The Secret Genocide Archive
New York Times OP-ED
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
February 23, 2005
Photos don't normally appear on this page.
But it's time for all of us to look squarely at the victims of
These are just four photos in a secret
archive of thousands of photos and reports that document the genocide
under way in Darfur. The materials were gathered by African Union
monitors, who are just about the only people able to travel widely
in that part of Sudan.
This African Union archive is classified,
but it was shared with me by someone who believes that Americans
will be stirred if they can see the consequences of their complacency.
The photo at the upper left was taken in
the village of Hamada on Jan. 15, right after a Sudanese government-backed
militia, the janjaweed, attacked it and killed 107 people. One
of them was this little boy. I'm not showing the photo of his
older brother, about 5 years old, who lay beside him because the
brother had been beaten so badly that nothing was left of his
face. And alongside the two boys was the corpse of their mother.
The photo to the right shows the corpse
of a man with an injured leg who was apparently unable to run
away when the janjaweed militia attacked.
At the lower left is a man who fled barefoot
and almost made it to this bush before he was shot dead.
Last is the skeleton of a man or woman
whose wrists are still bound. The attackers pulled the person's
clothes down to the knees, presumably so the victim could be sexually
abused before being killed. If the victim was a man, he was probably
castrated; if a woman, she was probably raped.
There are thousands more of these photos.
Many of them show attacks on children and are too horrific for
One wrenching photo in the archive shows
the manacled hands of a teenager from the girls' school in Suleia
who was burned alive. It's been common for the Sudanese militias
to gang-rape teenage girls and then mutilate or kill them.
Another photo shows the body of a young
girl, perhaps 10 years old, staring up from the ground where she
was killed. Still another shows a man who was castrated and shot
in the head.
This archive, including scores of reports
by the monitors on the scene, underscores that this slaughter
is waged by and with the support of the Sudanese government as
it tries to clear the area of non-Arabs. Many of the photos show
men in Sudanese Army uniforms pillaging and burning African villages.
I hope the African Union will open its archive to demonstrate
publicly just what is going on in Darfur.
The archive also includes an extraordinary
document seized from a janjaweed official that apparently outlines
genocidal policies. Dated last August, the document calls for
the "execution of all directives from the president of the
republic" and is directed to regional commanders and security
"Change the demography of Darfur and
make it void of African tribes," the document urges. It encourages
"killing, burning villages and farms, terrorizing people,
confiscating property from members of African tribes and forcing
them from Darfur."
It's worth being skeptical of any document
because forgeries are possible. But the African Union believes
this document to be authentic. I also consulted a variety of experts
on Sudan and shared it with some of them, and the consensus was
that it appears to be real.
Certainly there's no doubt about the slaughter,
although the numbers are fuzzy. A figure of 70,000 is sometimes
stated as an estimated death toll, but that is simply a U.N. estimate
for the deaths in one seven-month period from nonviolent causes.
It's hard to know the total mortality over two years of genocide,
partly because the Sudanese government is blocking a U.N. team
from going to Darfur and making such an estimate. But independent
estimates exceed 220,000 - and the number is rising by about 10,000
So what can stop this genocide? At one
level the answer is technical: sanctions against Sudan, a no-fly
zone, a freeze of Sudanese officials' assets, prosecution of the
killers by the International Criminal Court, a team effort by
African and Arab countries to pressure Sudan, and an international
force of African troops with financing and logistical support
from the West.
But that's the narrow answer. What will
really stop this genocide is indignation. Senator Paul Simon,
who died in 2003, said after the Rwandan genocide, "If every
member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people
back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the
crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have
The same is true this time. Web sites like
www.darfurgenocide.org and www.savedarfur.org are trying to galvanize
Americans, but the response has been pathetic.
I'm sorry for inflicting these horrific
photos on you. But the real obscenity isn't in printing pictures
of dead babies - it's in our passivity, which allows these people
to be slaughtered.
During past genocides against Armenians,
Jews and Cambodians, it was possible to claim that we didn't fully
know what was going on. This time, President Bush, Congress and
the European Parliament have already declared genocide to be under
way. And we have photos.
This time, we have no excuse.