By GEORGE AUSTIN
The Spectator, 11/07/2007
SOMERSET — For the past year and a half, many members of the different churches around Somerset have come together to raise money for the refugees fleeing a genocide in the faraway country of Sudan.
On Sunday, a lot of those people got to hear a firsthand account of what life is like in that African country by a man who says he was tortured for 18 months (118 days) before leaving Sudan.
Mohammed Ibrahim Elgadhi, the co-founder of the Darfur Alert Coalition, told those in attendance at the Congregational Christian Christian Church that he had been on the run for three years before being arrested in 1992 and put in one of the "Ghost Houses," which the president of Sudan had said did not exist.
"There were more than 50 methods of torture they used," Dr. Elgadhi said of what occurred in the Ghost Houses where he said guards beat prisoners.
Dr. Elgadhi said there was both physical and mental torture in the Ghost House, from threats with trained dogs to electric shock. After the torture, he said prisoners would be put in small cells where they underwent ultrasound that made them forget tortures they had endured (made them forget what they had said under torture).
"They used a lot of sophisticated techniques because they have a lot of medical people who supervise the tortures with them," Dr. Elgadhi said.
Dr. Elgadhi said he was arrested for documenting human rights violations in Sudan and that is why he was put in a Ghost House. He said he had been talking to people who had been tortured in prisons in the country (before he got arrested).
Dr. Elgadhi was released from the Ghost House under the conditions that he would be an informant or a spy. At that time in 1993, he said he fled the country to Yemen to be with family members.
Dr. Elgadhi said Ghost Houses still exist in Sudan. He said the CIA from the United States has been using informants from Sudan (Security Agency)for what they say is information to help them fight terror.
"You can not use a terrorist to help you," Dr. Elgadhi said. "You can not use torture (you can not work with torturers). That is wrong."
Dr. Elgadhi talked about torture and genocide not only in Sudan, but also in other parts of the world and the U.S. He said torture is used in more than 150 countries, including the U.S. Dr. Elgadhi said the definition of genocide that is provided by the United Nations needs to be reconsidered. He said the definition only includes the genocide of groups because of nationalities, ethnicities or religion.
Dr. Elgadhi talked about other genocides over world history, including the Armenian genocide in Turkey during World War I, the Holocaust and genocides in Rwanda, Kosovo and Iraq. He said there was genocide in the U.S. when many Native Americans were killed off and (millions of African Americans) during slave trade times that included not only the U.S., but also European countries and the Ottoman Empire.
Before Dr. Elgadhi spoke, Holocaust survivor Janet Applefield gave a presentation. She told about surviving the Holocaust as a young girl in Poland where anti-semitism was severe. She talked about how her mother was killed and her father was put in a concentration camp while she stayed with a cousin who was cruel to her. She said when her cousin was arrested for being part of the Polish resistance, she was taken in at a farm where there were eight children. Ms. Applefield was put in an orphanage, but in time her father found her and brought her back to Poland. When they figured out they would not have a future in Poland, they moved to the United States.
The two speakers were sponsored by the Christian Congregations of Somerset and Swansea. The title of the program was called "Holocaust and Genocide: What Lessons Will We Learn? What Can We Do?"
Dr. Elgadhi also discussed the "forgotten genocides," which he said have included Palestinians who can not go back (to Palestine and) live (with no rights) in the oil rich countries, the Japanese in America during World War II, Chinese and Soviet genocides (in the 1930s) and the genocide in East Timor in 1975. He said under the definition of genocide, the large number of people who are killed after a war is not included. He said more than 500,000 Germans were killed in the five years after World War II.
Dr. Elgadhi said the U.S. recognized genocide in the Sudan in 2004, but despite a peace agreement, atrocities and violence are continuing in the country. He showed photographs that demonstrate the impact of genocide which can include malnutrition and contaminated water. He said rape is used as a form of torture, especially in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Dr. Elgadhi said the attorney general in the U.S. has also tried to change the definition of torture. He said CIA "enhanced interrogation techniques" can include attention slaps, belly slaps, making a prisoner stand for hours, cold treatment and water boarding which the Bush Administration has denied is torture. Dr. Elgadhi displayed the names and photographs of torturers in Sudan on a screen at the church. He said people need to support U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy on his strong stance against genocide and torture (regarding the Atorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey).
"It was a very moving presentation and very informative, very sad to hear the stories they had to tell," Somerset resident Shirley Denison, who has been raising money to help refugees in Sudan, said of the remarks of Dr. Elgadhi and Ms. Applefield.
Sheila Matthews attended the presentations and said what is alarming to her is the CIA's involvement in the affairs of other countries around the world. She said the U.S. has helped in overthrows of other countries that have turned around to cause problems for America.
"For me, the thing that really hits you is how we in the United States have been involved in the genocides, either directly or indirectly," Ms. Matthews said.