Artwork from Children of Darfur Captures Human Rights Abuses As Seen by "Smallest Witnesses"

HOUSTON, TX (May 17, 2006) Drawings capturing the harrowing human rights abuses in the Darfur region of the African country of Sudan as seen through the eyes of its smallest witnesses – its children – will go on display May 30 at Holocaust Museum Houston.

The Museum, in conjunction with Human Rights Watch, will present "Smallest Witnesses: The Crisis in Darfur Through Children’s Eyes," an exhibition featuring drawings by children from Darfur who escaped the massive ethnic cleansing in Sudan.

The children – some as young as eight years old – witnessed the destruction of their homes and now live in refugee camps in Chad, where Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed them, gave them crayons and paper and watched as the unprompted artwork developed.

"Smallest Witnesses" formally opens to the public at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 30, and runs through Wednesday, June 28, 2006, in the Laurie and Milton Boniuk Resource Center and Library in the Morgan Family Center at Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline St. in Houston’s Museum District. Admission is free.

The exhibit will be accompanied by a free screening of the documentary "Darfur: A 21st Century Genocide," scheduled for 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, also at the Museum, which will remain open until 9 p.m. that night.

The exhibition, which is touring nationally, has been displayed previously at such venues as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and at venues in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Hamburg and Munich.

Open warfare erupted in Darfur in early 2003 when two loosely allied rebel groups attacked military installations. In response, "Janjaweed" militias received government support to clear civilians from areas considered disloyal to the Sudanese government.

Nearly three years into the crisis, Darfur is acknowledged to be a humanitarian and human rights tragedy of the first order. According to reports by the World Food Program, the United Nations and the Coalition for International Justice, 3.5 million people are now hungry, 2.5 million have been displaced due to violence, and 400,000 people have died.

The concepts behind the exhibition began in early 2005 while, on a mission to the refugee camps along Darfur’s border with Chad, Human Rights Watch researchers gave children crayons and paper while their parents were being interviewed.

Without instruction, the children produced disturbing and vivid images of the atrocities they had witnessed. Their drawings are eyewitness accounts of the attacks by the "Janjaweed," bombings by the Sudanese government forces, shootings, rapes and the burning of villages.

Schoolchildren from seven refugee camps offered Human Rights Watch’s researchers their drawings as living testimony of life in Darfur. These drawings, with their unique visual vocabulary of war, have given a forceful voice to the youngest victims of the crisis.

Abd’al, age 13, described his drawing in this way: "I am looking after the sheep in the wadi (dry riverbed). I see 'Janjaweed' coming, quickly, on horses and camels, with Kalashnikovs – shooting and yelling, 'Kill the slaves, kill the blacks….'"

"Smallest Witnesses" is presented in cooperation with Human Rights Watch and Continental Airlines, official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.

Holocaust Museum Houston promotes awareness and educates the public of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and violence against the backdrop of the Holocaust by fostering remembrance, understanding and education.

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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