March 3, 2001
Boston – As South Sudan’s Christians and animists voted overwhelmingly to secede from the Arab Muslim north, rights groups are concerned about the fate of an estimated 35,000 of southern slaves still held in the north. Officials from the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) and Christian Solidarity International-USA (CSI-USA) witnessed the voting and documented the liberation of almost 400 slaves.
Raw video of interviews with freed slaves is available upon request.
“As the world focuses on the birth of the newest African nation, thousands of southerners are held as slaves who continue to serve masters in the north,” said Charles Jacobs, President of the AASG.
Slavery in Sudan persists despite British efforts to end it in the first half of the 20th century. In the 1980s, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the regime in Khartoum attempted to impose Shariah law on the south triggering a revolt. In response, northern leaders sent Arab militias to destroy southern villages; African women and children were captured as war booty and enslaved.
“It is inconceivable that in the twenty first century blacks are still being enslaved because of the color of their skin. Their suffering is terrible. They are treated like animals,” said Francis Bok, an escaped Sudanese slave and an Associate of the AASG.
CSI-USA frees slaves in partnership with Arab retrievers who find and return them to the south. CSI also provides the former slaves with humanitarian aid.
Reports of slavery originally sparked US interest in Sudan. AASG and CSI, along with others, created a grass roots abolitionist movement and built an unlikely left-right political coalition that pressured US administrations to intervene in Sudan. In 2005 President George W. Bush imposed a peace treaty that included the provision for January’s vote.
“Slavery is not a matter of right or left, but right or wrong. Imagine, we had Pat Robertson and Barney Frank,” said Jacobs.
The “Sudan Campaign” included Congressional Black Caucus members, black radio personalities and white Republicans. “America is an abolitionist nation,” he added
“I heard stories of absolute horror,” said Jacobs. “The slaves were ripped from their families and taken north. Some were branded, many were raped – boys as well as girls and women. Many were forcibly converted to Islam.”
Jacobs stressed: “All people of goodwill should join us in demanding that all of the remaining slaves be set free.”
Dr. Jacobs and Mr. Bok are available for interviews.
For all inquiries contact AASG at firstname.lastname@example.org