Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Sudan: Rape as genocidal theft of a country

GENEINA, Sudan, June 29 -- At first light on Sunday, three young women walked into a scrubby field just outside their refugee camp in West Darfur. They had gone out to collect straw for their family's donkeys. They recalled thinking that the Arab militiamen who were attacking African tribes at night would still be asleep. But six men grabbed them, yelling Arabic slurs such as "zurga" and "abid," meaning "black" and "slave." Then the men raped them, beat them and left them on the ground, they said.

"They grabbed my donkey and my straw and said, 'Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby,' " said Sawela Suliman, 22, showing slashes from where a whip had struck her thighs as her father held up a police and health report with details of the attack. "They said, 'You get out of this area and leave the child when it's made.' "

Suliman's father, a tall, proud man dressed in a flowing white robe, cried as she described the rape. It was not an isolated incident, according to human rights officials and aid workers in this region of western Sudan, where 1.2 million Africans have been driven from their lands by government-backed Arab militias, tribal fighters known as Janjaweed.

Interviews with two dozen women at camps, schools and health centers in two provincial capitals in Darfur yielded consistent reports that the Janjaweed were carrying out waves of attacks targeting African women. The victims and others said the rapes seemed to be a systematic campaign to humiliate the women, their husbands and fathers, and to weaken tribal ethnic lines. In Sudan, as in many Arab cultures, a child's ethnicity is attached to the ethnicity of the father.

"The pattern is so clear because they are doing it in such a massive way and always saying the same thing," said an international aid worker who is involved in health care. She and other international aid officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared reprisals or delays of permits that might hamper their operations.

She showed a list of victims from Rokero, a town outside of Jebel Marra in central Darfur where 400 women said they were raped by the Janjaweed. "It's systematic," the aid worker said. "Everyone knows how the father carries the lineage in the culture. They want more Arab babies to take the land. The scary thing is that I don't think we realize the extent of how widespread this is yet."

Another international aid worker, a high-ranking official, said: "These rapes are built on tribal tensions and orchestrated to create a dynamic where the African tribal groups are destroyed. It's hard to believe that they tell them they want to make Arab babies, but it's true. It's systematic, and these cases are what made me believe that it is part of ethnic cleansing and that they are doing it in a massive way."
...
Despite a stigma among tribal groups in Sudan against talking about rape, Darfur elders have been allowing and even encouraging their daughters to speak out because of the frequency of the attacks. The women consented to be named in this article.

In El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, about 200 miles east of Geneina, Aisha Arzak Mohammad Adam, 22, described a rape by militiamen. "They said, 'Dog, you have sex with me,' " she said. Adam, who was receiving medical treatment at the Abu Shouk camp, said through a female interpreter that she was raped 10 days ago and has been suffering from stomach cramps and bleeding. "They said, 'The government gave me permission to rape you. This is not your land anymore, abid, go.' "
...
"The man said, 'Give me your money, slave,' " she said, starting to cry. "Then I must tell you very frankly, he raped me. He had a gun to my head. He called me dirty abid. He said I was very ugly because my skin is so dark. What will I do now?"
...
"Very frankly, they selected us ladies and had what they wanted with us, like you would a wife," said Mohammad, 46, who has five children. "I am humiliated. Always they said, 'You are nothing. You are abid. You are too black.' It was disgusting."
At times like these, I am strongly tempted to believe abortion is the right thing to do because there are no emergency rooms available to flush this barbarian demon seed from these women.

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