One of the world’s gravest human rights and humanitarian crises is unfolding in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. Under the pretext of suppressing an internal rebellion, Sudanese soldiers and government-backed militias known as “Janjaweed” have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and “ethnic cleansing” against civilians. According to U.N. estimates, as many as 200,000 people may have died already.
On a recent mission to refugee camps along Darfur’s border with Chad, Human Rights Watch researchers Dr. Annie Sparrow and Olivier Bercault gave children pens and crayons to draw while their families were being interviewed. Without guidance, the children began to draw scenes from their experiences: the attacks by the “Janjaweed,” the bombings by Sudanese government forces, shootings, rapes, the burning of entire villages and their flight to Chad.
“Smallest Witnesses” presents drawings from young children from seven refugee camps and the border town of Tine who shared their work with the researchers, insisting that Sparrow and Bercault take their drawings with them in the hope that the rest of the world could see their story — the indelible effect of a man-made crisis on its youngest victims.