If Only Our Leaders Had Mariam’s Guts

June 8, 2012

I’d like to introduce a valiant woman here, Mariam Tia, to President Obama and other world leaders, so she could explain how they’re allowing Sudan’s leaders to get away with mass atrocities that echo Darfur.

Once again, in Sudan there are starving children, tens of thousands of refugees, rapes and racial epithets, a spiraling death toll and passivity in the White House.

Mariam was pregnant when the Sudanese Army invaded her village here in the rebel-held Nuba Mountains and shot her husband dead. Enraged, she took over a mounted machine gun set up by rebels and began to rake the soldiers as they burned the village’s huts.

Mariam said she isn’t sure whether she actually shot any soldiers and that soon they began firing back, so she had to run for her life. She eventually relocated to a dank mountain cave, where — like countless other Nubans — she felt a bit safer from random bombings by government warplanes. When her due date came, two months ago, Mariam delivered her baby by herself inside the cave.

She named her baby girl Fakao, which is shorthand for: bombs are dropping. When people hear Antonov bombers releasing their payloads, they shout “Fakao! Fakao!” That’s the signal to huddle behind rocks and hope for the best.

“When this child was in my stomach, I used to run from the bombers,” Mariam told me as she nursed Fakao in front of her cave. “I named her this so that I could remember the struggle we went through to give her life.”

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