Saturday, July 10, 2004

Sudanese tell of mass rape (BBC News)

BBC News

Sudanese tell of mass rape
By Alexis Masciarelli and Ilona Eveleens

The pro-government Janjaweed Arab militia has been accused of using systematic rape, as well as killing and destroying the villages of black Africans, in the conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Behind the closed door of a classroom, in the school compound where she has been living for the last two months, 35 year-old rape-victim Khadija, spoke of her ordeal.

"The Janjaweed arrived one evening in February in our village near Kaileck, they had guns," she says in a quiet voice.

"They followed us when we tried to escape. The group of people I was with was forced back to Kaileck. They had surrounded the whole town."

"They separated men and women. Then the Janjaweed selected the prettiest women."

"Four men raped me for 10 days."

"Every day, women were picked up, taken to the bush where they were raped and brought back to Kaileck. The next day it would start again."

Hostage population

Khadija is one of some 40,000 people to have found shelter in the town of Kass, in the south of Darfur.

In the past 16 months, the conflict opposing the Sudan government and its militia allies to the rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), has killed at least 10,000 people and displaced more than one million across the large western Sudanese region.

"Rape appears to be a feature of most attacks in Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa areas of Darfur," says the latest Human Rights Watch report on the Darfur conflict.

"The extent of the rape is difficult to determine since women are reluctant to talk about it and men, although willing to report it, speak only in generalities."

Many witnesses say the population of Kaileck was held hostage by the Janjaweed for two months, despite repeated appeals to the commissioner of Kass.

Men were also picked up daily and killed.

The accounts are difficult to verify, but accord with the findings of human rights workers in recent months.

Kaileck is now an empty desolated town, with every single house and hut burnt or destroyed.

Ethnic choice

"It is very difficult for me as I am a Fur women and these are Arab men", says Khadija, covering herself with an orange scarf.

"These are my only clothes. My sister gave them to me, because the Janjaweed abandoned me naked."

"Now I am three-months pregnant. It will be a child from the Janjaweed. But I won't reject this baby. He will be my baby."

"When he grows up, he will decide whether he wants to be a Fur or an Arab. If he chooses to be an Arab, he could go with them. If he decides to be a Fur, he will be welcome to stay with us."

In the same classroom, a much younger woman listens.

Fifteen-year-old Aziza says she was also raped by the Janjaweed back in February.

"When Kaileck was attacked, I fled towards the mountains, but five horsemen caught me and took me far away in a field," she says.

"All five of them raped me twice. They kept me for 10 days. They whipped me."

"I could not say anything because they were armed. All I could do was to cry."

"They tied up my arms and my legs and would only release me when they raped me. They called me Abeid (slave in Arabic)."

"Eventually they abandoned me. Someone told my mother where I was and she came to take me back. I could not walk by myself."


But the ordeal did not stop then.

"When I arrived in Kaileck, I learnt that the Janjaweed had killed my father."

"I am still in pain and I can't really control myself. But I have not seen any doctor."

In Kass, like many other towns and camps in Darfur, women are still at the risk of being rape when they go out to gather firewood or fetch water.

Their best protection, they say, does not come from the army or local police force, but by going in large groups which are more able to defend themselves.

The names of the two women have been changed to protect their identity.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/06/10 07:03:12 GMT