“An interview with…” — survivors of genocide

Genocide Awareness Film Series
APRIL 2014 GENOCIDE AWARENESS AND PREVENTION MONTH:

Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future
A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public. All details are here.

As part of featuring the stories of survivors and their children, Living Ubuntu volunteer, Alicia Buly, has been conducting a series of interviews. Most of these survivors will speak at the April film series events. To date, there are five. They are listed below.

Cambodia’s Past Shapes America’s Future – An Interview with Zaklin Phat (April 3 – Cambodia)
Second Generation Survivor, First Generation Activist – An Interview with Martina Knee (April 17 – Sudan)
Giving Back to Sudan, from San Diego – An Interview with Wai John Wai
Finding Strength in Testimony – An Interview with Edith Umugiraneza (April 1 – Rwanda)
Activism Through Education – An Interview with Levon Marashlian (April 2 – Armenian)

[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.

Second Generation Survivor, First Generation Activist – An Interview with Martina Knee


My first thought when I learned about the genocide was that if I could help just one child not experience what I went through as a second generation survivor, then it would be worth it.
- Martina Knee

April 2014 Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month:
Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future

A six event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children

Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with Amnesty International – Irvine and six local academic institutions, presents a six-event commemorative film series featuring the stories of survivors and their children. April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and each film commemorates a genocide that started during April. Living Ubuntu provides education about global traumas as part of its mission to heal trauma in order to promote peace. All films are free and open to the public.

Below is an interview with Martina Knee, a second generation Holocaust survivor who will be a featured speaker at the Sudan genocide event.

* * *

An Interview With Martina Knee

 
Birth place: Vienna, Austria
Occupation:  Corporate Attorney-Retired,
Full Time volunteer for Darfur Coalition (San Francisco Bay Area)
 

Q:  When did you come to the U.S.?

A:  When I was two years old.  We lived in the suburbs of Washington D.C. until I was twelve.  We then moved to the Chicago area, and I came to San Francisco to finish college.

Q:  Were both your mother and father from Austria?  What do you know of their background?

A:  Yes, but I know very little of my father’s side of the family.  He didn’t know his father, and he was an only child, very distant to his mother. He was raised Catholic but a very devout Atheist as an adult and died when I was ten years old.

My mother’s father (my grandfather) was a soldier in World War I and spent time in a prison camp in Siberia.  I don’t know anything else about it but mention it as it is the earliest war-related trauma in my family of which I am aware.  My mother described her father as a cold, selfish person who took care of his children, but today I think we would call him emotionally distant.

My mother’s mother was Jewish, and her father was Catholic.  Her parents married in 1920, when Jews and Catholics in Austria just did not marry.  They converted to the Lutheran religion so they could marry, but they did not observe and did not raise their children to observe.  Austria was then, and is now, about 97% Catholic and has a long history of anti-Semitism. In the Jewish religion, Judaism passes through the mother.  So, my mother was Jewish and was identified as a “half-Jew” by the Nazis. There is no such thing–one is either Jewish or not.

Q:  Did your mother/family ever talk about what life was like before the Second World War (WWII)?

A:  In a very idealized way.  My mother absolutely loved opera from when she was little.  She would talk about going to the opera as a child and being able to present flowers to the lead opera singer.  But she never really talked about reality much.

Q:  Did she have any siblings?

A:  Yes,  my mother was the oldest.  She had a younger sister who was very different from her, and a younger brother who was drafted into the Nazi army toward the end of WWII.  As the Nazis became more desperate, they started drafting teenagers and “half-Jews” such as her brother (my uncle).  He was killed at age 17 on a train that was bombed by the Americans.

Q:  What did your mother’s parents do for a living?

A:  Both of her parents were doctors.  It was very unusual then for her mother (a woman) to be a doctor.  Both of my parents were doctors as well, and my mother’s sister is a doctor.  Status and education were incredibly important to my parents, particularly my mother.

Q:  Did your family ever try to emigrate before the start of, or during WWII?

A:  I don’t know the answer to that.  After Germany annexed Austria and persecution of the Jews accelerated, my mother’s mother, her maternal grandparents and a maternal uncle committed suicideAnother maternal uncle disappeared; no one knew what happened to him. My mother was 19 when her mother committed suicide. I have a feeling they committed suicide to avoid being taken to camps.  My grandmother was, so to speak, the “Jewish link”.  She thought her children would be better off if she were dead because then there would be no link.  They were all in various places in Austria at the time (not in the same house), and I don’t know the details.

My mother never sat down and told me about the war as a story.  She would just mention these individual vignettes or feelings, but it was never continuous.  She never said that I shouldn’t ask questions, but somehow I knew not to ask questions.   It wasn’t until after she died that I read a zillions books on turn of the century Vienna and the time leading up to the war.  And then I had so many questions, and no one to ask…

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Who Is… Samantha Power?

Samantha Power addresses reporters on evidence of Syrian chemical weapons attacks collected by U.N. investigators.-photo by: Stan Honda

Personal Background and Education

Ambassador Power was born in Dublin, Ireland, and immigrated to the U.S. with her family at the age of nine.  She holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.  Power’s first profession was that of field journalist.  She covered the Yugoslav Wars and reported from Rwanda and Sudan.  Power was later the Founding Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government from 1998 to 2002.  Here, she also became the Ann Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy.  She is married to Cass Sunstein, and they have two children.

Professional Experience

On August 2nd, 2013, Dr. Samantha Power became the acting U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN (she replaced Susan Elizabeth Rice as the nominee in June) and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet.  Dr. Power’s previous posts under the Obama administration include Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council from 2009 to 2013.  During this time she also directed the fledgeling Atrocities Prevention Board. In these positions, Power directed efforts toward UN reform, advocated for LGBT and women’s rights,  addressed human trafficking and the safeguarding of religious minorities.

Now, in case you are feeling a bit winded just from reading a resume (I know I am), there is a reason why Power’s work, and resulting appointment as U.N. Ambassador, is so crucial to organizations like Living Ubuntu and the victimized and oppressed around the globe… her unwavering commitment to human rights, specifically in the Middle East, North Africa, Sudan and Burma.

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As genocide continues, does reconciliation wait for peace?

Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.
- Desmond Tutu

Genocide in Darfur, a decade on, continues.

A recent New York Times article, New Strife in Darfur Leaves Many Seeking Refuge, tells us that by no means are things getting better with “fighting since the beginning of the year… displacing nearly 300,000 people, more than in the last two years combined….”

In a recent interview, former UN senior official, Mukesh Kapila, talks about its beginning in 2003. Here is part of his answer when asked about the moment he knew he had to go outside of UN channels:

I filed my reports to HQ in New York, I shared my information with the diplomatic community in Khartoum, I made representations to the Sudanese authorities. Nobody was interested in taking much notice. It was in the ‘unwelcome news’ category, and the excuse was we don’t want to antagonize Khartoum. We just need to get a good north-south peace agreement, the land will flow with milk and honey and the problems will end. But I knew John Garang, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (the rebel group in neighbouring South Sudan), was going to delay signing until Darfur was sorted out. He told me to travel the world and tell people that.

Then a representative in the office of the Sudanese president told me they were working on “the final solution in Darfur.” This was the government admitting they were embarking on a genocidal policy in Darfur. So I said OK, I need to discuss this with policy-makers. I got briefings in London and New York, where I saw satellite images confirming everything we suspected. I said, “You know more than I do — why are you not doing anything?” They said, “It’s not a good time. Get humanitarian aid in — concentrate on that.” I said, “Are you kidding? They are talking about final solutions, we need a political process here.”

It’s really an incredible piece, well worth reading in its entirety, Darfur after 10 years: ‘My job is not done’, says Mukesh Kapila.

As a genocide continues into the long-term, does the reconciliation effort have to wait for peace to begin? Or does it need to begin in order for peace to occur? Read more of this post

What does a small child have to do to survive in South Kordofan, Sudan?

Children in Kauda, South Kordofan, Sudan, shelter from a passing Antonov, 2012. Photograph: Peter Moszynski

Hi everyone,

What does a small child have to do to survive in South Kordofan, Sudan?  This photo says it all.  How can we possibly even begin to imagine what it is really like for them to be in this horrific situation?  The accompanying question is, why do we continue to do so little to help them?

An eerie silence suddenly descends upon Kauda’s market as people scan the skies for the source of the distant yet all-too-familiar throb of Soviet-manufactured plane engines.

“Antonov!” the cry goes out, and people scatter, diving into the nearest hole or scrambling for cover wherever they can. After a few minutes the engines fade and people get up, dust themselves off and attempt to get on with what passes for normality for the beleaguered inhabitants of Sudan‘s Nuba mountains.

“Women and children usually constitute the largest number of casualties from these bombing raids,” says Ahmed Kafi, local co-ordinator for one of the few international NGOs that still maintains a presence on the ground. “Most of the men and older children learned long ago to take cover when they hear an Antonov approaching, but the younger ones often run in panic and there is nothing in the world that can prevent a mother from chasing after her children.”

From “World again turns blind eye to people of Sudan’s Nuba mountains,” by Peter Moszynski

Then this morning’s news:  Two Antonovs dropped 28 bombs in the town of Kauda in South Kordofan.  Amazingly, no one was reported as having been killed.  A few days ago in the village of Eieri a family of five was not as lucky.  They were killed.

Here is one little helpful thing you can do.  Ask the UNSC, AU and US to Provide Civilian Protection in Sudan. To sign the petition, click here.

Thank you.

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
http://livingubuntu.org
(949) 891-2005

Protests in Sudan: death, disappearance, and the dread of not knowing

Students demonstrate in Sudan


Students demonstrate outside the Ministry of Justice, over the deaths of four students from war-torn western region of Darfur in Gezira state, at Khartoum. ((Reuters) (December 9, 2012)

Hi everyone,

A few months ago, protests in Darfur got personal for me.  As the reports of government forces using live fire on demonstrators and mass numbers detained, one of my Facebook friends, living in South Darfur, suddenly didn’t have a profile on line anymore.  With no response to my email query to him to find out if he was okay, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of dread and helplessness.

There were myriad explanations and I knew he might be just fine.  Yet, just in case, I reviewed, and reviewed again, the names of those who had been killed.  I was relieved to not see his name listed, but that was the extent of info I had access to.  He re-surfaced after a few silent weeks and told me he had indeed been detained for five days.  He said it was the Government of Sudan that had taken down his Facebook profile and this of course had been my fear.  His communications had an undertow of lack of safety far more than what I had ever heard from him before.  It took a while, but he eventually managed to get out of the country and I continue to live with fingers crossed for his safety.  Silence in between emails can feel very long.

For many years I have heard stories of those who have been “disappeared” in many different countries of the world.  This was my first personal experience of realizing that I might have a friend who so-to-speak “disappeared”, leaving me in the uncertainty of not knowing what had happened, and not knowing if it involved yet another act by a malevolent, genocidal government.

Fortunately, my friend was released, able to communicate, and leave the country.  Yet, the brief silence left a deeply embedded experience of what it is like when you just don’t know.  For some, over the course of a lifetime, they never get to know what happened to those they love.  If ever there was an act of cruelty to inflict torment without direct contact, leaving family members to just not know anything has to rank very high on the list of most extreme cruelties human beings can do to one another.

With that as background, protests continue in Sudan and in many of them, those from Darfur continue to be targets.  Some protestors were killed;  some disappeared.  And somewhere others sit wringing there hands, feeling a sense of dread and helplessness, not knowing what happened to their loved ones.

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
http://livingubuntu.org
(949) 891-2005

People are Dying While the Politicians are Talking

Aid workers prepare rations of sorghum (AFP, Giulio Petrocco)

Aid workers prepare rations of sorghum (AFP, Giulio Petrocco)

As negotiations are slowly underway in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, humanitarian crises worsen. Internally displaced persons in camps in Jebel Marra in North Darfur, have no aid or relief access. Also spiked water shortages in Zam Zam camp are leaving displaced people without water. The local authority have reduced the fuel quota for water stations manned by UNICEF and at other privately owned stations. The crisis has increased the price of a barrel of water to 10-12 Sudanese pounds inside the camp, and aggravated long queues in front of the eight UNICEF stations, which are only operating for three hours a day. People in Kokaya in East Darfur have also been suffering water shortages for the month following the failure of the only water station in the area. A citizen of the area told Radio Dabanga that the lack of water has killed livestock including donkeys and cows. Meanwhile, Tolom refugee camp in eastern Chad has been suffering from a lack of water for the past four days after a pump stopped working, leaving 25,000 people without access to drinking water. Also shortages of drinking water in Seraf Umra, Dankoj and El Nasim camps for internally displaced people is getting worse as pumps are failing and other stations have reportedly been sabotaged by unknown groups. As if things couldn’t get any worse, there is also a famine threat in the Nuba Mountains with thousands left without access to food, water, and assistance.

Meanwhile, the peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan are said to be yielding slow progress despite reports of fresh clashes on the ground and questions about Sudan’s withdrawal from the disputed Abyei region.  Tensions were high as the latest round of negotiations opened with a South Sudanese demand for sanctions against Khartoum.

“The government of Sudan did not withdraw from Abyei within the two weeks as required.  This is a violation. We also asked the representative of United Nations to report this violation, and this non-compliance by the republic of Sudan, and we expect Sudan to suffer sanctions and measures from the Security Council as promised.” South Sudan’s Chief Negotiator, Pagan Amum.

Although recent negotiations are a great cause of celebration and progress between the two countries, my concern is with the dire need of the people on the ground who are facing humanitarian crises and water shortages everyday. I hope the leaders and mediators spend each day of negotiation wisely, realizing that with every day passing, humanitarian conditions are worsening.

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