The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Women, Violence, and Power

So often, the narrative about the crisis in Sudan involves disempowering stories of women as mere victims of brutal violence, painting men as uniformly aggressive perpetrators with no goals but brutal lust and women as victims who have no agency in determining the shape of their future.

Quite the contrary.

Last week, Niemat Ahmadi – a Darfuri activist who is currently United to End Genocide’s Diaspora Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator – presented a paper last week in Sweden at the 10th Horn of Africa Conference with Focus on the Role of Women in Promoting Peace and Development. Her paper wove a different narrative, and it can be found in its entirety here (I encourage you to read it as soon as we post it!).

Ahmadi’s narrative centralizes power in the discussion of sexual violence. She argues that Sudan’s elites – identifying themselves as Arab for the economic and sociopolitical advantages that this brings under Sudanese president and genocidaire Omar al-Bashir – are using the ethnic heterogeneity of Sudan to consolidate and strengthen their power. Groups labeled as African are being targeted systematically as Arab-labeled elites assert their control. In very powerful ways, Ahmadi continues, this systemization of elite power translates into the assertion of sexual power and control of targeted groups, particularly women and girls from these groups.

While Ahmadi points out that historically in Sudan, women held places of firm power in society, today’s governmentally-enforced mechanisms of power grossly disadvantage women. Combined with the oppression and genocidally violent disenfranchisement of marginalized groups that we are witnessing in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, these power dynamics dominate the motivations for the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of genocidal war in Sudan.

The narrative of sexual violence in Sudan too often begins and ends with the fact that women are so often targeted for rape of a particularly brutal nature. Yet Ahmadi – in her daily life as an activist, and as an academic in her paper – emphasizes the continued resilience of Sudanese women who have been victims of rape. Her narrative helps highlight the activism of Sudanese women, as she strongly concludes:

"Despite the magnitude of the crisis and its impact on women, Darfuri women continue to emerge as leaders in their communities on local grassroots and international levels. These women have demonstrated a unique resilience and strength for which they must be recognized. Women should not be treated as victims, but rather as equal partners in resolving the crisis and shaping a future of their own."

We would do well to keep Ahmadi’s words firmly in mind as we communicate narratives about the situation in Sudan.

STAND’s New Grassroots Coordinator, “Yes We Can”

It’s been six years since I first learned about Sudan. At some point in 2005, I heard one of my cousins mention Darfur and, as a young and zealously curious kid, I wanted to know more. Over the next three years my interest grew steadily until I finally got involved with STAND in late 2008. And in three years of activism, I’ve encountered far more hopelessness than I have hope. From meetings with no attendees to even the most successful fundraisers, I’ve constantly wondered if anything I’ve done has made any difference for the people of Sudan. 

“What’s the point of STAND?” a friend once remarked to me while I attempted to drag them to a meeting. “The problems of Sudan clearly can’t be solved by even the best diplomats. What on earth can you do?” To be entirely honest, I didn’t have an answer for him at that moment.
But now I do. 
On July 9, 2011, South Sudan became an independent, sovereign state, ending decades of oppression. And on July 11, I opened my email to find a forwarded message containing a note from President Obama noting that independence is “a validation of the hard work by all of you.” Independence for South Sudan did not simply happen overnight, nor was only the result of politicians’ efforts and diplomats’ negotiations. It was the result of us. July 9 came because we lobbied, fundraised, and spread the word amongst our peers, friends, and families. The independence celebrations in Juba happened, as President Obama noted, because we have “shined a spotlight on suffering and demanded that the world never forget Sudan and its people.”
The road ahead for South Sudan is not simple and peace is most certainly not assured. Our work is far from done. In the months and years ahead we must continue our tireless efforts on behalf of peace and human rights in a country that for many years has been devoid of them. We must not treat independence as a victory, but rather as a stepping-stone toward our ultimate goal: peace and protection for all of Sudan’s civilians.
But at this moment, there is reason for celebration, as well as reason to look back and remember, albeit briefly, that our efforts have helped. And it is this consideration, this framework, which perhaps finally gives me a way to respond to my friend’s question. I can now say, three years later, that we have made a difference, and in doing so, I have come to a realization. No longer should I ask myself what I can do or if I can make a difference. Instead, I should ask if we, together, can make a difference. And the answer, as President Obama himself might say, is Yes, we can.
Matthew Lloyd-Thomas
Phillips Academy ’12
Grassroots at


My STAND Story: Why I Joined the STAND MC

Why You Should Apply for the 2011-2012 STAND Managing Committee (MC)
Name: MacKenzie Hamilton
School: Smith College Class of 2013
Position: Northeast Outreach Coordinator

How and why did you get involved in STAND?

I got involved in STAND my sophomore year of high school.  A friend from a neighboring school and I decided to go to my high school’s Battle of the Bands, which was held by a newly formed group called STAND.  In between acts, members of STAND would speak about the atrocities occurring in Darfur, Sudan.  That was my call to action.

Why did you apply to be on the STAND MC?

Having been inspired by the 2008 National Student Conference, and upon my return from a summer human rights delegation to Rwanda, I joined the 2009 Pledge2Protect Conference team, serving as the Lobby Day Coordinator.  Wanting to stay involved after the conference, but not quite sure how I fit into the larger structure of STAND, I applied to be an Outreach Coordinator, and served as the New Hampshire and Vermont State Outreach Coordinator, and am now the Northeast Outreach Coordinator.  As someone who loves talking to people, being an Outreach Coordinator has really helped me to get to know the movement’s most inspiring student leaders and work with them on various projects.  The grassroots is so important to this movement, and having conversations about conflict areas, advocacy opportunities, and events have been some of the most memorable parts of being an OC.

What were you hoping to accomplish in your position?

I really wanted to get to know more people in the region.  I had been very much inspired by my Outreach Coordinator in high school, and had gotten to know some incredible activists through regional and national conferences as well as Boston-area events and rallies.  My Outreach Coordinator was the one to encourage me to go to Rwanda in the summer of 2009, and I wanted to give back to STAND what she helped give to me; opportunities and friendship.

What was the most fun experience you’ve had as an MC member?

The most fun experiences have been my interactions with the STAND MC and my chapters.  STANDCamp was one of my favorite memories.  Heading to DC without knowing anyone and leaving with so many incredible and lifelong friendships and connections was amazing.  Building campfires, roasting marshmallows, and swimming in a 2 foot creek while gaining the tools to help end a prevent genocide and mass atrocities?  And for free?  Legit can’t get much better than that.

How has being on the MC changed you? How has it prepared you for your next step in life?

Being on the MC has made me a much more critical thinker.  It has provided me with a lot of training and teambuilding skills that will help me in leadership structures for the rest of my life.  It’s shown me how to work with very different people in a productive way—both on the MC and core chapter level, which is definitely a skill that would have been difficult to obtain elsewhere.

Why should someone apply to be on the STAND MC?

Not only does it provide you with great skills, it also allows you to work on a team with some of the most dynamic, inspiring, and motivated students in the world.  It allows you to develop yourself as a leader and an individual, and meet awesome folks. Throughout my time on the MC, I’ve met people like Carl Wilkens, John Prendergast, and Bec Hamilton.  I wouldn’t give this slightly hectic yet rewarding experience up for anything.

DC Chapters Take a STAND for Civilians in Libya


DC STAND students organized a march outside of the State Department today encouraging Secretary Clinton to implement a no-fly zone in Libya immediately to prevent further violence against citizens in Libya. The students’ actions today attest to the vital importance of a permanent anti-genocide constituency that can rapidly respond to violent targeting of civilians and mass murder. Twenty students from George Washington University, Georgetown, Catholic University and American University converged at the State Department today carrying signs that called for immediate civilian protection under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine and the State Department’s own condemnation of the violence they have referred to as ‘bloodshed.’

Check out some of the photos below and for more, visit STAND’s Facebook Page.



STAND Up for Civilians in Libya


Eyewitness accounts from Libya report violent government crackdown on civilians. While limited reporting makes it difficult to get a clear picture of the events on the ground, one thing is certain: the Libyan government is intentionally targeting unarmed civilians, and shows no fear in continuing. Additionally, violence in response to protests in the Libyan capital Tripoli has caused thousands to flee.

Call the State Department now at (202) 647-5291 and ask for a no-fly zone over Libya. If you are a member of a local STAND chapter, use the materials below to organize a call-in event to ask Secretary Clinton to implement a no-fly zone over Libya immediately.

We’ve been working hard this year to hold elected officials accountable to the promise of "Never Again." Our action now shows our own commitment to this mission. STAND against violence in Libya. STAND by our mission to prevent and end mass atrocities.

Call the State Department now at (202) 647-5291 and encourage Secretary Clinton to implement a no-fly zone over Libya.

Silence has allowed mass murder in the past when just a few calls from U.S. citizens could have prevented such violence. You can help prevent and end attacks against civilians in Libya by encouraging your community to call the State Department now.

For more in-depth information, visit this previous post by STAND Advocacy Coordinator, Daniel Solomon.

Download a Call-In Event Flyer with talking points here.

Download a one pager about the situation in Libya and how you can take action here.



 We did it! We spoke directly to the President! (shoutout to CUA STAND whose tweet was the one featured!)

In less than 24 hours, we were featured as the most tweeted topic in DC, #1 on MTV’s twitter tracker, tweeted by Alec Ross (Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for innovation) and, and mentioned in Tech Crunch…with over 761 tweets and 250 different contributors!  Most importantly, we not only reached our ambitious goal; WE SURPASSED IT.



President Obama spoke about various issues that are important to us: jobs, education, bullying, equality. And, when we as students of the anti-genocide coalition asked, "POTUS, can you hear us?" he answered, directly crediting student efforts, and urging us to continue to "put pressure on your elected representatives to get involved."  This is monumental.


In 2008, we made Darfur a campaign issue; and today, on national television, we put Sudan and genocide prevention on the map again–not only for President Obama, but for all of TV-watching America. We’ve made clear that preventing and acting against genocide and mass atrocities is an issue that’s important to us and drives us to action. We’ve come a long way, built organizations and chapters out of a common belief that no one should be killed, raped, abandoned, displaced–that the international community should recognize its responsibility to protect.We are continuing to build upon the first permanent anti-genocide constituency. And we’re here to stay.


The President answered our call. Now we have a choice–will we answer his?  In the coming weeks, let’s continue to use our voices and the skills we’ve acquired. Let’s continue to ask our elected representatives to speak out against genocide by supporting S. Con. Resolution 71. What we pulled off in less than 24 hours was incredible! Now, we have 90 days until the January referendum in Sudan. We’ve come a long way. Let’s keep building.

And, for any twitter skeptics left, hope you guys are creating your accounts now… ;]

WAY. TO. KICK. ASS. Make sure to share this win and link with your chapters! 

Andrea Hong
STAND: The Student-led Division of  Genocide Intervention Network
National Student Director
Smith College ’11


UpSTANDer of the Week: Advocacy Coordinator Daniel Solomon

Name: Daniel Solomon 

Position: National Advocacy Coordinator

School: Georgetown University

City: Washington, DC/New York, NY


What’s your story?

STAND’s mission, in one form or another, has come naturally for me. I grew up on the Upper West Side of New York City–a personal injustice was a low supply of corned beef at Zabar’s, the local Jewish deli. In retrospect, I encountered few instances of visceral bigotry and intolerance. Through my Hebrew school education, however, I began to study the events of the Holocaust at a fairly young age, and with a great deal of interest. The familiar moral questions began to materialize: How could this have occurred? What could have motivated people to participate in this sort of violence? Could this have been stopped? If so, why wasn’t it? My growing interest in Holocaust studies coincided with the emergence of violence in the Darfur region of Sudan. At Hebrew school, during a class on social justice and American Jewry, my teacher explained the moral link between the events of the Holocaust and those currently taking place in Sudan. I began to delve deeper into Holocaust and genocide studies, taking up the subject as an unusual focus of my high school career. I attended a few rallies–most memorably, the September 2006 rally for UN peacekeepers in Central Park–but never had a full sense of the scale and impact of the student movement. When STAND released applications for its education task force in the spring of 2009, I decided it would be a valuable opportunity for me to apply my academic interest in STAND to real, boots-on-the-ground activism. My experience hasn’t proven me wrong.

Why do you care?

STAND is the sole student organization responsible for confronting humanity’s worst moral perversion: the widespread occurrence of genocide and mass atrocities. It doesn’t take a moral philosopher to recognize the extreme damage that these occurrences wreak on the conscience of our global community. Our participation in American democracy provides us with a great privilege, as well as a great burden. As a member of this global community, I have a responsibility to gradually repair this egregious damage; as an American citizen, I am responsible for bringing this issue to the forefront of American public debate and foreign policy.

What are your goals for the year?

I look forward to reinvigorating campus communities to take action on behalf of genocide and mass atrocities prevention. The current legislative acts, based off of the recommendations of the December 2008 Genocide Prevention Task Force report, represent the culmination of much of STAND’s advocacy over the past six years. I look forward to working with chapters across the country to continue to develop innovative strategies to demonstrate student support for this issue, as well as others within STAND’s areas of concern.

What makes you STAND?

Others sitting when confronted by injustice.

You would never guess that…

if I had my choice of summer activities, I would work on a cheese farm in Vermont.


A lesbian, a black girl and a U.S. Army Major walk into a room…

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. On the morning of July 26th, two members of STAND and a U.S. Major entered Oklahoma Senator Inhofe’s office. I caught up with them after the meeting, and Jenn Polish’s adrenaline rush was vigorous, her energy infectious. “It’s interesting, honestly, because it was a really good exchange of views…people have to come to conclusions in their own time, their own space. That’s what social change is.”

Meaningful change often happens slowly, over a period of time–through conversations and, sometimes, confrontations. I couldn’t help but think of Jenn’s meeting as a symbolic indicator of the significant progress we have made. Here stood two citizens who have faced injustice in their own lives, fighting for those suffering a world away, exchanging views with a man who had served his country’s military and continued to do so through public service.

But maybe it wasn’t symbolic. Perhaps, that morning, two American students simply walked onto the Hill to meet with a Senator’s legislative assistant, and the assistant did his daily job and met with his boss’ constituents. Nevertheless, it speaks magnitudes about America and our democratic process. Since elementary school, we’ve been taught about our forefathers and America’s founding principles of democracy, individual rights, and freedom of speech.  In fact, in Canada or England, freedom of speech falls short of being absolute, for hate speech (any communication which disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race or sexual orientation) is prohibited.  America has the most resolute preservation of freedom of speech, allowing all expressions as long as it does not present “immediate, imminent lawless action” as ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1969. Our constitution demands that we express our beliefs, and we should demand it ourselves.

In America, every citizen has a voice. In today’s interconnected world, individuals and organizations — not just countries — play a defining role in international affairs, and the State Department has been taking initiatives to capitalize on these new possibilities. Take, for example, the “Engaging the Community on Foreign Affairs” Facebook page. STAND members voiced their concerns about the Obama administration’s inaction on Sudan,

“Mr. President: Millions of lives – and your legacy – are on the line. Your personal leadership is needed now to prevent a return to war in Sudan…your administration must respond with a policy that is coherent, strategic, and unified. With the lives of millions potentially hanging in the balance, now is the time for your personal leadership on this issue.”

Genocide prevention activists aren’t the only ones utilizing new social media. In response to STAND members’ posts, someone named Gil Donovan cheekily posted on STAND’s Facebook page,

"Mr. President: Millions of lives – and your legacy – are on the line. Your CONTINUED leadership is needed IN THE USA now to prevent a war AMONGST OUR OWN PEOPLE. People in THIS COUNTRY are starving. Thank you."

I agree with Mr. Donovan. Millions of lives are on the line, and the President’s continued leadership is, indeed, needed here at home. Though I’m pretty sure that my neighbors are not arming themselves for the Civil War of 2010, we do face fights of our own. We struggle with immigration reform; economic disparity; religion (c’mon New York), LGBT rights; pro-life vs. pro-choice; health care; unemployment; resource depletion; cost of education. These issues plague our country and need not only attention, but action. No matter the issue or what box we check when we vote, as citizens, we do our best to do, as rapper and activist Omekongo would say, "what we can, when we can, where we can," in every way we can. Through dialogue and civic engagement, we empower ourselves and our communities. We make our own voices louder and hold those in power accountable. Some of us make the choice to amplify others’ voices. Fortunately, helping others and helping ourselves are not mutually exclusive.

The United States government has the structural capacity to effectively address multiple issues. Most Americans think that the U.S. spends between 15-20% on foreign affairs. The truth? Less than 1.4% of the national budget is allocated to international affairs. Significantly, Mr. Gates, the United States defense secretary, has been the most eloquent advocate in government for balance in financing. According to Nicholas Kristof’s latest article, “Gates has noted that the military has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has diplomats.” Furthermore, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency has gone from 7,500 employees in 2002 to 16,500 today. The United States clearly resources its Defense Department sufficiently, demonstrated by its astronomical growth.  Addressing the most traumatic violations of human rights does not come at the cost of our own interests.  The U.S. can engage in more than one issue at a time.

It is absurd to say that one has to "choose" a cause to fight for. Case in point: Jenn Polish, a vigilant anti-genocide activist, additionally spends several hours a week educating her community about HIV prevention. Her STAND chapter, in additional to their advocacy on international issues, provides a food pantry for the local community. Furthermore, they will be working with Generation Citizen, a community-based organization that looks to expand democratic participation among low-income youth. Generation Citizen was created by Scott Warren, former STAND Student Director. Jenn and Scott connected at STAND Camp. When a person fights against injustice abroad, it does not automatically mean that they are against justice here, in the same way that when a medical student decides to become a veterinarian, it by no means implies that they value a pet’s life over a human’s. Support for one does not mean a lack of support for the other.

So, as I was saying, "a lesbian, a black girl, and a U.S. army major walk into a room." Ready for the punch line? There isn’t one. What’s more important is what happened before and what happens after.

When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech in front of 200,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he shared his dream. When Harvey Milk was elected to the Supervisory Board of San Francisco, he gave hope.  These big moments were, irrefutably, significant. But these historical moments are only powerful due to the way they impacted their communities. These defining moments moved a group of people to meaningful action. This is what we, equally in our roles as movement-builders, and as individual, engaged citizens, have committed ourselves to.

Because change takes time.  After all, America elected a half-black President less than two years ago. Harvey Milk’s hope became more of a reality only last Wednesday. The Jewish Holocaust ended in 1945, Bush jotted “Not on my watch!” in the margins of a report on the Clinton administration’s inaction to Rwanda in 2001, and as a candidate in 2007, Obama promised that his "conscience cannot rest" until the “genocide” in Darfur is stopped.  Yet genocide, child soldier recruitment, and the use of rape as a tool of war occur as I edit this piece, and, as you read it. 

We’ve got a long way to go. But, we are taking those challenging steps in order to bridge the gap between the world we have and the world we want. Thousands of students across the country are taking a STAND in their schools and communities, and more people join us everyday. A couple of weeks ago, at STAND Camp, over seventy STAND leaders got together in Maryland to learn the tools for effective organizing, advocacy, new media, and campaigns. I joined the movement because I wanted to take a step out of myself and do something. I’ve stayed because of the friends I’ve met that have made that same decision. We are building a community, bolstering our passion with concrete skills and working towards results-oriented action. We are building the first permanent anti-genocide constituency. And we’re here to stay. Together, we are taking a stand to preserve, first and foremost, the most basic human right: the right to life. Because without life, there comes no Liberty, or Happiness, or Property. And, because we made a promise. And we made it to each other. We’re acting together to ensure that the President keeps his, too.

Andrea Hong
STAND Student Director
Smith College ’11

Join us and take action now.

STAND has over 400 chapters nation-wide. Find one near you by e-mailing
Questions? Comments? e-mail


U of MN: Why we signed up to be an official STAND chapter for 2010-2011

Our STAND chapter at the University of Minnesota is one that is small and mighty. The chapter has united a group of students that are wholly unique and strong, and the bond that comes from working on such a worthy cause is unmatchable. We work tirelessly to advance the cause of stopping genocide, because we are all committed to the vision of a world that doesn’t stand by in the face of extraordinary violence and suffering.  Education and action are the fundamentals of our movement, and engaging the community and elected officials is our number one priority.  We use film, art, and people to get our message through, but sometimes it is not enough.  

That’s why we decided to become a core chapter in the larger STAND community.  We have an inspiring group of students that are unwavering in the face of antipathy, but we are not as strong separately as we are when we pull each other together.  The Core Chapters will help us be stronger than we are as an individual chapter, because it provides a community of support and ideas that will make our job easier.  Being an official STAND Core Chapter for the 2010-2011 year will create a base, which our current and future members can build off of to make a sustainable U of MN chapter.  This way, our chapter members can focus more on our local community and how to better serve our cause in a way that is unique to us.  We are excited to gain from and contribute to the STAND Coalition and our fellow chapters across the world. We hope many more of you will be joining us as an official STAND chapter for the upcoming year – we look forward to working with you!

Sign up as an official STAND chapter for the 2010-2011 school year to receive resources and trainings tailored to your needs and efforts and to work with the student anti-genocide community – sign up today before it’s too late!

Action Opportunity: Less than 24 hours until Senate Hearing on Sudan

This Wednesday at 11 am (EST) the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, Sudan: A Critical Moment for the CPA, Darfur and the Region.  The Committee’s Chair, Senator Kerry, will preside and Special Envoy Gration will be testifying about the Obama administration’s policy on Sudan.

This hearing couldn’t come at a more important time. Last week, with other partner organizations, we released a report card on the Obama administration’s progress on Sudan. On 17 of 28 indicators, the situation on the ground has worsened, while on 11 other measures there has been no change in the past six months.We have an opportunity to make sure the administration is thinking critically about next steps on Sudan and making it a pressing priority.  Please take this moment to see if your Senator is on the Foreign Relations Committee (listed below) – the committee presiding over the hearing. 

Please reach out to the office of your Senator on the Committee and encourage them to do the following.  If your Senator is not on the Committee, you can still reach out to Senatory Kerry, the Committee’s chair.  Ask them to:

  1. Attend the hearing; and

  2. Ask the Special Envoy tough questions about the implementation of the Sudan policy.

Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee:

  • John Kerry, Massachusetts, Chairman
  • Christopher Dodd, Connecticut
  • Russ Feingold, Wisconsin
  • Barbara Boxer, California
  • Bob Menendez, New Jersey
  • Ben Cardin, Maryland
  • Bob Casey, Jr., Pennsylvania
  • Jim Webb, Virginia
  • Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire
  • Ted Kaufman, Delaware
  • Kirsten Gillibrand, New York
  • Richard Lugar, Indiana, Ranking Member
  • Bob Corker, Tennessee
  • Johnny Isakson, Georgia
  • Jim Risch, Idaho
  • Jim DeMint, South Carolina
  • John Barrasso, Wyoming
  • Roger Wicker, Mississippi
  • James Inhofe, Oklahoma