Using rape as a weapon of warWe all know rape happens in war. Rape is ultimately about power and aggression, and rape is ultimately a dominance tactic: rape a woman or a man, and youu've more than humiliated her, you've subjugated her. That's why rape is such an underreported crime and why the anti-abortion activists are so wrong about the issue of "choice": oftentimes, it's not the woman's choice to BE pregnant in the first place.
May 14, 2006
NYALA, Sudan -- The gunmen eyed the 11 women for a few moments, as if scanning a menu. Then they chose three: Buthereina Hassab el-Dama, her sister and their cousin.
"These two men who took me - one was doing the action, and the other was threatening me with a gun," el-Dama, 22, recalled, adjusting the lavender shawl framing her face and narrow shoulders.
Rape is a word few people can bring themselves to utter here, least of all those who have been through it, but el-Dama's euphemism was clear as she shared her story in the fading light of a hot, Saturday afternoon. It is a common story in Darfur, where human rights groups say soldiers and militiamen loyal to the Arab-dominated government have used rape as a weapon in their war against non-Arab tribes - a charge the government denies but that is supported by scores of reports based on victims' stories.
Nobody knows how many women have been victims of war-related rapes here, because of reluctance to report the crime, but victims' advocates say the number is in the tens of thousands. The signing of a peace deal May 5 between the government and the main rebel group isn't likely to change that, they say, because of the lack of security on the ground in Darfur.
"In war, any tactic an aggressor can use to demoralize his enemy works in his favor. Rape does just that," said Janet Kerr, a psychologist and sexual violence expert who works in the Kalma displacement camp, outside Nyala, with the international aid group Doctors Without Borders. "It is a very effective way to undermine an enemy."
In a four-month period last year, Doctors Without Borders treated nearly 500 rape victims at various locations in Darfur and said in a report that this was "only a partial representation" of the actual number.
Other reporting from Darfur:
Starved for a solutionNevermind that, as I related earlier this year, people are killed for merely poking their heads out in public to fetch a pail of water.
May 15, 2006
NYALA, Sudan -- A 5-month-old boy who, at 7 1/2 pounds looked as fragile as a newborn, sucked formula through a thin tube positioned against his emaciated mother's chest. Some day, when his mother is able to provide milk to nourish her son, it is hoped he will have learned to associate her breast with food and be weaned from the tube.
Until then, Martam Mohamed Khamis and her tiny boy, Abdul Rahman Suliman, are full-time residents of one of the most troubling symbols of Darfur's 3-year-old war: a therapeutic feeding center for children on the verge of starvation.
By the end of April, malnutrition was affecting 15 percent of the population in South Darfur, where this feeding center is located. That is a sharp increase from three months earlier and a sign of deteriorating conditions in the region, where international aid groups had cut malnutrition rates from 21.7 percent in 2004 to about half that last year.
But an upsurge in fighting since January has increased the number of those needing food and medical assistance. So has a drop in international donations to UN agencies such as the United Nations' World Food Program, which last month had received just $238 million, or 32 percent, of the $746 million it needed for Darfur in 2006. The shortfall is so great that starting May 1, the agency resorted to what its Darfur director, Carlos Veloso, called "drastic measures." It halved rations to the 3 million people it is feeding in Darfur, bringing their daily caloric count from 2,100 to 1,050.
In this harsh environment, where people must walk several miles in searing heat through soft sand to fetch water and firewood, and where cooking is an energy-consuming, time-intensive exercise involving stirring and mashing of the dried rations, aid workers worry about the cut's impact.
"If this continues, I'm afraid we'll go back to where we were in 2004, and all the gains we made in Darfur will be lost," said the program's Penny Ferguson.
So why is this being hushed up? Let me let Tina explain:
Where the Despair BeginsSay it with me loud, but not proud:
May 14, 2006
NYALA, Sudan --[....]
"These things happen every day," said Naser Bashier Kambal of the Amel Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, a Sudanese organization that helps victims of Darfur's war. "It's something systematic that is going on," said Kambal. "If they find women, they rape. If they find men, they kill. Every day such things happen and no one intervenes. They just move on."
Kambal's words capture the plight of Darfur, a region about the size of Texas, where a war between black African rebels and Sudan's Arab-dominated regime evolved into a state-sponsored ethnic cleansing campaign that, by some estimates, has killed 400,000 civilians and left millions struggling to survive.
Although the government and one of the three main rebel groups signed a (ed note: U.S.-brokered ) peace accord May 5, nobody expects things to change quickly for people like Fatina. Two rebel groups oppose the deal, and the government has yet to accept the idea of UN peacekeepers to implement the agreement. In addition, the plan gives the government a full five months to disarm the dreaded janjaweed - months during which there will be no formidable force on the ground to protect civilians.
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky