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“This is not a conflict. It is a genocide, and we need everybody.”

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Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur

“I am telling you, what is happening is a true genocide. It is a war between Africans and Arabs, and it is a war against those carrying black skin,” she says.

Halima Bashir’s words are measured, her responses deliberate. She is speaking of Darfur—her homeland and the site of an estimated 400,000 killings in the last six years. In speaking out, she risks her life and the lives of her family.

Hiding behind both a pseudonym and a thick veil, Bashir has vowed to reveal the magnitude of the atrocities she has witnessed in her new book Tears of the Desert.

Bashir had an idyllic and peaceful childhood growing up in her remote Darfur village and went on to become her village’s first female doctor. Then in 2003, she found herself treating burn victims and girls who had been raped—some as young as 6, all victims of Janjaweed militia’s terror campaign against her people. Horrified by what she was seeing in her underfunded clinic, Bashir reported the atrocities to UN officials and became an immediate target of the Sudanese government. She was kidnapped, raped, and beaten, and she lived to tell the harrowing story of the Darfur genocide as she witnessed it.

“Before the genocide began, my life in Darfur was a happy village life,” she recalls. “Today, I am a refugee: I miss my family; I miss my people; I miss my home. Now, I am speaking out to tell the world what is happening to people in Darfur.”

And immediacy permeates her message. “This is not a conflict,” she explains. “It is a genocide, and we need everybody—the UN, the international community, everybody in the world—to come to our aid.”

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