International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The Horn-Blowers Manifesto

The Horn-Blowers Manifesto
by Julia Julima

Never in a million years did I think that I would be where I am now—mind you, I have only been alive for 18 years. Though my official status is a work in progress, I live in the United States of America and self-identify as a Sudanese refugee. I was born in Omdurman, Sudan to young parents—themselves victims of a greater war in a country notorious for just that—war. We are from South Kordofan; either of my parents was born in the Nuba Mountains.

This region is victim to the unrelenting land lust and complete disregard for the human condition by the Bashir regime. Many try to use the classic motif of “religious differences” as the cause of this debacle but anyone with any sense (of the common kind) can see through this thin, divisive veil. This cannot even be referred to as a conflict because it is so poorly mismatched. A proper classification would be: modern day genocide.

I describe the conflict in the Nuba Mountains as Darfur’s uglier step sister. Now, do not ill-interpret my plight, the Darfuri’s went through and still endure the barbarism of the Bashir regime, but they had medium on their side. The plight of my people in the Nuba Mountains however, is not even given the chance to befall a deaf ear because there is next to nothing in terms of awareness about the been since escalating scorched earth tactics used in the area.
This summer, I discovered history’s paradigm of repetition. The war my people fight is not unique to them. I began to examine and saw that like so many other nations, the tensions are between the two worlds: the haves’ and the have-nots. The narrative twists when I realize that, like in the case of my people, the governments are normally the have-nots, yearning for some materialistic-worth inflated in-animate object like gold or oil.

This summer, I found myself in the frustrated eyes of a Karen student, in the rhythmical words of a hijab-wearing, Qu’ran-quoting Ogadeni woman and in the lively gesticulations of a young Chaldean boy.

It was not my intention to have such an enriching summer experience but in the manner which way leads to way, it happened. I was involved with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) as a Student Ambassador where I learned about history, in particular, the history behind the status quo and the breakdown of international crises, aid work, and development. At the IRC we were not given statistics to run with, we were given primary accounts of history from IRC staff, most of whom where refugees. The IRC program helped me rediscover the journey of a refugee. I knew Somalia was a warn torn country so much so that the rest of the world has labeled her beyond reproach, though, it was not until this summer that I realized the intensity of the situation. It is one thing to read Al-Jazeera every hour on the hour yet another thing completely to hear the words of a survivor, and even to hear the same facts you have read online, reiterated from lips; it qualifies—humanizes all of the grotesque numbers that do not mean much with out being put into context.

I remember hearing the story of Amina, one of the IRC staffmemebers. She was fluent in 4 languages, a proud mother of two with a great white African smile. I have yet to hear such sweet sadness as when she shared her story. She had worked as an accountant in Mogadishu, which was a good paying government job during Pax-Somali. A few years later in the midst of political angst and violent uproars against Said Barrre, all of the government workers were prohibited from leaving the country. The once dream job quickly became a fatal nuisance, realizing the severity of the situation, she tried to leave. She was detected and thrown in jail for months. Later, she escapes and successfully flees to neighboring Kenya. She told us about her experience as a refugee and though she did not cry there was a dry bitter sweet tear in her eye; she made it known that she wanted to be home and if it was not for the present circumstances, she would be. If ever, I had not known courage, strength or wisdom, I had just met her.

Regrettably, while partaking in the program at the IRC, a drought struck east Africa. I was apart of a youth group with a strong Somali presence. Through that group, Seeds of Afrika (SOA,) I was introduced to the Somali Youth League of San Diego (SYL.) I ended up working with SYL and SOA on various joint projects to raise money for the victims of the drought. The large SYL event generated about 25,000 dollars which went to an Islamic organization that delivered the food in Somalia.
When I was in elementary school, I was tutored at the Refugee Network. A few years later, I was able to start working with them. The title of the organization is no misnomer, it works with refugee families and aids them with resettlement, I volunteer in the tutoring department.

April had bright brown quizzical eyes. She wanted to know everything about me. All of the other tutors were white and I was not. I was not even the familiar shade of light brown like some African Americans; she said I was a pitch black color and she wanted to know where it came from. I told her everything she wanted. She then shared her life in the refugee camps in Thailand. Though she has spent her 17 years of life in a refugee camp in Thailand, she knew that it was not her home. Home was Burma, where so many of her people have been targeted. Naively, I knew nothing of the region to the extent of thinking Burma and Myanmar two separate entities. We were both enraptured by the other and we decided to take out a map to point out our motherlands.

We begin to talk about colonialism and how it affected each of our homelands. We found it interesting how in school we learn that colonization is a part of history and that it is over with but man this summer, my world was turned upside down, inside out and right side left. Burma, like so many other colonized nations, was wrought by violence at the hands of the colonizers. Though there were ethnic tensions before the arrival of the British, they were a catalyst for the horrific violence yet to come. It also does not help that the fertile Burmese land is being exploited by so many—but that’s another story. I can now successfully point out Burma on a map.

All of these personal stories I share with you as trinkets of hope and a call to duty. As mankind still suffers, the horn must still blow. I, in the way that I can, will use my words as a siren. I will be a horn blower for my Rohingya sister, my Karen brother, my Ogadeni cousin, my Darfuri uncle, and the rest of my family members that suffer. Many before me have lined up in the symphony against injustice and I stand in line, my siren of words harmonizing with those before me and those next to me. As shown in the holocaust, in the civil rights movement, in Ghandi’s Salt March, suffering will not end until each one of us joins the symphony.

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