When the Arab men in military uniforms caught Noura Moussa and raped her the other day, they took the trouble to explain themselves.
"We cannot let black people live in this land," she remembers them telling her, and they used racial epithets against blacks, called her a slave, and added: "We can kill any members of African tribes."
Ms. Noura is one of thousands of women and girls to be gang-raped in Darfur, as part of what appears to be a deliberate Sudanese government policy to break the spirit of several African tribes through mass rape.
This policy is shrewd as well as brutal, for the exceptional stigma of rape here often silences victims even as it terrorizes the entire population and forces people to flee.
Ms. Noura, 22, expected to be married soon, and the neighbors said she probably would have received a bride price of 30 cows. These days, they say, she will be lucky to find any husband at all - and will not get a single cow.
This is the first genocide of the 21st century, and we are collectively letting the Sudanese government get away with it. Sudan's leaders appear to have made a calculated decision that some African tribes in the Darfur region are more of a headache than the international protests that result when it depopulates large areas of those tribes. In effect, it is our acquiescence that allows the rapes and murders to continue.
The solution isn't to send American troops. But a starting point is to convey American outrage - loudly and insistently - and demonstrate that Darfur is an American priority.
These women have the backbone to stand up and be counted. We in the West have so much less to lose, yet we can't even find our own voices. Let's hope that the courage of these three women may inspire President Bush, Kofi Annan and other world leaders finally to show a little more backbone and stand much more firmly against genocide.