‘The Translator’ author to visit CMC campuses as part of Common Reader program
By Mike McKibbin
Daoud Hari buried his brother, was twice imprisoned and tortured and watched the destruction of his home village in the Darfur region of Sudan.
With no home to return to and his family scattered across thousands of miles, Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman, felt a need to go back so he could try to help stop the genocide taking place in Darfur. Many times, he helped foreign journalists sneak across borders into Darfur so they could photograph and document the unfolding tragedy.
He risked his life by offering his services as a translator and guide to The New York Times, NBC and the BBC, as well as the United Nations and other aid groups.
The Sudanese government outlawed journalists in the region, and aiding the “foreign spies” was punishable by death. Hari was captured and held for a time.
Hari will share his experiences, which he wrote about in “The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur,” this year’s Colorado Mountain College Common Reader book, at six of the college’s campuses during the week of Nov. 2-6.
Hari will talk about his book and experiences escaping genocide and surviving torture, as well as why he returned to help save the lives of others. The author’s talks are free, but a $5 donation is encouraged to help support Reporters Without Borders, an organization that fights for press freedom and human rights all over the world.
Hari said he wrote the book to share the story of Darfur (see sidebar) and to try to get help for his family, friends and fellow citizens still suffering.
“People are still homeless and living in Chad and other countries in Africa,” he said in a phone interview. “They also live in the mountains because their villages were destroyed.”
Over the years since the genocide started in Darfur, Hari said mainstream news media outlets have stopped producing stories because “it’s become an old story everywhere.”
However, Hari said it is heartening to hear from readers of his book who got involved to try to improve things in Darfur.
He has twice been in Colorado and has visited about 10 European countries as well as Latin America. He said people in some of those countries were not aware of the depth of the atrocities and the millions of people affected in Darfur.
“Some of them have their own problems with very high crime rates and very poor citizens, and they just don’t have many services to help,” Hari said. Europe and the United States have been the most active in helping humanitarian groups in Darfur, he said.
He said he doesn’t know when, or if, the situation in his homeland will settle down and things will start to improve.
CMC joins others in reading, discussing book
Hari estimated more than 50 colleges have done something similar to CMC “adopting” his book and raising awareness.
Colorado Mountain College faculty and staff chose “The Translator” as this year’s Common Reader book, said Jane Szucs, instructional supervisor for developmental education and college success at CMC’s Roaring Fork Campus. By more than a two-to-one margin, they voted for “The Translator,” she said.
A college-wide committee used criteria such as readability, topic and relevance to students and society to develop a list of potential books, she said.
“One main goal was to try to get people outside their day-to-day reality and move them to parts of the world where people have to struggle for their lives,” she added. “We wanted to get them involved and try to ease the situation. I think it was amazing we could get six campuses across 12,000 square miles to agree on one book.”
Individual campuses have chosen Common Reader books over the past several years, but this is Colorado Mountain College’s first college-wide book. Among the Common Reader books that individual campuses have selected in the past are “Three Cups of Tea,” “Plenty,” “Natural Capitalism,” “Farewell, My Subaru” and “Desert Solitaire.”
Some 2,500 copies of the book went to college students and employees, Szucs said.
A primer on the Darfur genocide tragedy
Hundreds of thousands killed, millions homeless as violence continues
Despite being in the news on and off for some years, Sudan is still unknown to many Americans. It is Africa’s largest country, directly south of Egypt and east of the Sahara Desert. In western Sudan is the Darfur region, a drought-prone area approximately the size of Texas.
The conflict began when two Darfuri rebel movements – the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement – launched attacks against government military installations. The attacks were part of a campaign to fight against what the rebels felt was the historic political and economic marginalization of Darfur.
In response, the Sudanese government, through coordinated military raids with government-armed militia (collectively known as the janjaweed), targeted ethnic groups that supported the rebels. The raids destroyed more than 400 villages, and millions fled their homes.
Many experts estimate as many as 300,000 people were killed between 2003 and 2005. In September 2004, President George W. Bush declared the crisis in Darfur “genocide.” This was the first time an American president in office made such a declaration regarding an ongoing conflict.
In January 2008 a United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force replaced an underequipped, underfunded African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur. However, the peacekeepers lack the resources to protect the 2.7 million displaced people living in large camps across Darfur.
In addition, an estimated 300,000 Darfuri refugees live in Chad, across the Sudanese border. The U.N. estimates the conflict still affects about 4.7 million of the 6 million people living in Darfur.
“The Translator” sparks discussions, films, author readings
Listed here are just some of the events associated with “The Translator.” For more information on these and additional events – including free classes – please call your local Colorado Mountain College campus or 1-800-621-8559.
What: Free viewing and discussion of the documentary “Sand and Sorrow” (provided by Garfield County Library District)
When: Monday, Oct. 26, 6:00 p.m.
Where: Colorado Mountain College’s West Garfield Campus, 3695 Airport Rd., Rifle
What: Free viewing and discussion of the documentary “God Grew Tired of Us”
When: Wednesday, Oct. 28, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley Center, Student Services Building, Recker Room, 3000 CR 114, Glenwood Springs
What: Free viewing and discussion of the documentary “War Child”
When: Thursday, Oct. 29, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Colorado Mountain College’s Lappala Center, 690 Colorado Ave., Carbondale
What: Free discussion about “The Translator”
When: Friday, Oct. 30, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Colorado Mountain College’s Vail-Eagle Valley Campus, 150 Miller Ranch Rd., Edwards
What: Free author’s talk from Daoud Hari, author of “The Translator” ($5 donation suggested)
When and Where:
- Nov. 2, 7 p.m., CMC’s West Garfield Campus in Rifle (informal reception and book signing starts at 6 p.m.)
- Nov. 3, 10 a.m., CMC’s Aspen Campus
- Nov. 3, 7 p.m., CMC-Spring Valley (includes silent auction)
- Nov. 4, 7 p.m., CMC’s new Breckenridge Center, 107 Denison Place, Breckenridge – SOLD OUT
- Nov. 5, 7 p.m., Bud Werner Library Hall, 1289 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
- Nov. 6, 7 p.m., Battle Mountain High School cafeteria, 151 Miller Ranch Rd., Edwards (across from CMC’s Vail-Eagle Valley Campus)