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Natan Dvir

Dress on Border Fence, Israel, 2007

Digital C-Print 120/80 cm

Courtesy of the artist

Natan Dvir photographs the refugees upon their arrival in Israel. Over the past five years or more, an armed militia, engaged in murder and expulsion spree, has annihilated entire tribal rural communities in Darfur, a province in western Sudan. More than 1.5 million people were forcibly evicted from their homes, which

were then set on fire; their water sources were contaminated and ruined and their livestock stolen or slaughtered. At least 100,000 people have lost their lives to this raging violence and expulsions. Women and girls have been systematically raped and ostracized. To date, more than 2 million people, who were affected directly by the conflict, are in dire need of humanitarian aid – and their numbers are increasing daily. In September 2003, realizing the enormity of the crisis – the “world’s greatest humanitarian disaster” – the UN embarked on efforts to resolve it. In July 2004, it instructed the African Union to send peacekeeping monitors to the province, and demanded, in vain, the Sudanese government to extradite 50 militia members to be brought to trial in the International Court of Justice. The nightmare of the refugees, who fled their homes and managed to arrive in Israel, is by no means over. Defined as citizens of enemy country, they are not eligible for refugee status. The Israeli authorities arrest and detain them indefinitely without any proper judicial review. According to the 4th Geneva Convention, states cannot refuse those seeking shelter in their territory, even if they are citizens of an enemy state. Ironically, it was the State of Israel that proposed this clause in 1949. It based its proposal on the precedent set by the UK, which gave shelter to 65,000 German Jews during World War II by defining them as “refugees from Nazi oppression” instead of enemy aliens, and provided them with sojourn visas. Today, 60 years on, Israel turns its back on Darfur refugees and ignores the international law, the ratification of which it toiled so hard to achieve as a young state. Dvir wonders while taking these photographs on their decision to flee to Israel, which is conceived as enemy country in Sudan. However, it seems that in their tremendous hardship they have decided to knock on the doors of survivors of another holocaust and ask for humanitarian aid and assistance.