Thursday, April 22, 2010

REVIEW: Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir

Recently a thread was started on a website I frequent about the website This is an organization where you lend as little as $25 to people in need in other countries (and more recently in the US), and they pay you back over a set amount of time. You can then use the money to lend out again or put it back in your checking account. The reason I mention the thread is because I am at a loss to understand why some people are not supportive of sites like this one because they focus on countries around the world and the main focus is not on people in need in the United States. Any time a crisis occurs in another country-earthquakes, floods, war etc..-without fail I run across someone who expresses the opinion that we shouldn’t be sending aid overseas when we have people right here in the US who need it. I just don’t get this. For me personally, as an American I owe my allegiance to my country but as a human being my compassion extends to everyone in the world. It kind of makes me a little sad when I hear statements like the one mentioned above.

After reading Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival by Halima Bashir, the realization that the focus has slipped off the tragedy occurring there makes me a little sad too. In 2004, shortly after the civil war in this region of Sudan heated up it seemed Darfur was the celeb cause du jour. Save Darfur was everywhere. Now? Not so much.

Dr. Halima Bashir tells the story of her childhood growing up as one of the wealthier families in a small village in Sudan. Recognizing her academic abilities her father sends her to one of the better schools in the area where she competes against Arab students. Despite discrimination and unfair treatment because she is a black village girl, Halima soon emerges at the top of her class and earns herself a spot at University to study to become a doctor. At this point in time the conflict between the Sudanese government and the rebel militia was quietly brewing in the background. Midway through her studies the war intensified when the Black Muslim militia groups accused the Sudanese government of favoring Arabs over Black Muslim Africans and the Sudanese government responded by sending it’s Army and the Janjaweed (a militia group of Black Arabs) to commit atrocities against the civilian population.

Halima tells her story with honesty and puts a human face on a conflict that is still occurring thousands of miles away. She details her personal tragedies at the hands of the Janjaweed for doing her duty as a doctor and treating casualties on both sides of the war and tells of the unspeakable horrors committed around her as well. When the fighting reaches her village, Halima manages to escape to England but must struggle against a bureaucracy overloaded with asylum seekers in order to not be sent back into the war torn country.

This book and books like it are hard for me to read. I’ve been to a war torn country (Iraq) and I’ve seen and interacted with people who have lived in extreme poverty under an oppressive government. Halima’s story broke my heart but I’m glad I picked up this book because it reminds me that I need to think outside my own little bubble. I recommend this to anyone who wants to understand why the conflict in Darfur is occurring and why the attention needs to remain on it until peace is brought to the region.

If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library

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