Friday 22 September 2017

Mass rape in Darfur: Sudanese army blamed for multiple attacks on women

Rose Troup Buchanan

Over 200 women and girls in Darfur were raped over three days in a “widespread, organised and systematic” attack by Sudanese government forces.

“They did it one by one. One helped beat and the other raped. Then they would go to the next girl,” survivor Khatera claimed in the 48-page Human Rights Watch report detailing the atrocities in Tabit, a town of 7,000 in the Darfur region of Sudan last October.

Khatera - who is in her 40s - and her three daughters were among the 221 women raped by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers.

Two of her daughters were under 11 years old at the time of the attack.

“Eighteen soldiers came into our house. Three took the men out. They beat the men with the back of their guns. Then they dragged [the men] out of the house,” Nadia, in her twenties, said.

“Then the 15 [remaining soldiers] raped us, all four of us. They beat us and they did whatever they wanted.”

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Based on the systematic testimonies of 15 survivors, and an additional 21 credible witnesses, the HRW report details how soldiers burst into homes, accused the residents of harbouring either a member of the rebel forces or of killing a missing solider, and then beat the man before they raped the women of the family.

“Two soldiers separately said they were given direct orders to attack and specifically to rape, on the pretext of the missing soldier,” Jonathan Loeb, author of the HRW report.

On two of the nights hundreds of the town’s men were forcibly marched by soldiers and then beaten on the outskirts of Tabit, leaving women particularly vulnerable as the soldiers moved in.

Umm-Jumma, in her thirties, heard screaming and ran to her mother’s compound intending to resist.

“When they saw that I wanted to fight they threatened me with their gun. Then they raped me. There were four of them. Two had civilian clothes. [They raped me] in front of my mother. She was screaming,” she said.

News of the attack was first broken by Netherlands-based radio station Radio Dabanga and immediately denied by Sudanese authorities, who accused the station of “spreading lies”.

Access to the town, in the west of Sudan in a region still recovering from decades of civil war, was closed down and although one investigation was let in on 9 November, campaigners insist it is unreliable.

“Victims were threatened and investigators were not allowed to interview them without the presence of officials,” said Mr Loeb.

“It was completely compromised and we need access to the site so that a proper investigation can be carried out.”

Subsequently international investigators have been repeatedly denied access by the Sudanese government.

Independent News Service

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