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Darfur: an activist’s account

For Darfur refugee Mohamed Yahya, brutal racism was a fact of life. With the Sudan region in the midst of genocide, the loss of 21 family members and the destruction of his village all occurring simultaneously, Yahya found strength in helping others.

In his lecture “Ending the Tragedy in Darfur,” which will take place tonight at 7 in the University Lecture Hall, Yahya will continue to educate and inform the USF community about the dire situation that exists in Darfur today. With tens of thousands of people dead and more than one million displaced, Yahya acts as a voice for those who have been silenced.

When his village was destroyed in 1993, Yahya was a student at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. It was there in 1995 that Yahya, along with other Sudanese students, formed the Representatives of the Massaleit Community in Exile (RMCE). They submitted reports and letters to all the international embassies in Cairo, and in 1999 issued their first open letter to the international community, titled “The Hidden Slaughter and Ethnic Cleansing in Western Sudan.”

From 1999 to 2003 Yahya worked in Cairo with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). With its help, Yahya and the RMCE sponsored more than 20,000 refugees from Sudan, ensuring that more than 95 percent of them received political asylum in Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States.

Yahya is also the executive director of the Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy, which he founded after relocating to Charlottesville, Va., upon gaining political asylum in the United States in 2002.

Although he fled his native land because he feared retaliation from the Sudanese government, Yahya continues his humanitarian work and remains a beacon of hope for the devastated region of Darfur.