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TEARS OF THE DESERT by Halima Bashir


A Memoir of Survival in Darfur

by Halima Bashir with Damien Lewis

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-345-50625-2
Publisher: One World/Random House

Eyewitness account of the systematic genocide inflicted on the black African tribes of Darfur province by Sudan’s Arab government.

Assisted by British broadcast journalist Lewis (co-author: Slave: My True Story, 2004), Bashir begins with her mostly happy childhood in a small village in the western desert. She does not whitewash the past, however: As a young girl she resisted the ritual facial scarification that was customary in her Zaghawa tribe, but could not escape genital mutilation (described in horrific detail). She was the daughter of a cattle herder prosperous enough to send her away to secondary school and to medical school in Khartoum, where she endured (and defied) Arab scorn and mistreatment. While the initial chapters charm with their fascinating portrait of tribal desert life, those that follow are grim. When government officials learned of the young doctor’s determination to treat the wounded from both sides of the conflict destroying Darfur, Bashir was at first threatened and then detained and gang-raped. Following the burning of her village and the rape and slaughter of its inhabitants, she fled south and after some months was able, with the help of a paid agent, to board a plane leaving Sudan. The memoir’s final portion recounts her life in England, where she entered a marriage arranged long-distance by her father. Bashir and her husband (a cousin from her village) repeatedly attempted to gain asylum as refugees, but they were nearly deported; thanks to publicity drummed up by the Aegis Trust, an NGO active in efforts to end the Darfur crisis, they were able to remain in England. Bashir still has no knowledge of the fate or whereabouts of her family in Sudan. An epilogue provides statistics about the extent of the killing and devastation in Darfur, the failed attempts of the international community to halt it and the enabling role of China, a major importer of Sudanese oil and principal supplier of its arms.

Both heartrending and chilling.