DAVIE — Abubakr Elnoor's memories of Darfur are far from pleasant, yet seared in his mind. He can't forget the day when one battle killed nine people close to him, including his grandfather and several cousins.
"On that day, our village was burned down," he said. "That was the worst thing in my life."
Although the incident happened when violence erupted about six years ago, Elnoor, 39, said he knows the situation in Darfur is still problematic. He and other experts will discuss the challenges facing the area in Western Sudan during a symposium titled Darfur Calling at Nova Southeastern University on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Other panelists will include Mark Davidheiser, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (DCAR) at NSU's Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dustin Berna, Ph.D., assistant professor in the same department.
Elnoor, a doctoral candidate at NSU, is all too acquainted with the region. He grew up in a small village north of Darfur, graduated from Khartoum University School of Law in Sudan, and lectured at Dongola University, also in Sudan.
"After the tragedy in 2003, I was forced to leave the university simply because I'm from Darfur, so I came here to the United States," he said. "The government targets those who have an education in Darfur: Bachelor's, Master's, Ph.D. — all of us. Some people call us Darfurians."
He continued his education at Denver University School of Law, earning a master's degree in international business transaction. Now, he lives in Fort Lauderdale and is into his third year of pursuing a doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution at NSU.
Living in Darfur was awful, he said.
"A lot of people got killed or raped, and people lost their homes, their fortune, their sons and daughters, and fathers and uncles. The situation is very devastating."
The violence in Darfur erupted in early 2003 when rebel groups rose up against the government, complaining of discrimination and neglect. Many Darfur residents blame the Sudanese government for backing an Arab militia, the Janjaweed, which is accused of killing scores of Africans in the rebellious western province, and driving more than 200,000 into neighboring Chad.
In fact, since fighting broke out between government forces and rebels, a 2004 report to the U.N. Secretary-General stated that government forces and militias had conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killings of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, sexual violence, pillaging, and forced displacement throughout Darfur. Today, international agencies estimate that more than 300,000 civilians have died and more than 2.7 million people have been displaced within Sudan. About a quarter-million more have crossed the border into Chad.
Elnoor's parents were among the people who fled to Chad, although they now live in a refugee camp near a small village in Darfur that was burned down twice. He saw them last March when he returned for a vacation.
"They're good for the time being,'' he said. But people in refugee camps "don't have money, they don't have shelter. They need safety, security. Most of the refugee camps are the only way you can survive. The government raided villages on a daily basis."
Elnoor acknowledges that the situation was worse than it is now because of international intervention, resolutions from the Security Council and former President George W. Bush's use of the term genocide to describe the violence in 2005.
"The government is afraid now because the international community is watching," he said.
Meanwhile, Elnoor says he hopes to one day "go back home and solve some of our problems. I mean Africa, not just Darfur. We have a lot of problems."
His goal is to establish a nonprofit organization that deals with human rights issues.
"In the Darfur conflict, a lot of women have been raped and this is, I think, a violation of human rights. I want to form that organization to educate women about their rights, to promote human rights in the Darfur area. A lot of women in Darfur haven't had a chance to go to school, so my goal is to educate those people to know their rights."
Photo: Abubakr Elnoor
IF YOU GO
What: Darfur Calling, a free four-day symposium on the crisis and conflict in Darfur
When: Sept. 8, 6-9 p.m., Why Darfur is Calling; Sept. 9, 6-8:30 p.m., The Stories of Darfur; Sept. 10, 6-9 p.m., The World is Answering; and Sept. 12, 10 a.m.-noon, How You Can Answer the Call and 2-4 p.m., Moving Forward.
Where: Nova Southeastern University, Knight Auditorium in the Carl DeSantis Building, 3301 College Ave., Davie.
Who: Abubakr Elnoor and several experts on the region will speak.
More information: Visit www.nova.edu/darfur or call 954-262-6254.