehigh community will hear the former camel herder recount his harrowing tale of how he became one of only three Darfuri refugees admitted in the U.S. The event, sponsored by Lehigh's Global Union, will be held in Sinclair Auditorium and is free and open to the public.

“To most people Darfur is a horrific atrocity occurring far, far away, but this presentation will bring people as close as possible to the reality in Sudan,” says Bill Hunter, director of the Global Union, referring to the mass killings by the janjaweed militia.

According to The New York Times, more than 200,000 civilians have died and 2.5 million more are displaced in an ethnic cleansing the U.S. government calls genocide.

Hari’s presentation will follow a 15-minute video, which provides context for his story. The audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions of Hari in an extended session following his talk.

After the attacks on his village, Hari escaped to Chad. Rather than remain in safety, he assumed an alias and returned to Darfur as an interpreter for aid organizations and foreign journalists, including Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times.

In August 2006, Hari was arrested on false charges while interpreting for Paul Salopek, a reporter for The Chicago Tribune. For 35 days, he endured torture and interrogation in a Sudanese jail.

Salopek and Hari were released on Sept. 9, 2006 after the intercession of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. When Hari returned to Chad, government authorities threatened him with deportation to Sudan. After appeals from journalists and attorneys in the U.S., the United Nations High Commissions for Refugees sheltered Hari in Ghana, where he received approval to enter the U.S. as a refugee in March.

Today, Hari lives in Asbury Park, N.J., where he speaks for his countrymen and his family, some of whom are still in Darfur. He has testified before Congress three times and is writing a book about his work translating.

“Millions of people have been affected, but very few have his communication skills and the worldliness to tell the story,” Salopek said of Hari during an interview with The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. “No matter how good hacks we (journalists) are, nobody can tell it like a Darfurian.”

Hari’s presentation will be one part of a year-long effort to educate the Lehigh community about the situation in Darfur, Hunter says. To hear a different perspective on the issue, 20 interested students will travel to Farleigh Dickenson College to hear a presentation by Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, the Sudanese ambassador to the U.N.

“The world has neglected Darfur, and we have collectively allowed the atrocities to occur,” Hunter says. “We hope to raise awareness of the issue on the ground.”

Becky Straw

Posted on Sunday, September 16, 2007

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