The Michael Kelly Award

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Nicholas D. Kristof

CITATIONNicholas Kristof
Nicholas D. Kristof has one of the most prestigious perches in American journalism: a column on the op-ed pages of The New York Times. In 2004, Kristof chose to use that perch to summon the world’s attention to human suffering in the Sudan and Southeast Asia. Traveling to isolated regions, he spoke up for victims who lacked the voice to speak for themselves. He linked the word “genocide” to the ongoing persecution of black Africans in the Sudanese region of Darfur, and focused attention on the continued sexual exploitation of young women in the brothels of Cambodia. With conviction, passion, and audacity, Kristof tugged at the world’s conscience, in the best tradition of Michael Kelly.

BIOGRAPHY
Nicholas D. Kristof, 46,.writes op-ed columns that appear each Wednesday and Saturday in The New York Times. Previously he was associate managing editor of the Times, responsible for Sunday editions. Kristof grew up on a cherry farm near Yamhill, Oregon, and raised sheep for his Future Farmers of America project. He graduated from Harvard College and attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He later studied Arabic in Cairo and Chinese in Taipei. After working in France, he caught the travel bug and began backpacking around Africa and Asia, writing articles to cover his expenses. Kristof joined the Times in October 1984, initially covering economics. He served as a business correspondent based in Los Angeles, Hong Kong bureau chief, Beijing bureau chief and Tokyo bureau chief. In 2000, he covered the presidential campaign. In 1990 Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, also a Times journalist, won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of China’s Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Kristof enjoys running, backpacking, and having his Chinese and Japanese corrected by his children, Gregory, Geoffrey and Caroline.

Selected Columns
The following five columns were submitted by The New York Times in nominating Nicholas D. Kristof for the Michael Kelly Award.

Ethnic Cleansing, Again
March 24, 2004
ALONG THE SUDAN-CHAD BORDER– The most vicious ethnic cleansing you’ve never heard of is unfolding here in the southeastern fringes of the Sahara Desert. It’s a campaign of murder, rape and pillage by Sudan’s Arab rulers that has forced 700,000 black African Sudanese to flee their villages.
The desert is strewn with the carcasses of cattle and goats, as well as fresh refugee graves that are covered with brush so wild animals will not dig them up. Refugees crowd around overused wells, which now run dry, and they mourn loved ones whose bodies they cannot recover.
Western and African countries need to intervene urgently. Sudan’s leaders should not be able to get away with mass murder just because they are shrewd enough to choose victims who inhabit a poor region without airports, electricity or paved roads.
The culprit is the Sudanese government, one of the world’s nastiest. Its Arab leaders have been fighting a civil war for more than 20 years against its rebellious black African south. Lately it has armed lighter-skinned Arab raiders, the Janjaweed, who are killing or driving out blacks in the Darfur region near Chad.
”They came at 4 a.m. on horseback, on camels, in vehicles, with two helicopters overhead,” recalled Idris Abu Moussa, a 26-year-old Sudanese farmer. ”They killed 50 people in my village. My father, grandmother, uncle and two brothers were all killed.” ”They don’t want any blacks left,” he added.
Most refugees have stories like that. ”They took the cattle and horses, killed the men, raped the women, and then they burned the village,” said Abubakr Ahmed Abdallah, a 60-year-old refugee who escaped to Toukoultoukouli in Chad.
”They want to exterminate us blacks,” said Halime Ali Souf. Her husband was killed, and she fled into Chad with her infant.
Once refugees like Ms. Halime have fled into Chad, their troubles are not over. The only source of water for many border villages is the riverbed, or wadi, marking the boundary between the two countries, and the Janjaweed regularly shoot men who go there to get water or gather wood.
Zakaria Ibrahim was shot dead a few days ago. ”He went to get sticks to build a hut,” said his haggard widow, Hawai Abdulyaya, who is left with five children. The Janjaweed regularly invade Chad to seize cattle and attack Sudanese refugees. In addition, the Sudanese Army has dropped bombs on Chadian villages like Tine and Besa. These skirmishes are taking place in a sparsely populated land of sand, shrubs and occasional oases. The only roads are dirt tracks barely navigable by four-wheel-drive vehicles — except when the rainy season makes the area completely impassible. (Join me for a multimedia tour of Africa at www.nytimes.com/kristof.)
The U.N.’s Sudan coordinator, Mukesh Kapila, described the situation in a BBC interview on Friday as similar in character, if not scale, to the Rwanda genocide of 1994. ”This is ethnic cleansing,” he said. ”This is the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis, and I don’t know why the world isn’t doing more about it.”
Countless thousands of black Sudanese have been murdered, and 600,000 victims of this ethnic cleansing have fled to other parts of Sudan and are suffering from malnutrition and disease. The 110,000 who have fled into Chad are better off because of the magnificent response of the Chadian peasants. Chadians are desperately poor themselves, but they share what little food and water is available with the Sudanese refugees.
”If we have food or water, we’ll share it with them,” said a Chadian peasant, Adam Isak Abubakr. ”We can’t leave them like this.”
Let’s hope that we Americans will show the same gumption and compassion. We should call Sudan before the U.N. Security Council and the world community and insist that it stop these pogroms. To his credit, President Bush has already led the drive for peace in Sudan, doing far more to achieve a peace than all his predecessors put together. Now he should show the same resolve in confronting this latest menace.
In the 21st century, no government should be allowed to carry out ethnic cleansing, driving 700,000 people from their homes. If we turn away simply because the victims are African tribespeople who have the misfortune to speak no English, have no phones and live in one of the most remote parts of the globe, then shame on us.

Will We Say ‘Never Again’ Yet Again?
March 27, 2004
ALONG THE CHAD-SUDAN BORDER–For decades, whenever the topic of genocide has come up, the refrain has been, ”Never again.”
Yet right now, the government of Sudan is engaging in genocide against three large African tribes in its Darfur region here. Some 1,000 people are being killed a week, tribeswomen are being systematically raped, 700,000 people have been driven from their homes, and Sudan’s Army is even bombing the survivors.
And the world yawns.
So what do we tell refugees like Muhammad Yakob Hussein, who lives in the open desert here because his home was burned and his family members killed in Sudan? He now risks being shot whenever he goes to a well to fetch water. Do we advise such refugees that ”never again” meant nothing more than that a Fuhrer named Hitler will never again construct death camps in Germany?
Interviews with refugees like Mr. Hussein — as well as with aid workers and U.N. officials — leave no doubt that attacks in Darfur are not simply random atrocities. Rather, as a senior U.N. official, Mukesh Kapila, put it, ”It is an organized attempt to do away with a group of people.”
”All I have left is this jalabiya,” or cloak, said Mr. Hussein, who claimed to be 70 but looked younger (ages here tend to be vague aspirations, and they usually emerge in multiples of 10). Mr. Hussein said he’d fled three days earlier after an attack in which his three brothers were killed and all his livestock stolen: ”Everything is lost. They burned everything.”
Another man, Khamis Muhammad Issa, a strapping 21-year-old, was left with something more than his clothes — a bullet in the back. He showed me the bulge of the bullet under the skin. The bullet wiggled under my touch.
”They came in the night and burned my village,” he said. ”I was running away and they fired. I fell, and they thought I was dead.”
In my last column, I called these actions ”ethnic cleansing.” But let’s be blunt: Sudan’s behavior also easily meets the definition of genocide in Article 2 of the 1948 convention against genocide. That convention not only authorizes but also obligates the nations ratifying it — including the U.S. — to stand up to genocide.
The killings are being orchestrated by the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, partly through the Janjaweed militia, made up of Arab raiders armed by the government. The victims are non-Arabs: blacks in the Zaghawa, Massaliet and Fur tribes. ”The Arabs want to get rid of anyone with black skin,” Youssef Yakob Abdullah said. In the area of Darfur that he fled, ”there are no blacks left,” he said.
In Darfur, the fighting is not over religion, for the victims as well as the killers are Muslims. It is more ethnic and racial, reflecting some of the ancient tension between herdsmen (the Arabs in Darfur) and farmers (the black Africans, although they herd as well). The Arabs and non-Arabs compete for water and forage, made scarce by environmental degradation and the spread of the desert.
In her superb book on the history of genocide, ”A Problem from Hell,” Samantha Power focuses on the astonishing fact that U.S. leaders always denounce massacres in the abstract or after they are over — but, until Kosovo, never intervened in the 20th century to stop genocide and ”rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred.” The U.S. excuses now are the same ones we used when Armenians were killed in 1915 and Bosnians and Rwandans died in the 1990’s: the bloodshed is in a remote area; we have other priorities; standing up for the victims may compromise other foreign policy interests. I’m not arguing that we should invade Sudan. But one of the lessons of history is that very modest efforts can save large numbers of lives. Nothing is so effective in curbing ethnic cleansing as calling attention to it.
President Bush could mention Darfur or meet a refugee. The deputy secretary of state could visit the border areas here in Chad. We could raise the issue before the U.N. And the onus is not just on the U.S.: it’s shameful that African and Muslim countries don’t offer at least a whisper of protest at the slaughter of fellow Africans and Muslims.
Are the world’s pledges of ”never again” really going to ring hollow one more time?

Dare We Call It Genocide?
June 16, 2004
ALONG THE CHAD-SUDAN BORDER _ The Bush administration says it is exploring whether to describe the mass murder and rape in the Darfur region of Sudan as ”genocide.” I suggest that President Bush invite to the White House a real expert, Magboula Muhammad Khattar, a 24-year-old widow huddled under a tree here.
The world has acquiesced shamefully in the Darfur genocide, perhaps because 320,000 deaths this year (a best-case projection from the U.S. Agency for International Development) seems like one more boring statistic. So listen to Ms. Khattar’s story, multiply it by hundreds of thousands, and let’s see if we still want to look the other way.
Just a few months ago, Ms. Khattar had a great life. Her sweet personality and lovely appearance earned a hefty bride price of 40 cattle when she was married four years ago to Ali Daoud, a prosperous farmer. The family owned 300 cattle and 50 camels, making them among the wealthiest in their village, Ab-Layha in western Sudan. Ms. Khattar promptly bore two children, the youngest born late last year.
About the same time, though, the Sudanese government resolved to crush a rebellion in Darfur, a region the size of France in western Sudan. Sudan armed and paid a militia of Arab raiders, the Janjaweed, and authorized them to slaughter and drive out members of the Zaghawa, Masalit and Fur tribes.
On March 12, Ms. Khattar was performing her predawn Muslim prayers about 4 a.m. when a Sudanese government Antonov aircraft started dropping bombs on Ab-Layha, which is made up of Zaghawa tribespeople. Moments later, more than 1,000 Janjaweed attackers rode into the village on horses and camels, backed by Sudanese government troops in trucks. ”The Janjaweed shouted: ‘We will not allow blacks here. We will not let Zaghawa here. This land is only for Arabs,’ ” Ms. Khattar recalled.
Ms. Khattar grabbed her children, and, as shots and flames raged around her, raced for a nearby forest. But her father and mother tried to protect their animals — they were yelling, ”Don’t take our livestock.” They were both shot dead.
The attack was part of a deliberate strategy to ensure that the village would be forever uninhabitable, that the Zaghawa could never live there again. The Janjaweed poisoned wells by stuffing them with the corpses of people and donkeys. They also blew up a dam that supplied water to the farms, destroyed seven hand pumps in the village and burned all the homes and even the village school, the clinic and the mosque.
In separate interviews, I talked to more than a dozen other survivors from Ab-Layha, and they all confirm Ms. Khattar’s story. By most accounts, about 100 people were massacred that day in Ab-Layha, and a particular effort was made to exterminate all men and boys, even the very young. Women and girls were sometimes allowed to flee, but the prettiest were kidnapped.
Most of those raped don’t want to talk about it. But Zahra Abdel Karim, a 30-year-old woman, told me how in the same attack on Ab-Layha, the Janjaweed shot to death her husband, Adam, and 7-year-old son, Rahshid, as well as three of her brothers. Then they grabbed her 4-year-old son, Rasheed, from her arms and cut his throat.
The Janjaweed took her and her two sisters away on horses and gang-raped them, she said. The troops shot one sister, Kuttuma, and cut the throat of the other, Fatima, and they discussed how to mutilate her. (Sexual humiliation has been part of the Sudanese strategy to drive out the African tribespeople. The Janjaweed routinely add to the stigma by branding or scarring the women they rape.)
”One Janjaweed said: ‘You belong to me. You are a slave to the Arabs, and this is the sign of a slave,’ ” she recalled. He slashed her leg with a sword before letting her hobble away, stark naked. Other villagers confirmed that they had found her naked and bleeding, and she showed me the scar on her leg.
By comparison, Ms. Khattar was one of the lucky ones. She lost her parents, her home and all her belongings, but her husband and children were alive, and she had not been raped. Unfortunately, her luck would soon run out.
I’ll tell you more of her story on Saturday, because if she and her people aren’t victims of genocide, then the word has no meaning.

Girls For Sale
January 17, 2004
POIPET, Cambodia–One thinks of slavery as an evil confined to musty sepia photographs. But there are 21st-century versions of slaves as well, girls like Srey Neth.
I met Srey Neth, a lovely, giggly wisp of a teenager, here in the wild smuggling town of Poipet in northwestern Cambodia. Girls here are bought and sold, but there is an important difference compared with the 19th century: many of these modern slaves will be dead of AIDS by their 20’s.
Some 700,000 people are trafficked around the world each year, many of them just girls. They form part of what I believe will be the paramount moral challenge we will face in this century: to address the brutality that is the lot of so many women in the developing world. Yet it’s an issue that gets little attention and that most American women’s groups have done shamefully little to address.
Poipet, 220 miles on bouncy roads from Phnom Penh, is a dusty collection of dirt alleys lined with brothels, where teenage girls clutch at any man walking by. It has a reputation as one of the wildest places in Cambodia, an anything-goes town ruled by drugs, gangs, gambling and prostitution.
The only way to have access to the girls is to appear to be a customer. So I put out the word that I wanted to meet young girls and stayed at the seedy $8-a-night Phnom Pich Guest House — and a woman who is a pimp soon brought Srey Neth to my room.
Srey Neth claimed to be 18 but looked several years younger. She insisted at first (through my Khmer interpreter) that she was free and not controlled by the guesthouse. But soon she told her real story: a female cousin had arranged her sale and taken her to the guesthouse. Now she was sharing a room with three other prostitutes, and they were all pimped to guests.
“I can walk around in Poipet, but only with a close relative of the owner,” she said. “They keep me under close watch. They do not let me go out alone. They’re afraid I would run away.”
Why not try to escape at night?
“They would get me back, and something bad would happen. Maybe a beating. I heard that when a group of girls tried to escape, they locked them in the rooms and beat them up.” “What about the police?” I asked. “Couldn’t you call out to the police for help?” “The police wouldn’t help me because they get bribes from the brothel owners,” Srey Neth said, adding that senior police officials had come to the guesthouse for sex with her. I asked Srey Neth how much it would cost to buy her freedom. She named an amount equivalent to $150.
“Do you really want to leave?” I asked. “Are you sure you wouldn’t come back to this?” She had been watching TV and listlessly answering my questions. Now she turned abruptly and snorted. “This is a hell,” she said sharply, speaking with passion for the first time. “You think I want to do this?”
Another girl, Srey Mom, grabbed at me as I walked down the street. She wouldn’t let go, tugging me toward the inner depths of her brothel — but she looked so young and pitiable that I couldn’t help thinking that she really wanted me to tug her away.
So I did. I paid the owner $8 to spring her for the evening and then took her away for an interview. (Photographs of both girls are at www.nytimes.com/kristof.)
The owner let Srey Mom go out unsupervised, it turned out, partly because she had been a prostitute for several years and was trusted to return — and partly because her dark complexion meant that she was of little value anyway. The brothel sold her to men for just $2.50, compared with the $10 commanded by the lighter-skinned Srey Neth.
I asked Srey Mom what her freedom would cost. Payment of about $70 in debts to her brothel owner, she said. Two girls in her brothel had been freed after they found boyfriends who paid their debts, she said, and she spoke of her longing to see her sisters and the rest of her family in her village on the other side of Cambodia.
“Do you really want to leave the brothel?” I asked.
“I love myself,” she answered simply. “I do not want to let my life be destroyed by what I’m doing now.”
That’s when I made a firm decision I’d been toying with for some time: I would try to buy freedom for these two girls and return them to their families. I’ll tell you in my column on Wednesday what happens next.

Sentenced To Be Raped
September 29, 2004
MEERWALA, Pakistan __ I’m still trying to help out President Bush by tracking down Osama bin Laden. After poking through remote parts of Pakistan, asking for a tall Arab with a beard, I can’t say I’ve earned that $25 million reward.
But I did come across someone even more extraordinary than Osama.
Usually we journalists write about rogues, but Mukhtaran Bibi could not be more altruistic or brave, as the men who gang-raped her discovered. I firmly believe that the central moral challenge of this century, equivalent to the struggles against slavery in the 19th century or against totalitarianism in the 20th, will be to address sex inequality in the third world — and it’s the stories of women like Ms. Mukhtaran that convince me this is so.
The plight of women in developing countries isn’t addressed much in the West, and it certainly isn’t a hot topic in the presidential campaign. But it’s a life-and-death matter in villages like Meerwala, a 12-hour drive southeast from Islamabad.
In June 2002, the police say, members of a high-status tribe sexually abused one of Ms. Mukhtaran’s brothers and then covered up their crime by falsely accusing him of having an affair with a high-status woman. The village’s tribal council determined that the suitable punishment for the supposed affair was for high-status men to rape one of the boy’s sisters, so the council sentenced Ms. Mukhtaran to be gang-raped.
As members of the high-status tribe danced in joy, four men stripped her naked and took turns raping her. Then they forced her to walk home naked in front of 300 villagers. In Pakistan’s conservative Muslim society, Ms. Mukhtaran’s duty was now clear: she was supposed to commit suicide. ”Just like other women, I initially thought of killing myself,” said Ms. Mukhtaran, now 30. Her older brother, Hezoor Bux, explained: ”A girl who has been raped has no honorable place in the village. Nobody respects the girl, or her parents. There’s a stigma, and the only way out is suicide.”
A girl in the next village was gang-raped a week after Ms. Mukhtaran, and she took the traditional route: she swallowed a bottle of pesticide and dropped dead.
But instead of killing herself, Ms. Mukhtaran testified against her attackers and propounded the shocking idea that the shame lies in raping, rather than in being raped. The rapists are now on death row, and President Pervez Musharraf presented Ms. Mukhtaran with the equivalent of $8,300 and ordered round-the-clock police protection for her. Ms. Mukhtaran, who had never gone to school herself, used the money to build one school in the village for girls and another for boys — because, she said, education is the best way to achieve social change. The girls’ school is named for her, and she is now studying in its fourth-grade class. (Photographs of Ms. Mukhtaran and her school can be found at www.nytimes.com/kristofresponds.)
”Why should I have spent the money on myself?” she asked, adding, ”This way the money is helping all the girls, all the children.”
I wish the story ended there. But the Pakistani government has neglected its pledge to pay the schools’ operating expenses. ”The government made lots of promises, but it hasn’t done much,” Ms. Mukhtaran said bluntly.
She has had to buy food for the police who protect her, as well as pay some school expenses. So, she said, ”I’ve run out of money.” Unless the schools can raise new funds, they may have to close.
Meanwhile, villagers say that relatives of the rapists are waiting for the police to leave and then will put Ms. Mukhtaran in her place by slaughtering her and her entire family. I walked to the area where the high-status tribesmen live. They denied planning to kill Ms. Mukhtaran, but were unapologetic about her rape.
”Mukhtaran is totally disgraced,” Taj Bibi, a matriarch in a high-status family, said with satisfaction. ”She has no respect in society.”
So although I did not find Osama, I did encounter a much more ubiquitous form of evil and terror: a culture, stretching across about half the globe, that chews up women and spits them out.

We in the West could help chip away at that oppression, with health and literacy programs and by simply speaking out against it, just as we once stood up against slavery and totalitarianism. But instead of standing beside fighters like Ms. Mukhtaran, we’re still sitting on the fence.

 

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