“Tears of the Desert”

Too often the conflicts around the world become mere sound bites. They mesh together with infomercials and entertainment gossip on twenty four hour news channels, and it becomes nothing more than so much white noise. What really happens there in these places no longer seems real. Sometimes it takes a personal account for it to make it real again, a reminder of what goes on in the world outside the hectic rush of every day life.

The reality of the Darfur’s genocide comes alive in Halima Bashir’s memoir, “Tears of the Desert”. Darfur has become a rallying call for many in the West as a focal point of human rights, and especially the rights of women and girls. Dr. Bashir, a Darfuri who now lives in Britain, is a first-hand witness to much of the conflict that broke out there. Her memoir follows from her childhood in the desert amongst the Zaghawa tribe, to medical school in Khartoum, to the violence she witnessed as a medical doctor attempting to heal regardless of race. She finds out that there is no such thing as remaining neutral in a racial conflict. It is a heartbreaking account of a woman who watches the country she loved be torn apart while trying herself not to break in the midst.

For anyone who is unfamiliar of the dynamics behind the conflict, this memoir is a searing and scathing indictment of the government that backed the atrocities that are taking place in the Darfur region. It reflects that this is not just a religious conflict, as many who are Christians may know regarding southern Sudan, but a racial one where Arabs are pitted against the black African Sudanese. Dr. Bashir’s account is a reminder that a common god may not have much defense in a world of racial hatred. Hatred is hatred, no matter what guise it presents.

“Tears of the Desert” is a harrowing account of despair and pain, but also one of survival. The conflict may be in a region far away, but it is a reminder that what seems like peace and security can be shattered in an instant. Tenuous truces between peoples with unhealed conflicts explode when not fully mended. Dr. Bashir’s life from her village, university, field work, to her exile reflect this fragile nature of life. It is by reading a book like this that what seems nothing more than a filler news piece actually comes alive, and perhaps the impetus to change.