Sudan: Arab militia use 'rape camps' for ethnic cleansing of Sudan
By Benjamin Joffe-WaltThese Arab Janjaweed are sub-human pieces of filth.
"In the evening, the Janjaweed attacked. The area was full of crying from every direction, and shooting," says Ilham Isaak Abakker Abdullah. Aged 13, and light-voiced, she wears a pink dress and scarf and hasn't shown her face in weeks. "I saw many people killed, then I was grabbed by two men on horses wearing Sudan army uniforms."
My local translator stops, no longer willing to delve into her story. "She is only 13," he says, and walks away. Tentatively, she continues talking to me in Arabic: "They tied me to a tree and raped me all night. I became very ill and fell down. They thought I died, so they left me."
Unable to walk and barely conscious, Ilham crawled out of the "rape camp" near Funu, in northern Darfur, where she was being held. "I was very lucky," she says. She found a relative nearby who carried her just over a mile to a donkey, and they rode together a few hours to Abu Lehah, a village that has become a safe haven for the survivors of this secret rape camp. "I was unconscious and stayed there 16 days," she says. Ilham then set out on a 125-mile trek south to Bahai in Chad, where she eventually found medical help.
After 50 years of conflict that have claimed almost 2 million lives, Sudan is now officially at peace - but unofficially, the war goes on. In Darfur, Sudan's western-most region, the people remain untouched by last week's peace agreement signed between the country's Islamic government and Christian rebels. Sudanese soldiers and the government-backed Janjaweed militia still terrorise, and at the centre of their campaign of "ethnic cleansing" is a policy of systematic rape designed to drive civilians from their settlements.
Ilham is one of countless women, young and old, who have made the journey to Chad after escaping the "rape camps". I was unable to confirm first-hand the existence of such camps, but based on testimony to The Sunday Telegraph of refugees in the area, interviews by human rights organisations and the data, though scant, of aid agencies, it is clear that one such camp exists 10 miles outside Abu Lehah. It is also clear that rape by Janjaweed militias, the Arab soldiers intent on "ethnic cleansing" in the black African-dominated region of Darfur, is prevalent.
"When we arrived in Abu Lehah we saw hundreds of women unable to walk," says Asha Abdara Haman, 25, who helped Ilham and other girls on the long journey to Bahai. "Many girls were under 15 and couldn't walk. We carried them for 16 days."
Asha and her 17-year-old sister, Radiya, were taken by Janjaweed and held as sex slaves for two days. "Five to six people raped each of us," Asha says. "They did everything they wanted with us, our condition was horrible."
To escape, the sisters manipulated the Janjaweed. "We said, 'You Janjaweed, you are very good people, we will not leave you,' so they didn't watch us closely and we escaped into the trees." Unable to walk properly, they almost crawled to Abu Lehah nearby, where they stayed for two days before making the trek to Chad with Ilham and other women.
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