Saturday, May 19, 2007

Darfur - Rape as a weapon of war (via Mick Hartley)

The well-documented use of systematic mass rape in Darfur is only one instance of a very pervasive problem (also discussed here). In fact, this practice is probably as old as human warfare, and is horribly routine in campaigns of ethnic cleansing. But that doesn't make it any less awful.

Mick Hartley highlights an article with testimony from some of the victims.
If other villagers knew what had happened to Awatif, she would have little prospect of marriage. She insisted, however, that her name and photograph be used in the international media.

“I want you to use my true name because I have told you the truth of what happened,” she said, fiddling with a tiny passage from the Koran hanging around her neck.

“This will be a message to other women over the world to support the women here.”
--Jeff Weintraub
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Mick Hartley (Politics & Culture)
May 18, 2007
Rape as a Weapon of War

Back in April the UN Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report highlighting the use of rape as a weapon of war in Darfur, citing as an instance the village of Deribat, attacked in December 2006. Now the Times talks to one of the teenage victims, willing to speak up, as "a message to other women over the world to support the women here".
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The older women told Awatif Ahmed Salih to keep her eyes on the ground and try not to attract anyone’s attention.

It made no difference. One of the Sudanese soldiers picked the 16-year-old Darfuri girl from the dozens of women held under armed guard.

She was blindfolded, thrown in a pickup and driven two hours from the town of Deribat to a government camp.

There she was raped over and over again by a man she believes to be a senior officer in the Sudanese Army.

“When I realised what was happening I was telling them to kill me,” she said quietly in the local language of her Fur tribe.

She was kept as a sex slave for three days before a rebel counterattack ended her ordeal.

She is not alone. Thousands of women have been raped during the four years of Darfur’s conflict as soldiers burn and loot their way through villages accused of siding with rebels.

Human rights monitors believe that the Government’s assault on Deribat and eight villages around the rebel stronghold of Jebel Mara marks a new nadir even by Darfur’s warped standards.

For the first time, an investigation by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights has concluded that rape is being used as a weapon of war. [JW: it's odd that it took them this long to reach that conclusion, since this has been well known for years.]

Investigators have interviewed girls as young as 13 who were targeted by government soldiers during the attack. Two pregnant women were raped, causing them to miscarry.

A group of 14 women was held for a week and raped day after day by up to four men at a time.

José Diaz, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that reports of random attacks on women collecting firewood or water were commonplace.

“But this was a deliberate attack with rape and sexual assault used as part of the tactic of war,” he said. “It is being used to demoralise and to terrorise a population deemed hostile to the Government, and in a very basic, brutal way to wipe out the enemy.”

The attack on Deribat in late December followed a familiar pattern. Government Antonov planes began the assault, softening up the town with an aerial bombardment before the ground advance.

Witnesses said that 20 4x4s then swept through the town. They were accompanied by Jan-jawid fighters riding horses and camels.

At least 36 people died in Deribat and eight surrounding villages...

The survivors of Deribat are not easy to find. About 3,000 have made their way to Gorolang Baje, a four-hour donkey ride from the nearest road or aid outpost.

Habiba Mohamed Elhag, the town women’s officer, said dozens of the women said that they had been raped by government soldiers. “They did it because they want to destroy the kindness and the hearts of the women,” she said. “This is the kind of war that we are fighting.”

Our meeting takes place in the privacy of an outhouse built from mud bricks and donkey dung. Sacks of food aid are stacked along the walls.

If other villagers knew what had happened to Awatif, she would have little prospect of marriage. She insisted, however, that her name and photograph be used in the international media.

“I want you to use my true name because I have told you the truth of what happened,” she said, fiddling with a tiny passage from the Koran hanging around her neck.

“This will be a message to other women over the world to support the women here.”

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