Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Michael Rubin Speaks on Sudan and Slave Redemption

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Michael Rubin Speaks on Sudan and Slave Redemption

Article excerpt

Michael Rubin, adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a powerful Washington think tank with close ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), spoke on the topic "Sudan and the Controversy Over Slave Redemption" at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC on Dec. 6. Rubin, who entered the African nation illegally in order to talk to the Sudanese without a government handler, spent the last week of September in the Bahral-Ghazal region of southern Sudan. He is now an "expert" on the slave trade in the Sudan, although, due to jet lag from another trip, he had difficulty explaining just how it works.

The speaker also is an "expert" on Iran and author of Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran, published in May 2001 by the Washington Institute as one of its "Focus on Terror" selections. In mid-June Rubin, who is a visiting Fellow at Hebrew University's Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations in Jerusalem, returned from nine months in Iraqi Kurdistan. In numerous radio interviews and articles produced since his return, he recommends retaining sanctions in southern Iraq, removing sanctions on the people in the north who "have fulfilled their obligations," and lifting the arms embargo for them as well. He also advocates turning the no-fly zones over Iraq into no-drive zones, as well--"similar to what we did in Kosovo." Rubin, who did not visit southern and central Iraq, favors regime changes in Iraq and has suggested various ways to contain or remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain.

During the course of his short stay in Sudan, in addition to uncovering evidence of thriving terrorist cells and training camps for supporters of al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Egyptian al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, Rubin said that he investigated the booming slave trade. Some private non-governmental organizations have engaged in "slave redemption"--paying a purchase price for the freedom of slaves. UNICEF and other groups argue that redemption perpetuates the slave economy.

"While the debate continues in the international community over how best to free the slaves in Sudan, no one there denies the existence of slavery," Rubin told the audience. "I interviewed former slaves who bore scars from burning, slashing and, in some cases, amputations of fingers. Most of the women and girls spoke of gang rapes at the hands of Sudanese soldiers. Almost everyone described witnessing executions, usually of Christians and animists who refused to convert to Islam. There can be no doubt: the Sudanese government remains a host to terrorists, and continues to engage in the brutal ethnic cleansing of non-Arab Sudanese."

When asked in what language he interviewed the former slaves, he said that some discussions were in Arabic. His comprehension of Arabic is excellent, he explained, and he would have noticed any errors in translations.

Rubin went on to describe the situation. Slave traders, who may be from the Sudanese government and its northern forces, "go around collecting people" in the south who are often Dinka tribesmen, women and children. Slowly, three or four at a time, the captured slaves are moved to a cattle camp or internment camp, according to Rubin. There they are gathered and raped. …

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