Literary Activism

Harriet Levin Millan

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


A moment with Darfur activist Dr. Abdelgabr Adam
By Gilbert Flores and Marisa McStravick, Drexel University Students

Dr. Abdelgabr Adam, trained in the Sudan as a gastrointestinal doctor, was born in Nyala, Darfur, 54 years before political strife plagued his homeland. Today, Darfur is the home of an ongoing military conflict. In April 2005, the Coalition for International Justice estimated 400,000 deaths since conflict arose in Darfur — the land Adam fights so hard for today.

“No one knows exactly how many were killed. It was like flying over an open cemetery. You could only see bones. No one will tell you how many died,” says Adam, describing what he saw during a flight in a small plane over a ravaged village.

In all, some 4,700 villages were struck by the genocide, each one’s 100-200 inhabitants dying from drinking water from poisoned wells, gunfire or starvation. “People are in a hurry. Mothers are forced to tie their small children to donkeys’ backs and let them go. They know they must choose between their own survival or death for the entire family,” says Adam.

The genocide in Darfur began in the early 1980s, but according to Adam, political oppression has existed for a long time. While in his 30s, he held the role of a special envoy, a position he compares to that of a political ambassador. He communicated with foreign countries, explaining Sudan’s horrifying situation and the ongoing oppression. It was a dangerous job, and when Islamic extremists took power in 1989, Adam was forced to flee Africa. He found political asylum in the United States.

During his first several years in the U.S., Adam traveled continuously until settling in Philadelphia in 2001. He became actively involved as a Darfur activist, speaking at rallies at colleges and universities. “It was not easy to convey the message because the international communities were not involved,” Adam recalls.

He was elected president of the Sudanese Association of the Greater Philadelphia in 2001-02, and helped to form the Western Sudan Association of Philadelphia. These days he’s president of the The Darfur Human Rights Organization, which he founded.

Spreading awareness is the key, he says. “Let what happened in Darfur be known.” He urges Americans to donate clothes, shoes, school supplies and relief items to people living in refugee camps. According to Adam, everyone can be a Darfur activist by urging people to make donations and participate in rallies. Above all, he asks Americans to donate their time to educating themselves about genocide.

To donate clothing, money or school supplies directly to Darfurians living in refugee camps, contact Dr. Abdelgabr Adam and the Darfur Human Rights Organization at

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