In-depth: Our Bodies - Their Battle Ground: Gender-based Violence in Conflict Zones

SUDAN: Rape as a weapon of war in Darfur

Photo: UNICEF
Young girls in Darfur IDP camps
NAIROBI, 1 September 2004 (IRIN) - "When we tried to escape they shot more children. They raped women. I saw many cases of Janjawid raping women and girls. They are happy when they rape. They sing when they rape and tell that we are slaves and that they can do what they wish".

This testimony from a 37-year-old displaced woman is one of many personal accounts of atrocities committed in Darfur, western Sudan, by Arab militias known as Janjawid that Amnesty International documented in a report titled Rape as a weapon of war in Darfur, launched on 19 July 2004.Another woman quoted in the report recalled:

I was sleeping when the attack on Disa started. I was taken away by the attackers, they were in uniforms. They took dozens of other girls and made us walk for three hours. During the day we were beaten and they were telling us: "you are black women, we will exterminate you, you have no god". At night we were raped several times. The Arabs* guarded us with arms and we were not given food for three days. (The term Arabs is used here to indicate people predominantly from nomadic groups who speak Arabic as their first language)


Photo: IRIN
Amnesty representatives present the AI report in Nairobi, July 2004
According to Pollyanna Truscott, Amnesty International's Darfur Crisis Coordinator, the aim of the report was to alert the international community to the atrocities being committed against women and girls in Darfur. While the international community seemed to be finally taking action on the Darfur crisis, little was being said about its impact on the female population, Amnesty said at the time. "We have no doubt that they are using rape, among other things, as a way of destroying communities," Truscott said.

Amnesty urged the international community to save the lives of more than a million IDPs in Darfur and tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees in Chad. It said humanitarian aid would not succeed unless civilians, including women and girls, were given adequate and effective protection.

In addition to being subjected to abuse, the women also had to deal with another source of psychological pain, according to Truscott: there was a myth going around the camps: if a woman became pregnant from a "rape" it meant she had wanted sex; if she did not want it the pregnancy would not have occurred.

Amnesty called on the Sudanese government, the armed political groups in Darfur, Chad's government, the African Union, the UN Security Council and UN member states to take action against the atrocities. It also gave suggestions on how mediators, humanitarian agencies and the UN should proceed.

[To read Amnesty's report, go to http://web.amnesty.org/]

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