The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

UNAMID is there Protecting Civilians Rights?

By Mo Ahmed

Resposted from

On Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at around 8 pm, I joined a group of friends in front of the University of Rochester’s Rush-Rhees Library in solidarity for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. We had candles handed out, and observed a few moments of silence for all victims of this cowardly terrorism act against innocent men, women and children who did nothing wrong but promoted peace and kindness in the world.

Nine hours later, April 18, 2013 (Yesterday) at approximately 5 am— I received yet another call to light more candles and observe more moments of silence. This time I will need to light candles for five immediate family members and many other civilians who were brutally murdered  in Labado, a small town in Eastern Darfur where many of my family members live. Sadly enough, my uncle, two of his sons and another cousin were killed right in front of United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) base. Later on, another one of my close relatives was also found dead not far from the same base. I’m in direct contact with people on the ground. I have details of more victims.

This incident took place on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at approximately 09:30 am—when the Sudanese Armed Forces, supported by the Popular Defense Forces and another armed group (call them Janjaweed Militias if you wish), took control of Labado town from the Sudan Liberation Movement / Minni Minawi (SLA/MM). See 16 Apr 13 –Press statement on the situation in Labado and Mohajeria, East Darfur.

Frankly speaking, and from personal experience of working in support of Sudan peacekeeping missions (including AUCFC, AMIS, UNAMID) for many years, I am not surprised to see incidents like this taking place in front of the “Peacekeepers,” and folks familiar with peacekeeping operations (especially in Sudan) will understand why I say this.  Of course, I am neither saying Darfur would be better off without UNAMID nor am I under-appreciating the sacrifices made by many (including lives) in order to promote peace and stability in my country. My point here is that UNAMID is inefficient and can’t even protect its own personnel put aside the very same people that the mission is there to protect.

Further more, it’s important to note that UNAMID, was established on 31 July 2007 with the adoption of Security Council resolution 1769. UNAMID has the “protection of civilians” as its core mandate along with other tasks that include contributing to security for “humanitarian assistance”, monitoring and verifying implementation of agreements, assisting an inclusive political process, “contributing to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law” see The Security Council’s extension of UNAMID mandate through 31 July 3013.

Just a few questions for our dear world leaders: continuous rights violations by the Government of Sudan (GOS) and its militias right in front of UNAMID troops stationed in the area is totally normal, right? After all, UN official  estimates of Darfur death toll five-years into the conflict (2003-2008)was only 300,000 in 2008 right?
If those estimates (although they range from 200,000 to 300, 000 depending on the source) are not significant enough, then please consider this: according to a peace studies program conducted by Cornell University, just between 1983- 2001, Sudan accounted for 2 Million War Related Deaths,of course, overwhelmingly civilians. I think the moral high ground has long been lost by the International Community. Bashir and his Milita’s are free to kill, rape, and displace as many civilians as they can (From South Sudan, to Darfur, Nuba Mountains, The Blue Nile..etc) , and the solution is turning a blind eye on Sudan to let them all die right? Or could be it be just asking for more money from the International Donors like This?
I’ll only focus on a few small aspects of this piece today, for it deserves a whole book and not a blog post.

If I may ask more questions: Is Bashir a saint compared to Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the late Gaddafi of Libya, current Asaad of Syria or even Joseph Kony? If the answer from the International Community is yes, then I will have no further questions. And if the answer is no, then what is so special about Bashir? When will he be asked to step down?  yet, even a better question: when do we draw the red line?
Please read my previous recent posts like this and/or this to get the full picture of what i’m intending to say here.

As complicated as Sudan’s crises are and whatever uncertainties there might be, I think letting Bashir continue suppressing or killing Sudanese civilians is one of the greatest mistakes the International Community has made and continues making in recent history. Nonetheless, it’s still not too late for the International Community and the WHOLE WORLD to do the right thing. I see no reason why any particular groups of civilians in other countries (Be it the Middle East, North Africa or any other part of the globe) are adored or idolized more than the civilian population in Sudan.

Rape and Slavery: Let’s Call them by Name and Refuse to Ignore them

By Lindsay Woods, George Washington University STAND

Gender based violence, human trafficking, rape as a weapon of war… All of these terms are internationally recognized euphemisms that belie the horrible situations they represent.

Gender based violence is a term commonly associated with the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A mineral rich region, with a wealth of natural resources that are used in our technology, the DRC has been mired in conflict amongst various factions since 1996 when an influx of rebel forces from neighboring countries began waging what some call Africa’s World War, especially coming from Rwanda in the eastern region following the 1994 genocide. In the midst of the fighting, rebel forces and army groups have been known to violate human rights of local communities, and shocking numbers of civilian women have been raped by militants or taken as sex slaves for militia groups. Rape is used as a means of inducing fear and control, and women who are raped are often stigmatized and blamed for their attack.

A little closer to home, another group of stigmatized individuals feels the effects of what is so pristinely termed “gender based violence.” Domestic sex trafficking, one component of human trafficking, involves the manipulation of individuals into forced prostitution. In order to be considered trafficking there must be evidence of force, fraud or coercion or the victim must be under that age of 18. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the United States legislation which focuses on human trafficking allows access to services for foreign victims, but does not help domestic victims who are seen as already having access to the system. Survivors of domestic sex trafficking are often charged for prostitution and few lawyers want to take their cases in court, as survivors are often scared to provide evidence against their traffickers due to trauma and threats of harm to family members or others. There is a lack of statistical information regarding the number of domestic victims of trafficking, and there are extremely low prosecution rates. Debates about prostitution and cultural conceptions which blame the victim, rather than buyers and pimps, continue to detract from greater responses and awareness of the manipulation and trauma involved in these cases.

Whether continents away in the DRC, or here on American soil, these individuals are often subjected to repeated sexual abuse. It may be multiple armed militia members, or it may be repeated rape used to break a girl who is then forced to have sex with men every day to meet an ever-increasing quota. Are we willing to live in a world that allows these abuses to continue?

This Valentine’s Day, as we are bombarded with imagery of happy couples buying jewelry, flowers, and chocolate we should all take a moment to reflect on these survivors of gender based violence. Various activist organizations, paired with the One Billion Rising campaign are all working to raise awareness of the issue of gender based violence across the globe. The campaign states that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, to combat this statistic they would like to have one billion women rise up this Valentine’s Day and work to raise awareness about the issue through an unexpected medium- dance. They would like to see us all go out and transform public spaces into a dance party or host events to raise awareness.

Whether we all go out to dance in solidarity or not, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the issue of gender based violence in order to combat the stigma, apathy and everyday forgetting which prevent system-wide change to take place. Rather than letting ourselves be caught up in euphemisms and distancing ourselves from the issue, let us take a moment to realize that we are all connected and we can all play a part in promoting change.

Caravan Aid: Yes, You Can do Something about Syria

By Yassamin Ansari

Yassamin Ansari is an International Relations major at Stanford University. She spent the fall of 2012 studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan, where she also reported as an independent journalist from the Zaatari Refugee Camp. Yassamin is also the Co-Chair of Syria Deeply On Campus. This post originally appeared as an op-ed on the Syria Deeply website. 

The Syrians I have met are just like you. Or at least, they used to be.

Anas and Elham led ordinary lives in Daraa, Syria. Anas worked in the computer industry earning a decent salary, and Elham stayed at home raising their four children. During their leisure time, they watched soccer together and spent hours with their extended family. The life they once knew was beautiful and comfortable, and they were grateful for their health and safety.

More than a year later, their lives are unrecognizable. They fled from their hometown after war broke out in the city. The government burnt houses to the ground, soldiers violently raped native women and children, and men were brutally tortured and killed in front of their families.

During our first meeting in their tent at the Zaatari Refugee Camp, Anas willingly showed us footage on his old phone of one of the massive protests in Daraa. Thousands of people were marching through the city. Then, the video zoomed into several men holding three open coffins. Anas explained that the coffins were carrying his uncle and two nieces.

The atmosphere in the tent grew increasingly more somber, and Anas’s demeanor quickly regressed as he showed us the next picture, of his brother. He explained that the Syrian government broke into his brother’s home just a few weeks ago and took him away.

In other words, Anas’s brother is not coming back.

Anas glanced towards the two little girls sitting in the tent with us. His nieces, Lilian and Cewar—the ones who had survived—began to cry when they realized that the conversation was about their father. I sat there, paralyzed, biting my lip in an attempt to hold back tears as I watched the two girls sobbing over their father. For almost a minute, everyone was silent until the baby’s screams stirred us.

Regrettably, Anas’s story is not at all unique. There are 40,000 Syrian refugees living at the Zaatari Camp, with different versions of the same story. By what can only be described as a miracle, Zaatari’s residents survived one of the most horrific and brutal wars of the 21st century. And they lost literally everything along the way.

Each day at the camp, refugees receive a ration of bread and water, a measly amount not nearly enough to satisfy the hunger pangs. There is no sanitation, no electricity. The canvas tents are ill-equipped to provide protection from the cold winter.

Often, the children have no more than the clothes on their backs. Infections and disease are spreading rapidly amongst refugee children, who are particularly vulnerable to the freezing weather, and are living in close quarters within the camp.

I consider this a genocide. As long as politicians and world leaders make excuses and continue playing political games, thousands of Syrians will either be brutally murdered, or forced to flee from one hell to the next.

Syrian refugees are perpetually homeless. They have lost their former lives in Syria, and now they are alive, but barely living. Every day is nafs al-shay, nafs al-shay, the same thing, the same thing. As we plan for our future education, careers, and famlies, they can barely plan for tomorrow.

As college students, it is incredibly easy to get caught up with our daily lives, and forget to engage in the global crises that are affecting our world. We’re busy: we have boyfriends, final exams, and the latest episode of Breaking Bad to watch. Even if we do follow the news, most of us feel powerless to actually make a difference.

But as future leaders of this country and as global citizens of the world, we have an obligation to inform ourselves. We have a responsibility to partake in intellectual dialogue about the events going on in our country and around the world. And with technology at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever.

This is where Syria Deeply comes into play. As an innovative journalistic platform, Syria Deeply highlights important stories that are crucial to understanding the full picture of the conflict in Syria. But as student leaders, we want to take a step further by connecting you with other students around the country who are interested in getting informed.

In partnership with UNHCR (United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees), we are launching a nationwide campaign to raise money to provide more permanent housing for the Syrian refugees — Caravan Aid. The goal is to raise $15,000, which will provide five caravans to the most vulnerable refugees at the camp. To achieve this, we are building a growing network of college students around the U.S. to not only critically engage in the issue, but also to make a direct impact on the humanitarian crisis. The campaign starts today and will last until February 23rd. Spread the word, donate to the campaign, and be a part of this important cause that will help families—families like Anas’s—begin to rebuild a normal life.

For more information please visit our blog at

To donate, visit

And follow us on twitter @caravanaid

If you want to get involved with Syria Deeply On-Campus, please contact

Darfur: Then and Now

On Wednesday, November 14th, Education Coordinator Mac Hamilton and Founder of Darfur Women Action Group Niemat Ahmadi hosted a webinar to discuss history of the conflict in Darfur, recent developments, and how policymakers and advocates can best address new threats to stability and civilian protection. Check out the recording!



Why You Should Be at STAND Camp 2012

Hey STAND, my name’s Danny Hirschel-Burns and I’m a rising junior at Swarthmore College and a member of Swarthmore STAND.  After attending the spring STAND conference my freshman year, I found myself very frustrated with STAND and unsure I wanted to continue involving myself with the organization.  STAND camp changed all of that.  It was the most intense period of thought and conversation I’d had since I began college.  I was surrounded by intelligent, motivated, and fun kids for nearly twenty-four hours a day.  Saying twenty-four wasn’t an exaggeration, because I got very, very little sleep.  I am a person who loves their unconscious time, and constantly strives for eight hours, but that simply wasn’t an option for me at STAND camp.  The official sessions often lasted from 9 am to 9 pm, and afterwards of course, I had to dissect everything we had talked about with everyone else there.  My conversations stretched long, long into the night.  There were certainly many different perspectives, and I think everyone there learned more about the issues as well as improved their ability to make a concise, coherent argument. 

Beyond the intellectual side of STAND camp, which I did appreciate very much, there was the social aspect.  The high amount of exposure between you and the fellow STAND campers leads to a highly conducive social atmosphere.  Because most people don’t know anyone when they first arrive, you are forced to make friendships quickly.  I promise it isn’t hard.  And so while everyone makes friends quickly, the more important part is that many of my friendships last well beyond STAND camp.  Last winter break, I visited two of the people that I met at STAND camp (Sonia Sen of the University of Arizona and Jared Naimark from Stanford), and just got back a week ago from seeing Sonia in New York.  They are two of my best friends, and I’m so glad that STAND camp gave me the opportunity to meet them.  They are certainly not the only ones though.  These many friendships were cemented through zip-lines, lobbying senators, airport mishaps, hotel room shenanigans, and swimming adventures with shirtless men you met in the woods.  I’m still in touch with at least ten of the people I met at STAND camp, and have an even larger base of committed advocates and friends to call upon if I need help.  In short, STAND camp was an incredibly transformative experience, and has totally sculpted the way I participate in STAND.  I can’t wait to attend this year, and if anyone has any questions, I’d be happy to talk with you.  See you in a few weeks!      

Why should you be STAND’s next Social Media Coordinator?

By Social Media Coordinator Emma Goldberg

Are you #AddictedtoTwitter? Do you often find yourself spending hours on Facebook, scrolling through your newsfeed and visiting the pages of journalists and public figures? Do you maintain that despite what your parents may tell you, those hours spent online are actually productive? If so, you may be STAND’s next Social Media Coordinator. You have the insight to recognize the unique opportunity offered to our generation—the opportunity to interface with a platform that engages millions and connects them to one another.

As STAND’s Social Media Coordinator, I had the opportunity to work at the intersection of communications and mass atrocities prevention, applying creative thinking to the student anti-genocide movement. It was a unique and gratifying experience to learn to use social media as a tool not only for brand building, but also for advocacy. I worked with STAND’s phenomenal team of communications, advocacy and education experts to forward legislative objectives online. It was gratifying to communicate with students not yet ready to schedule in person lobbying appointments and empower them to participate in civic engagement through social media.

Not only did my understanding of communications and mass atrocities prevention grow tremendously, but I also had the opportunity to work with an inspiring group of leaders. STAND’s Managing Committee and Task Force are warm and close-knit groups of brilliant policy wonks and dynamic organizers. Not only do they welcome every new member in with kindness, but their conversations also exposed me to entirely new ways of thinking about peace-building and movement development.  

Being engaged with STAND on a chapter-level is exciting. Your in-district lobbying, die-ins, and educational presentations convey the organization’s message into Congressional offices and through the hallways of your school. But all of the initiatives that chapters facilitate on a regional level coalesce to build a national movement that occupies a powerful space in the field of anti-genocide work. As Social Media Coordinator, you develop the face of that brand. You create the language used to convey STAND’s message to the widest possible audience.

This year STAND experienced thrilling triumphs. Our October End Genocide Action Summit was a major success, bringing hundreds of student organizers to D.C. to meet with policymakers, leading organizers, and more. Through the Know Your Candidate campaign, STAND chapter members attended Romney’s rallies and questioned his foreign policy agenda. And during Genocide Awareness Month, STAND’s Student Director represented the organization in speaking on a White House panel moderated by Samantha Power. Next year STAND will continue to take on exciting initiatives. As Social Media Coordinator you can think creatively about how to encourage wide participation in these campaigns, and how to convey STAND’s successes to the public to build the movement.

Why You Should Be Next Year’s Advocacy Coordinator

By Advocacy Coordinator Maria Thomson

With an interest in global conflict, US policy, and African Studies, I joined my campus STAND chapter last year upon recommendation from a friend.  When an inauspiciously timed softball game prevented the majority of the chapter from attending STAND’s 2011 Pledge2Protect conference, I found myself on a bus to DC, not knowing what to expect and mostly just enjoying the opportunity to get off campus for the weekend.  There, I met then-Advocacy Coordinator Daniel Solomon, who recommended that I apply for his position based on my interest in all things policy.

Serving as Advocacy Coordinator on the Managing Committee this has been an incredible experience.  The position has given me a broad perspective on the field of mass atrocities advocacy, enabling me to see how everyone from students at the grassroots level to adults at the professional level engage with these topics.  With this perspective, I’ve also been able to learn in more depth about the wide range of policy approaches available for any given conflict, and have had the great privilege of talking with many different people about their thoughts and concerns on atrocities prevention policy.  The Advocacy Coordinator position placed me in a convenient place to act on my own convictions about what US foreign policy should look like, but it also placed me in a strong place to be a listener, to absorb the opinions of others, and to bring these thoughts into productive conversation which emphasized a policy development process that is first careful, deliberate, involved, and self-critical.  This position has also provided me with an enviable opportunity to develop my own capacity to be an effective advocate — for mass atrocities prevention or other issues.  By no means did I come into this position as an expert, but over the course of the last year I’ve learned bundles about the lobbying process, US foreign policy and legislation, policy and legislation development, conflict analysis, and much more.  

Moreover, I’ve also come out of this position with many invaluable relationships — with people I admire and who inspire me; with people who’ve taught, guided, and challenged me; with people who I have had the privilege of teaching; with people with whom I’ve simply enjoyed goofing off and throwing around 90s slang.  The students I worked with this year, in particular, have been endlessly inspiring.  Whether starting a chapter from scratch or trying to negotiate a conflict-free campus agreement with a tough administration, students’ use of creative problem-solving to navigate their particular positioning and resources has been especially inspiring to me, demonstrating the power of will, passion, and perseverance to promote peaceful solutions to global conflicts.  I’ve been immensely impressed by the quality of policy discussions on Core Chapter email threads, and feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know individual STAND leaders and help them adapt policy approaches to their specific interests and situations.  Additionally, I’ve been privileged to work with the rest of the Managing Committee, whose energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, and commitment to STAND have had immeasurable impact on bringing students together across the nation to work collaboratively toward peaceful conflict resolution.  Their dedication to making this organization more effective and more inclusive — while maintaining the lightheartedness that builds strong friendships and makes long-term work on often emotionally-trying issues bearable — is remarkable, and it has been an honor to work with them.

I recommend the Advocacy Coordinator position to anyone who is interested in the policy side of global conflicts, who is self-motivated and open-minded, and who willing to experiment with new strategies and approaches to old problems.  The position holds incredible potential — access to professionals and experts with long and dynamic experiences in the advocacy sphere, access to a wealth of information on conflicts, policy, and legislation, and the ability to connect with and lead a national student movement — and what you get out of the job depends on how much you are willing to put into it.  I am excited for all that awaits the next person to assume this role, and look forward to seeing how STAND’s advocacy changes and develops under new leadership.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns about this position; I am more than happy to chat with you about it.  Best, until then!


April is Genocide Prevention Month: What You Can Do

By Comms Blogger Tyler S. Bugg

It’s never been a better time to be an activist.        

Six acts of genocide have anniversaries in April: Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. And so it’s wildly appropriate (and important) that April is Genocide Prevention Month. The STAND community is committed to using the month for a deeper understanding of ongoing atrocities and of the power of ongoing advocacy. And it starts with you.

In the spirit of this month’s focus, here’s a list of steps you can take in developing your own advocacy while also connecting to that of others.


  • Become more aware. Keep in touch with STAND’s blog, which features weekly updates of the going-ons in the ongoing conflict areas most vulnerable to continued civilian violence.
  • See what others are saying. Cross-engage STAND partners Enough Project and Human Rights Watch to find out how they address genocide atrocities and prevention.
  • Learn the best ways to act. Become familiar with the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a norm-setting United Nations initiative that holds states accountable in the protection against mass atrocities. (See STAND’s thoughts about the positive potential of R2P.)


  • Engage your representatives. Call 1-800-GENOCIDE to learn how to urge your representatives to declare support for Genocide Prevention Month and for an ongoing commitment to international human rights diplomacy.
  • Engage your peers. Organize and host an event on your school’s campus to discuss the ongoing violence in Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and the DRC and the ways your community can rally around a vision of genocide elimination and future prevention.
  • Engage your campus grounds. Chalk your campus’s sidewalks with the striking data representing ongoing conflict or in honor of the victims and survivors alike who continue to struggle for futures beyond fear.
  • Engage your administration. Host meetings, circulate petitions, and meet with your school’s administration to ask their support in making your campus community and resources conflict-free.
  • Engage your networks. Spread your message through grassroots social media. Share your thoughts via Facebook and tweet a “fact a day.” At least once a day throughout the month, share the reasons why you’re observing Genocide Prevention Month, and join others doing the same with the hashtags “#AprilAdvocacy,” “#genocideawareness,” and “#genprev.”
  • Engage those affected. Throughout the month, follow United to End Genocide’s “Our Voices” campaign, an effort to highlight and empower the individual voices of those directly affected by genocides past and present. Hear directly from them about you can connect to and amplify their narratives and their own suggestions for local, long-term change.
  • Engage the history of human rights advocacy. Take time to visit (or revisit) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reflect of its applicability this month, and be the change!

And most importantly, further the discussion. Extend the spirit of your advocacy this month into the rest of the year. Ongoing violence can best be met with an ongoing and collective engagement with your communities. Successful change is long-term change.

Have more ideas? Share them with us! Link us on your blog posts, tag us on your Facebook posts, and tweet at us with your thoughts. We want to hear about your outSTANDing work and inspire others to stand with you!

KONY 2012: Getting Off the Computer

By Comms Blogger Roberta Barnett

You’ve probably seen it, read numerous blog posts about it, thought about it, and maybe even discussed it with your chapter.  And no matter how you feel about Invisible Children, the campaign, or its intermediate goals, it’s important to bring it full circle to realize that the end goal, putting an end to atrocities perpetrated by the LRA on children and families in Central Africa, is pretty much the same.

Opinions aside, it’s hard to ignore the amount of attention the video has gotten from students, Internet personalities, and news organizations.  The interest we have is a powerful tool that if used effectively, can really make an impact on people in our own communities, and indirectly, communities halfway across the world.  There have been several blog posts and thoughts shared as to why the video was such a social media hit, so I will not discuss that here (I think Student Director Daniel Solomon’s piece on Securing Rights really helped me gain a better understanding of this). 

One thing almost all STAND members have supported is using the KONY 2012 video to help raise awareness among students.  As the video is primarily the story of Jason Russell and his son, it was certainly difficult for KONY 2012 to offer the full story of the LRA’s impact in Central Africa.  This is a great opportunity for STAND to educate on major conflicts from Uganda, to the DRC, to Sudan.  Colby STAND recently held a successful discussion event between professors and students that was not only educational, but allowed students to participate.  Other chapters have had similar meetings.  If yours hasn’t, try planning an event that is both educational and interactive.

The social media campaign also an opportunity for networking.  I was actually quite surprised to see the diversity of people “liking” or “sharing” the KONY 2012 video.  For the most part, I had never even seen any of these people at a STAND meeting.  For my chapter’s upcoming event, we are encouraging these digital activists to leave the confines of their computers to discuss the very real issues in person.  Likewise, it’s an opportunity to reach out to other internationally focused organizations such as Model UN and Amnesty International in order to create a larger campus impact.  Invite another club to check out your discussion, or better yet, host an event together!  You may just get a few new STAND members. 

While STAND does not necessarily support the actions recommended at the end of KONY 2012, there are still tangible requests to ask of your fellow students while you have their attention.  STAND alum Janessa Goldbeck has been biking throughout the Southern U.S. to raise awareness of the importance of U.S. leadership on conflict prevention, humanitarian aid, and civilian protection.  In order for the U.S. to take effective, life-saving action in the future, it needs to have sufficient funds allocated to do so.  Significant foreign aid would probably not be a reality if constituents like you did not support it.  You and your chapter members can call Congress at (202) 505-5012 to show your support for foreign aid.  You can also support upcoming legislation, such as The Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012, by calling 1-800-GENOCIDE and talking to your representative about it.

Many core chapter leaders are sharing their take on KONY 2012 on the Google Group.  Join in the discussion!  If you’re not part of the group or are unsure of how to use it, contact 

Burma Storytelling: Humanizing the Burmese Liberation Movement

By Chapter Leader Gillie Collins

Nobel Prize winner and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said “we will surely get to our destination if we join hands.” As anti-genocide activists in the U.S., how do we join hands with the Burmese people from thousands of miles away?

On February 9, 2012, Stanford STAND chipped away at this distance by hosting a “Burma Storytelling” program. Through homemade Burmese food, live music, and spoken word performances, the event highlighted Burmese culture and spotlighted unheard perspectives on the Burmese people’s liberation movement.
Su Wai, a top Saung Gauk player and singer in Burma who recently immigrated to the US, welcomed guests by performing traditional Burmese harp and vocals. Stanford Storytelling Project and Stanford Spoken Word Collective performed testimonies by Burmese refugees, compiled in Voice of Witness’s book, Nowhere to Be Home: Stories of Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime. The stories were connected to presentations by Stanford students: Jared Naimark, Stanford STAND Coordinator, spoke about the environmental justice issues undergirding Burma’s democratization, and Kate Morton discussed her experience interning for U.S. Campaign for Burma. Armelle Goreux, a Burmese Stanford Student, also reflected on her experiences traveling to Burma. Finally, Myra Dahgaypaw, Campaigns Coordinator for U.S. Campaign for Burma, shared her personal experiences as IDP in Burma and pro-democracy activist.

In organizing “Burma Storytelling,” STAND aimed to include diverse student groups in the event’s planning. While it was challenging to coordinate logistics among activist, arts, and cultural organizations, the process of organizing Burma storytelling engaged a wider swathe of the student leadership in discussions about Burma’s democratization. As we established and reinforced relationships with other Stanford student groups to arrange “Burma Storytelling,” we hope that these connections will serve as groundwork for future collaboration. In order to effectively mobilize as an anti-genocide constituency, we must share resources with other causes and communities. Moving forward, Stanford STAND is particularly committed to engaging the intersection of activist communities, embracing a multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to promoting civilian protection.

As always, we are excited to share our experiences and resources with other schools who are interested in hosting similar events. If you have questions, feel free to send us an email at