The first day of the conference began with a group of young, restless students who were primed and ready to debate. Within five minutes of receiving our UN accreditation, there was already an immediate crowd gathering around an Iranian man holding gory, inflammatory photos of Palestinian children, and a fellow Dutch student.
Due to my Darfur activist experiences and personal feeling of connection to their cause, I was immediately drawn to the stoic Darfurian delegation standing in the background. When I showed them my matching green bracelet stating “Not on my watch—Save Darfur,” we began discussing the similarities between our people’s experiences as victims of genocide. Pictures were taken, hands were shaken, and smiles exchanged between Jewish students from Italy to South Africa to Los Angeles and a handful of delegates from Darfur.
Then the group discussions began to merge. The Darfurians asked the Iranian man why, as a Muslim, he was solely supporting the Palestinians in Gaza and completely ignored the state-sponsored violent elimination of a conservative estimate of 200,000 African Muslims in Darfur, a region of Sudan. The Iranian man soon lost credibility as he could not legitimately answer this question and a few of the Darfurian men shed tears as they recounted their tragic stories and the lives lost of their loved ones.
It was a powerful and necessary exchange. I have never had an opportunity to tell a Darfurian citizen first hand how sincere and passionate I feel about the plight of their people and I think it is safe to assume they have rarely, if at all, ever received first hand support from a white, Jewish girl from California.
This chance meeting was enough to energize and motivate me for the entire day. I was ready to finally take on this conference.