Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Jihad on Horseback by Nabil Kassem
Two years ago, Al Arabiya producer Nabil Kassem was asked to put together a documentary film on Darfur. What he witnessed there, and recorded in this film, were scenes of unspeakable brutality and untold suffering, scenes he thought would surely wake up an Arab public all too willing to let Darfur pass by. But 'Jihad on Horseback' never made it across the airwaves. Watch part 1 of the film to see perhaps the most provocative Arab documentary ever made.
To watch the film: Jihad on Horseback Part 1
and Jihad on Horseback Part 2
MAY, 2007. Two years on, Nabil Kassem is still profoundly affected by his experiences in Sudan. Back in 2005, the documentary film maker was given the job of producing a $50,000 film for Al Arabiya about the crisis in Darfur. What he witnessed there, and recorded in his film, were scenes of unspeakable brutality and untold suffering, scenes he thought would surely wake up an Arab public all too willing to let Darfur pass by. But such was the indictment his film made on the Sudanese government and Arab Janjaweed militias, the final cut of Jihad on Horseback (Jihad ala Al Jiyad) never made it across the airwaves. In this highly charged interview with Co-Editor and Publisher Lawrence Pintak, Kassem speaks of how with the help of a telephone Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir prevented the broadcast of perhaps the most provocative documentary film ever made by an Arab director. Listen here.
Pintak: The documentary has been very controversial. Why is that? What is so controversial about covering Darfur for an Arab media outfit?
Kassem: I think it was the testimonies I got in Chad from the refugees. I found a woman holding a baby, she’d been raped. And the baby belonged to one of the Arabic attackers. She told me that this son’s father was from the Janjaweed. I found too many pregnant women who’d been raped from the Janjaweed.
Controversial—I don’t think it’s controversial. I think the Arab countries, especially the Sudanese, who are following the government now, they’re not ready to see the truth. What’s going on there—it is the truth. You know why? Because if you are an American, and two million of your people are sent away and thrown in the desert with no food and no water, I think there is a problem.
You have to feel. You have to see. You have to say no.
Most of the Arabic—Sudan is Arabic—they are living and denying what is going on in Sudan for the African tribals, and they are Sudanese also.
Pintak: What about Arabs, what about Arab governments and Arab media?
Kassem: They’re living in denial also. They don’t want to see. I think they thought the conflict is between the African and Arabs there in Darfur. I think they have to know that the conflict is between one people who hold one identity—all of them are Muslim—and sharing the same religion. The African tribes are Sudanese and they have their Sudanese identity and passports, and the Arab tribes they are also Sudanese.