Smith Professor Lauded for his One-Man Campaign
to End Darfur Genocide
Mass. -- When she enrolled in Harvard Law School and wanted to learn about the
genocide in Darfur, Rebecca Hamilton came across a Washington Post column on the
topic written by Eric Reeves.
Then, noted Hamilton, she did what any curious student
would do: She Googled his name. What popped onto her computer screen seemed an unlikely
Darfur expert -- a professor of English language and literature at Smith College.
On March 6, Hamilton recounted how she had discovered
Reeves, during a ceremony in which Reeves received an honorary degree from Smith
for his humanitarian work for the African nation. The award is an unusual accolade
for a sitting faculty member.
Following Hamilton’s tribute to Reeves, four experts
who have worked with him led a panel discussion during which they decried the lack
of governmental pressure and media attention on Darfur and called upon individual
citizens to get involved.
“Don’t depend on governments to be the answer,” said
Ted Dagne, specialist in African affairs for the Congressional Research Service. “Do
what you can do as an individual.”
Dagne encouraged people to pursue projects such as supporting
the construction of schools in refugee camps. Other panelists spoke about efforts
to exert political pressure on China, which has been criticized for its financial
ties to the genocidal regime in Sudan. Reeves is credited with inspiring the “Dream
for Darfur” campaign, which uses the leverage of the 2008 Beijing Games to
press China to bring security to Darfur.
In recognition of the setting for the forum, panelists
said that colleges provide an ideal location to cultivate activism. Hamilton noted
that she had transitioned from her activist role as a law student to a position as
a representative of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. Now
she is part of the ongoing investigations into the crimes in Darfur.
One panelist, Omer Ismail, a native of Darfur who fled
the country as a result of his political views, said that the relief efforts from
around the world support the efforts of the people who live there.
“We are still fighting with everything we can,” said
Ismail. “We want this to be the last shame in the record of humanity.”
Susannah Sirkin, a leader of Physicians for Human Rights,
who has worked in Darfur with survivors of the systematic campaign of rape, echoed
Ismail’s assessment. When Sirkin asked Darfur rape survivors if she could bring
them something from the United States, they responded “law books.”
“These women want to go to The Hague, and God-willing,
we’ll get them there,” said Sirkin.