On September 9th, actress and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow kicked off a symbolic torch relay on behalf of Olympic Dream for Darfur from Dag Hammerskjold Plaza across the street from the Sudanese Mission to the United Nations. Genocide and holocaust survivors from Darfur, Armenia, Auschwitz, Berlin, Cambodia and Rwanda passed the torch to each other until the relay reached the Chinese Mission to the U.N. for a candle lighting ceremony.

The torch relay will travel through more than 30 U.S. states “to raise awareness about the atrocities in Darfur and to urge China, as the next Olympic host, to use its influence to end the ongoing suffering,” according to press materials issued by Dream for Darfur. The route includes sites of memorials for victims of crimes against humanity.

The U.S. torch relay is organized in solidarity with an international relay launched by Farrow on August 15th – one year before the Beijing Olympic Games begin – from western Sudan at the Darfur-Chad border “to carry the Olympic spirit and a message of ending the violence in Darfur all the way to China,” reports Voice of America. The torch has passed through Chad and Rwanda, and will travel through every other country whose people have suffered genocide in modern times – Armenia, Bosnia, Cambodia, Germany and Poland – before arriving in Hong Kong in December.

Since 2003, more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their villages in Darfur. Thanks in part to Farrow’s efforts, the government of Sudan finally relented and will allow a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, which should be in place by the end of the year. The operation will consist of 20,000 peacekeepers and 6,000 civilian police, as well as a 7,000 African peacekeeping force already in Darfur.

“China is hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and their slogan for the games is `One world, One dream’ but there is one nightmare – that China is not allowed to sweep under the rug – and that nightmare is Darfur,” Farrow told reporters at the start of the international torch relay. She explains that China’s oil interest in Sudan is funding the ongoing attacks on the people of Darfur.

In other news concerning the Armenian Genocide, The Stiletto has been following the controversy over the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place For Hate program for schoolchildren, because the organization refuses to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Armenians in MA want schools in their state to reject the program. On September 8th, at a meeting of the Belmont Human Rights Commission, Lenna Garibian – a mother of two daughters, one 7 years-old and the other 5 – gave a speech (video link) about how Armenian Genocide denial affects the families of survivors and victims. Here is some of what Garibian had to say:

Over the past few months, as this No Place for Hate issue has gone on, Armenians have become more and more frustrated and angered by the insensitivity of the Anti- Defamation League – and also with the individual towns and politicians that host No Place for Hate programs.

A number of suggestions have been made to Armenians:

† It has been suggested that Armenians sit down with Turkish historians to “uncover the truth” about the events of 1915.

† It has been suggested that Armenians withdraw the Congressional resolution, already supported by a majority of U.S. Congressmen, that calls for the U.S. Congress to set aside April 24 as a day to commemorate the victims of the Armenian genocide.

† It has also been suggested that Armenians reconcile with Turkey and put away the bad feelings of almost 100 years ago.

† And finally, it’s been suggested that Armenians give Mr. Foxman and the ADL more time, perhaps until November, to decide on what the ADL’s policy regarding the Armenian Genocide should be.

I am here to tell you that we Armenians are fed up with the callous and insensitive suggestions that have been proposed to us. We are the sons and daughters of a generation who were driven from their lands, raped, tortured and slaughtered in the deserts of Turkey. …

My grandmother was five years old when she was taken from her home and told to start walking. Her father had been taken by the Turkish police weeks before. When the same police returned, they told her family that their village was no longer safe, and that they would be escorted to safety. She left with her mother and three year-old brother, Edward.

In time, her mother weakened and died before her eyes. My grandmother vividly remembered watching her mother’s body buried in the Syrian Desert. But what she remembered most was being told by her mother before she died to take care of her three year-old brother. The two of them continued alone, and she held her brother’s hand, walking through the desert for weeks, until one day she found that she had lost him. Somewhere along the way, she became too weak or too tired or too delirious to keep hold of a three year-old boy’s hand, and he was lost forever.

Lost forever, except in my grandmother’s mind. Because for the rest of her life [she] lived with the guilt of letting her little brother die alone in the desert. Until the last weeks of her life – when she was most confused – she was tearing around the nursing home still trying to find Edward. … She could never forget the horror of letting him wander alone in the desert, presumably to die. She never forgave herself for that. …

When I think of my grandmother’s guilt, and her pain, and I think of these suggestions that have been made to Armenians, I am outraged. And when I read of the statements between Mr. Foxman and Turkish officials – referring to this crisis as an uncomfortable episode that Turks must endure, I am incensed. Having grown up with countless stories like the ones you have heard this evening, I have lost the ability to be patient – with the politicians and people who want me to wait a bit while they think things over.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.

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