Friday, February 29, 2008
The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
I received this book back in January from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. It's taken me this long to read it not because it's a long book, in fact, it's quite short (less than 200 pages), but because it's difficult to read. It's heartbreaking and surreal. We hear a little about the situation in Darfur every now and then, but we remain safely removed. The book tells the story of what's happening to the people of Darfur as I write this. It's been going on for years, and the issue is extremely complicated with many different factions and rebel groups.
This book tells the story of Darfur through the eyes of Daoud Hari. He's lucky enough to have had a good education and can speak several languages -- Arabic, English and his native Zaghawa. After his village is destroyed, he decides to use his skills to become a translator for reporters or anyone else who is willing to go into Darfur to get the message out to the rest of the world. The message is clear -- there's a genocide of massive proportion being carried out in Darfur. This is not a war; this is not a civil war. This is a genocide. Women, children, and the elderly are brutally slaughtered as whole villages are systematically wiped off the map.
The world has been slow in sending help. There are refugee camps set up along the border of Darfur. However, these camps are not much safer than being in Darfur. It's crowded; there's not enough food, and it lacks adequate shelter from the harsh conditions. But worse than all of this, the women and young girls are extremely vulnerable. They're repeatedly raped when they're forced to hunt for firewood in the woods surrounding the camps.
"Three young girls in another tent also must gather firewood. The oldest of these is fourteen. The youngest, maybe nine, wears a dusty black shawl that covers her head like a hood to hide her face. She never looks up and it seems she is willing herself into the sand. They have been raped many times, but they need to go back again soon for more fuel. They cry to talk about it."
After many captures, beatings, and imprisonments, Daoud Hari finally escapes the region with the help of some of the journalists and officials he met from the U.S. and the U.K. He now lives in the United States and continues his efforts to bring attention to the situation in Darfur. This book is something that everyone should read. It's painful, but it sheds a brief light on a situation that demands out attention.