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Students and survivors fight for Darfur

By Denebola
Published: October 2007
By Nathan YeoAt the age of six, Rosian Zerner had to fight for her life.

A child of the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania, Rosian spent the final days of her innocence hiding from Hitler’s soldiers.

By a stroke of luck, she escaped the Holocaust and was able to establish a new life in America. Today, Rosian resides in Newton.

Haunted by the horrors of childhood, Rosian, now 72, joined survivors of other genocides from around the world to share their stories of survival and to call on others to help the victims of Darfur.


“I ask you to learn from the past,” Rosian cried. “I stand before you because untold atrocities are occurring as I speak.”
The survivors voiced their support for the people of Darfur and their hopes of peace in the region.

South students and hundreds of others from around the state participated in the event, calling on China to help end the genocide in Darfur.

Activists believe that China, the biggest consumer of Sudanese oil, has the influence to force Sudan to halt its funding of militias, the main source of the nation vetoed economic sanctions against Sudan in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to protect its assets.

The rally focused around the theme of the Olympics, which China is
hosting next summer. China is trying to use the Olympics to build up
its international reputation as a responsible government and world
power.
The rally also attracted a handful of counter-protesters, who shouted
slogans such as “No war on Sudan!” They held signs demanding that the
US withdraw for Afghanistan and Iraq.
David Rolde, member of the Boston Anti-Zionist Action group,
participated in the protest against the rally.
“[This is a] racist, pro-war event trying to demonize Arabs,” he said.
They called on China to “bring the Olympic dream to Darfur.” The event
also featured torches from across the state, similar to the Olympic
torches that will soon be used in China.
“The theme for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing is ‘One World, One
Dream,’” co-chair of the organization MA Dream for Darfur, Jirair
Ratevosian, said in a press release. “But China is failing to bring
this dream to Darfur.”
Massachusetts congressman John Tierney opened the event. While he
praised the US and the United Nations (UN) for working against the
genocide, he said that the US, the UN, the European Union, China, and
the Arab League “should and could do more.”
Tierney also asked corporate sponsors of the 2008 Olympics, which
include Coke, Via, Adidas, Budweiser, and Kodak, to pressure China to
end its support of Sudan. Tierney called on the corporations to put
“humanitarianism over the almighty dollar.”
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, an Armenian-Christian minister, spoke for
Newton resident Peter Bilezikian who survived the Armenian Genocide
through the aid of friendly Turks.
“Genocide is a dark page in the history of humanity,” Aykazian said.
“Let us work to make such atrocities never happen.”
Sothea Chiemroum was eight years old when the Cambodian Khmer Rouge
regime killed his father. Chiemroum spent two years in a refugee camp
in Thailand after fleeing the country.
“I was robbed of my childhood in the killing fields,” he said. “No
child should ever have to witness what I have witnessed.”
When Merzudin Ibric was five, his family had to hide in their house to
avoid being killed by Serbs and ended up narrowly escaping for the
infamous Srebenica massacre in which 8,000 Bosniak Muslims died. A
grenade in his backyard injured his sister and a sniper killed his
uncle.
Ibric is now a student of Wheaton College and a resident of Revere.
“We will hear you, and we will help you,” Ibric said, addressing the
people of Darfur.
When Carine Gakuba was hiding from Hutu militants in Rwanda, she
thought that the reason the rest of the world was not coming to help
her was because conflict had broken out around the world.
In her speech, she compared the situation with Rwanda in 1994 to the
situation now in Darfur. In both situations, the international
community has been slow to react.
“We all experienced what it felt like to be abandoned and betrayed,”
she said. “Decision makers have often made the wrong decision. We must
take matters into our own hands.”
Panther Alier is one of the ‘Lost Boys’ who trekked thousands of miles
through the desert to escape the conflict in South Sudan in the
1980′s.
“I was able to escape the death,” he said, “but I was not able to
escape the trauma.”
Activists from 16 communities around the state brought torches to the
event, which were use to light a larger torch symbolizing the Olympic
torch. The torches traveled from as far away as Armenia, Berlin,
Sarajevo, China, and Cambodia.
Kyoko Takenaka represented Newton on stage at the rally, adding her
torches’ flame to the fire. In all, four members of Newton’s STAND, a
student Darfur advocacy group came.
“It [the rally] was pretty sweet,’ STAND member David Fisher said. “It
was a lot more people than I expected.”

“I ask you to learn from the past,” Rosian cried. “I stand before you because untold atrocities are occurring as I speak.” The survivors voiced their support for the people of Darfur and their hopes of peace in the region. South students and hundreds of others from around the state participated in the event, calling on China to help end the genocide in Darfur. Activists believe that China, the biggest consumer of Sudanese oil, has the influence to force Sudan to halt its funding of militias, the main source of the nation vetoed economic sanctions against Sudan in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to protect its assets. The rally focused around the theme of the Olympics, which China is hosting next summer. China is trying to use the Olympics to build up its international reputation as a responsible government and world power. The rally also attracted a handful of counter-protesters, who shouted slogans such as “No war on Sudan!” They held signs demanding that the US withdraw for Afghanistan and Iraq. David Rolde, member of the Boston Anti-Zionist Action group, participated in the protest against the rally. “[This is a] racist, pro-war event trying to demonize Arabs,” he said. They called on China to “bring the Olympic dream to Darfur.” The event also featured torches from across the state, similar to the Olympic torches that will soon be used in China. “The theme for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing is ‘One World, One Dream,’” co-chair of the organization MA Dream for Darfur, Jirair Ratevosian, said in a press release. “But China is failing to bring this dream to Darfur.” Massachusetts congressman John Tierney opened the event. While he praised the US and the United Nations (UN) for working against the genocide, he said that the US, the UN, the European Union, China, and the Arab League “should and could do more.” Tierney also asked corporate sponsors of the 2008 Olympics, which include Coke, Via, Adidas, Budweiser, and Kodak, to pressure China to end its support of Sudan. Tierney called on the corporations to put “humanitarianism over the almighty dollar.” Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, an Armenian-Christian minister, spoke for Newton resident Peter Bilezikian who survived the Armenian Genocide through the aid of friendly Turks. “Genocide is a dark page in the history of humanity,” Aykazian said. “Let us work to make such atrocities never happen.” Sothea Chiemroum was eight years old when the Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime killed his father. Chiemroum spent two years in a refugee camp in Thailand after fleeing the country. “I was robbed of my childhood in the killing fields,” he said. “No child should ever have to witness what I have witnessed.” When Merzudin Ibric was five, his family had to hide in their house to avoid being killed by Serbs and ended up narrowly escaping for the infamous Srebenica massacre in which 8,000 Bosniak Muslims died. A grenade in his backyard injured his sister and a sniper killed his uncle. Ibric is now a student of Wheaton College and a resident of Revere. “We will hear you, and we will help you,” Ibric said, addressing the people of Darfur. When Carine Gakuba was hiding from Hutu militants in Rwanda, she thought that the reason the rest of the world was not coming to help her was because conflict had broken out around the world. In her speech, she compared the situation with Rwanda in 1994 to the situation now in Darfur. In both situations, the international community has been slow to react. “We all experienced what it felt like to be abandoned and betrayed,” she said. “Decision makers have often made the wrong decision. We must take matters into our own hands.” Panther Alier is one of the ‘Lost Boys’ who trekked thousands of miles through the desert to escape the conflict in South Sudan in the 1980′s. “I was able to escape the death,” he said, “but I was not able to escape the trauma.” Activists from 16 communities around the state brought torches to the event, which were use to light a larger torch symbolizing the Olympic torch. The torches traveled from as far away as Armenia, Berlin, Sarajevo, China, and Cambodia. Kyoko Takenaka represented Newton on stage at the rally, adding her torches’ flame to the fire. In all, four members of Newton’s STAND, a student Darfur advocacy group came. “It [the rally] was pretty sweet,’ STAND member David Fisher said. “It was a lot more people than I expected.”

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