It seems to me that political correctness obfuscates objective presentation of the Darfur genocide. I have heard oral narratives that frame it in terms of race (Arab vs Black) and religion [Muslim vs Christian (or maybe Animist)] but the Wikipedia page does not put it that way. OTOH, the Srebrenica massacre is readily presented as directed against Muslims by Serbs (Christians).

Is it accurate to frame the ongoing atrocities in Darfur as perpetrated by Arab Muslims again Black Christians and Animists?

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    Srebrenica is presented as Serb against Muslim because there's no other way to present it. The people on both sides are of the same race and speak the same language.
    – phoog
    Jul 11, 2022 at 21:07
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    @phoog: I do recall Ratko Mladic referring to the Bosnian Muslims as "Turks" (in a semi-famous video he shot in Srebrenica right after he conquered it), so maybe in his/their mind they were not of the same ethnicity, although I'm not too inclined to research Mladic's ideology and other speeches further. Jul 12, 2022 at 3:29
  • @phoog: a bit of googling suggests my memory is not wrong, Karadzic used similar language balkaninsight.com/2019/04/15/… Jul 12, 2022 at 3:37
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    @Fizz I don't quite understand your point. Ethnicity is complex; I avoided that word in my comment on purpose. Most people in Bosnia probably consider that Serbs and Muslims are ethnically different. There are historical connections underlying "Turk," but Bosnian Muslims are not ethnically Turkish. "Bosniaks" is so uncommon outside of specialist circles that when Joe Biden used the word in a debate in 2008, respectable journalists thought it was a gaffe. So this leaves "[Bosnian] Muslim" as the most specific widely understood identifier, where "Bosnian" is frequently implicit.
    – phoog
    Jul 12, 2022 at 5:36
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    @drowned - Well, anyone with an Internet connection can access any article on the site without paying any money beyond the cost of that connection. If you are concerned about cookies gathering data, Wikipedia can also be accessed with browsers and settings that block this. Economists may say that there is no such thing as a free lunch, but that is pretty close to the standard definition of "free." As for the "agenda" that is enforced, please do feel free to provide us with examples. Many people believe that Wikipedia is biased in various directions. Some of them may even be right.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 13, 2022 at 2:36

2 Answers 2


Short Answer

The opposing sides in the Darfur conflict are all at least nominally Sunni Muslim and would all be considered by people in the U.S. or Latin America to be "black".

But, it is a conflict in which people who self-identify as Arab Muslim seek to exterminate people belonging to each of several ethnicities who self-identify as African, and the two sides view themselves as racially distinct. Since it seeks extermination of an ethnicity, it is indeed a form of genocide.

The two sides are also linguistically distinct, with one side speaking the Sudanese dialect of Arabic, and the other side broken up between several ethic groups who speak different languages, none of which are a dialect of Arabic. There are also probably differences in how the sides practice Sunni Islam that would seem minor to an outsider but are important to the parties.

Long Answer

"The Darfur genocide is the systematic killing of ethnic Darfuri people which has occurred during the ongoing conflict in Western Sudan."

"Genocide" is the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group (according to Oxford Languages).

Darfur is split into two: "those who claim Black 'African' descent and primarily practice sedentary agriculture, and those who claim 'Arab' descent and are mostly semi-nomadic livestock herders".

While Christians and animists are predominant among sedentary farmers in most of sub-Saharan Africa, this is not true in Darfur, where both Christians and animists are scarce.

If one really wanted to be precise, one would say that the Darfur genocide is one with multiple targets with the aggressors being self-identified Arab-Muslims (in the same vein, the Holocaust in Europe, which is often considered the "type case" for what a genocide is, had multiple targets such as both Jews and Gypsies).

The main targets of the Darfur genocide are the the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes. Linguistically these belong the Furan, Maban, and Saharan language families and are commonly grouped together (along with several other language families) as Nilo-Saharan. This is in contrast to the Sudanese Arabic language of the perpetrators of the Darfur genocide, which is part of the Semitic branch (which also includes Hebrew) of the Afro-Asiatic language family.

All of the groups that are the core target of the genocide in Darfur are at least nominally Sunni Muslim, just as the aggressors are, although the "tyranny of small differences" often elevates small differences between peoples with many broad brush similarities to life and death importance, and slight differences in Islamic practice probably play some part in the antipathy present in the conflict.

Christian-animists targeted at one point are mostly in the newly formed nation of South Sudan, in a neighboring, but arguably related, conflict.

Also, while there is a difference in perceived racial identity, from the view of a typical American, both a typical Janjaweed forces member carrying out the genocide:

enter image description here

and a typical member of one of the tribes who have been targeted:

enter image description here

would both be considered "black" racially, even though someone familiar with the peoples of the area could mostly make some phenotypic distinctions between the groups, that would be fairly accurate, based upon differences between them in appearance. But, the magnitude of these fairly subtle differences might be better compared to the differences between a Greek person and a German person, both of whom would be considered "white" in the United States. The people involved in the conflict, however, would consider the differences between the conflicting sides to be racial in nature.

Simply put, there are very few people who live in Sudan who are involved in this conflict, who would be considered "white" by an American or Latin American observer. Neither side in the conflict has many participants who look like the most familiar Arab Muslims, Saudi Arabians, who often look like this:

enter image description here

Even linguistically, the Arabic macro-language has very diverse dialects (arguably better described as topolects), some of which differ almost as much from each other as the Romance languages do from each other. So, for example, an "Arab" Janjaweed militia member who would usually speak a Sudanese dialect of Arabic and would struggle to understand the dialect of Arabic spoken by natives of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Is it accurate to frame the ongoing atrocities in Darfur as perpetrated by Arab Muslims again Black Christians and Animists?

No. Almost all of the groups against which it has been perpetrated in Darfur are also Sunni Muslims. But, the aggressors do identify as Arab Muslim and that identity is central to the conflict:

The proxy wars between Sudan, Libya and Chad added an element of political instability. Darfurians, mainly those who self-identified as "Arab" and "African" people, began to respond to the ideology of Arab supremacy propagated by Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi (in power 1969-2011). A famine in the mid-1980s disrupted many societal structures and led to the first significant modern fighting amongst Darfuris. A low-level conflict continued for the next fifteen years, with the government co-opting and arming Arab Janjaweed militias against its enemies.

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    What is the relevance of your first sentence, where you note that people in the Americas would consider everyone involved as 'black'? You repeat this observation later, with a similar remark about Germans and Greeks.
    – user43624
    Jul 12, 2022 at 8:48
  • the linguistic comments here about the Fur and Masalit are both incorrect. The Fur language belongs to its own family, and Masalit is a Maban language. The Maban and Fur families are often linked (together with the Nilotic anguages many other likely independent families) in the dubious Nilo-Saharan macrofamily. The Masalit language is not Afro-Asiatic
    – Tristan
    Jul 12, 2022 at 9:44
  • regarding the diversity of Arabic, an interesting comparandum (but not worth including in the main body of the answer) is Slavic, which started to break apart at around the same time as Arabic (the 7th century). The degree of linguistic divergence is similar, but because of differing political and religious circumstances (notably most Arabic-speaking populations are Muslim and so have a strong incentive to maintain a shared literary tradition base on the Classical Arabic of the early Caliphates) one is commonly viewed as a single language, whilst the other as a family
    – Tristan
    Jul 12, 2022 at 9:47
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    @Thissitehasbecomeadump. The relevance is that at one level of generality it is an intra-racial conflict, while at a more fine grained level which is the one the participants are acting upon, it is an inter-racial conflict. It also clarifies factually, who is involved to avoid misunderstandings that would flow from common connotations of terms like "Arab" or "African" when applied to this context.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 12, 2022 at 20:20
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    @Tristan Re Arabic. I'm familiar with the issue in Slavic but didn't think it would be as familiar to readers. The classification of Arabic as a single language, similar to the classification of Chinese as a single language, is basically arbitrary and can't really be defended as a consistent approach.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 12, 2022 at 20:25

Wikipedia is not a trustworthy source on any topic with political valence; too many people want to cash in on their ideologies.

As to the question itself... My general impression is that genocides, pogroms, cleanings, and other kinds of organized xenophobia are too primal to be captured under such easy descriptions. People don't massacre others because of their race, religion, skin color, or etc. People massacre others when they are politically whipped into a frenzy of fear, distrust, and hatred of otherness; race, religion, skin color, etc., are ex-post-facto justifications for that fear, distrust, and hatred.

Simply put, if one wants to gain power through fear and hatred, one needs an identifiable target for those emotions. The more power one gets, the more one needs to be seen taking action against that target. The target is chosen by convenience, not necessity — whatever group catches anger from supporters will do — and so the actual reasons given for action are epiphenomenal, not causal. Genocides occur because manipulative leaders need their supporters in a frenzied state — frenzied people are easiest to manipulate — and people organized into a frenzy are prone to mass violence.

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    What you say is that the leaders of any/most deadly movement are basically just power hungry and don't really follow any ideology but rather simply do not value the lives of others at all, while the people executing the actions are also not filled with hate originally but simply were tricked into doing what they do? Just want to understand. Jul 11, 2022 at 21:21
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    @Trilarion: Think about Trump border policies. Armed vigilantes allowed to roam the borderlands. Children separated from parents. Ramp-ups in policing meant 'illegals' were rounded up in greater numbers, forced into ever more cramped and unsanitary conditions, suffered shortages in transportation, food and water, medical care, clean clothing and bedding. Sure, we were a few steps short of cramming them into cattle cars or force-marching them back across the border, but one unlucky fire or disease outbreak could have killed hundreds or thousands. That starts to look very much like genocide. Jul 11, 2022 at 22:50
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    @JaredSmith: I expected the downvotes. There are some people who need horrible events to be attached to identifiable evil. They are revolted by the thought that horror on this level can be the byproduct of callous political calculation and manipulation, and downvote in protest. There are others for whom the idea of being emotionally manipulated by politicians strikes a bit too close to home (particularly in current US politics) and downvote because they feel enraged and insulted. I obviously feel this is an accurate analysis, but I had no illusions it would be popular. Jul 12, 2022 at 17:43
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    From 1 some people: #1 this doesn't answer the question, besides correctly questioning wiki's trustworthiness on contentious political issues #2 long on claims, very short on sources, #3 I'd give an extra DV for bringing in Trump, who's got zilch to do w Darfur. #4 claiming genocides are always initiated top-down, as opposed to mob-like emergent behavior, at least in some cases, seems way over the top. If someone leads a lynching and becomes political later, how do you rate that? Jul 12, 2022 at 19:58
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    How does this answer relate to Darfur?
    – A.L
    Jul 13, 2022 at 9:18

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