WASHINGTON, June 8, 2005 -- A Republican congressman from Virginia who has seen firsthand the suffering in the Darfur region of western Sudan is determined to confront his colleagues with the same harrowing images as they go about their business.
Rep. Frank Wolf is staging an exhibit on Capitol Hill of 30 stark photographs of starving refugees, rape victims, and child soldiers that were taken by New York Sun photographer Konrad Fiedler. Opening tomorrow, the exhibit is intended to keep lawmakers focused on the crisis that President Bush has recently called "genocide."
"Having people confronted with the pictures is very important," Mr. Wolf said in an interview. "It puts a human face on the suffering."
Mr. Fielder, 27, shot the photos last year during a trip to Sudan with Sun reporter Dina Temple-Raston. The journalists traveled for two days through the roadless deserts of neighboring Chad, documenting refugees left with nothing but trees for shelter; the remains of a village burned out by marauding militia and women who had been raped by the militias.
"I'd never come across anything quite like that," said Mr. Fiedler of the hunger and malnutrition he saw among the fleeing families and children. "I'd been in Vietnam and seen poverty, but I'd never seen anything like what I saw there."
His photographs include child soldiers bearing rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The youngest child was 8 years old and carried an AK-47. Mr. Fiedler said he had little trouble getting cooperation from his subjects.
"The people were very open and stoic at the same time. They were just great people. Really open to me being there and wanting to share their story," he said.
The two-year-old conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, with some estimates putting the death toll at 180,000. It has also left two million people homeless and dependent on foreign food aid.
The crisis traces back to a failed rebellion by black Muslims in Darfur who felt short-changed by a power and oil revenue sharing deal between the Arab Muslim-dominated government in the North and black Christians in the south.
The revolt led to a crackdown by the Sudanese military, which evolved into an ethnic-cleansing campaign carried out by government-backed Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed.
Although the Sudanese government has denied involvement, Mr. Wolf said the militias could not carry out their campaigns without some official support. "There is no question that some in the government are complicit," he said.
The International Criminal Court has announced it will investigate allegations of human rights atrocities against 51 Sudanese suspects.
Mr. Wolf said efforts to put increased international pressure on the Sudanese government have been stymied at the United Nations Security Council by the vetoes of Russia, which sells arms to Sudan, and China, which has oil interests there.
The African Union has 2,000 troops in the region.
The photographs will be on display tomorrow and Friday in the House Rayburn building.