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Olympic Dream: Two Visions of Riders on Horseback
Horses are noble creatures, relied on for work and transportation for millennia. Equestrian events were first introduced to the Olympic Games in 1900, with competitions such as jumping and dressage. This summer, we will see the power and beauty of horses, as Olympic riders guide them though courses to demonstrate their grace and agility.
But in Darfur, riders and their horses often represent different qualities, bringing death and destruction to untold numbers of civilians. These riders are called the Janjaweed, or "The devil on horseback."
Amara is one of these young women. She lives in a camp in South Darfur. Because armed groups attack and hijack many of the trucks bound for the camp, there are no consistent humanitarian-aid deliveries to the camp.
Amara has learned to make and sell baskets at the women's skills training center to supplement her income and provide for her family, particularly when rations are low or unavailable. But to make her baskets, Amara must leave her camp to collect grass.
Even though Amara should be protected by African Union patrols whenever she and other women and girls leave the camp, there are not enough patrols to ensure their safety.
Once, when Amara and two other women were out collecting grass to make baskets, a group of armed men on horseback attacked, beat, and raped them.
How can we help protect Amara and her friends from Janjaweed and other militia attacks? The answer is that the international community must make the protection of women and girls a priority and fully fund and staff patrols for IDP camps, like Amara's, in Darfur.
As UUSC President Charlie Clements wrote in his August 10, 2008, letter to the editor of The New York Times, "Darfur civilians, women and girls in particular, can ill afford a second year of a still understaffed peacekeeping force that is handicapped by political delays. Despite the politics, we must figure out the best ways to protect the civilian population, especially women and girls, struggling to survive at camps for internally displaced people."