This post originally appeared on the Daily Beast.
Our generation went to college when green “Save Darfur” rubber bracelets were ubiquitous on campuses across the country. Congress passed a unanimous resolution in 2004 declaring that the situation in Darfur amounted to a state-sponsored genocide by proxy Janjaweed militias. We stood on the National Mall and chanted “never again starts right now.” A decade later … Darfur is up in flames once again.
New images from the Satellite Sentinel Project offer the first independent confirmation of the reprisal of Janjaweed attacks in Darfur this year. Sudanese government restrictions on access to the conflict zone mean that reporters and human rights groups have to rely on second- or third-hand descriptions of this fighting. These accounts, smuggled out through a network of activists and civil society groups, are still our best source of evidence. But, Digital Globe satellite images dated March 17, 2014, corroborate their stories.
In the photographs we can see at least 150 homes reduced to black ash on the western side of the Darfuri town of Saraf Omra, where Janjaweed fighters are once again wreaking havoc. Our expert analysts say confidently that the patterns of destruction in Saraf Omra mean that the damage was intentional—not accidental. The damage leaps across natural firewalls, leaving an indisputable trail of destruction.
When actor and activist George Clooney and John Prendergast first came up with the idea of using a private satellite to monitor Sudan’s conflict zones, they were focused on the Nuba mountains in the eastern side of the country. Since then, the project has expanded its scope to report on violence in South Sudan and also in Darfur. As co-founder Clooney explains, “We’re going to keep watching and reporting to keep the spotlight on as bombs drop from the sky and villages burn once again.” With the publication of each of these images, the Satellite Sentinel Project seeks to bolster local human rights reporting and challenge the government’s denials.
While the conflict in Sudan’s troubled western region never really stopped, 2014 has seen a dramatic escalation in violence. According to the United Nations, 215,000 people were displaced by violence in Darfur in the first 11 weeks of this year. The sheer scale of these numbers is difficult to comprehend, especially in a place that saw half a million people pushed from their homes by violence last year. The UN has quit updating its Darfur death tolls and even experts on the conflict are hard pressed to provide accurate estimates. We just know that the numbers are growing by the day. Darfuris are living through a largely forgotten war. Waves of violence just keep on sweeping over them, but the world’s attention is elsewhere.
Read the full post on the Daily Beast.
Photo: DigitalGlobe imagery – Saraf Omra, North Darfur, Sudan