Ushari Ahmad Mahmud Khalil, a 54-year-old from Sudan who has risked his life helping children and internally displaced populations affected by armed conflict in his home country, has been chosen as the 2002 Oak Human Rights Fellow by the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Mahmud will arrive at Colby in late August and will remain on campus for the fall semester.
For the past 15 years Mahmud has worked to document and protest human rights abuses in his home country of Sudan and in turn has been held in preventive detention for two years and banned from travel for seven years. He is regularly defamed in Sudanese media and attacked by top government ministers and officials because of his advocacy against slavery and violence against children through displacement, slavery, abduction, recruitment in the military, incarceration in juvenile camps, discrimination and the possession of small arms and light weapons. For the past six years Mahmud has worked with UNICEF for the protection of children in government and rebel-controlled areas and in the UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office in Nairobi.
In 1987 Mahmud was co-author of an independent report that exposed a massacre of 1,500 African Dinkas by an Arab Muslim group allied with the government and a revival of slavery practices in the region. In 1990 he received a Human Rights Watch Monitor Award for international recognition of his human rights record. Mahmud received his Ph.D. in sociolinguistics from Georgetown University in 1979 and for the next 10 years he was a professor of linguistics at the University of Khartoum in Sudan. Since the late 1980s he has devoted his time to human rights work. Mahmud will be joined at Colby by his 6-year-old daughter, Zawan.
Mahmud is the fifth Oak Human Rights fellow, following human rights activists who had risked their lives on behalf of child laborers in Pakistan, civil society in the Democratic Republic of Congo, indigenous and peasant groups in Colombia, and women and children war victims in Kosovo.
Mahmud was selected from among 63 applicants. The one-semester fellowship was established by a 1998 grant to Colby College from the Oak Foundation to allow a front-line human rights practitioner to take a sabbatical for research, writing and teaching as a scholar-in-residence at Colby. In addition to the fellowship, the Oak Institute supports human right lectures and other programs on the campus. To learn more about the Oak Institute visit its Web site at www.colby.edu/oak.