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Darfur: Happy Mother’s Day

14 May

Mother in Darfur / Rape

Mothers bearing mixed-race babies face isolation.

Fatouma spends her days under the plastic tarp roof of her tent, seated on a straw mat, staring at the squirming creature in her arms. She examines over and over again the perfectly formed fingers and toes, 10 of each, and the tiny limbs, still curled in the form they took before leaving her belly five days before, and now encircled with amulets to ward off evil. Everything about this baby, the 16-year-old mother declared, is perfect. Almost everything. "She is a janjaweed," Fatouma said softly, referring to the fearsome Arab militiamen who have terrorized this region. "When people see her light skin and her soft hair, they will know she is a janjaweed." Fatouma's child is among the scores of babies produced by one of the most horrific aspects of the conflict in Darfur, the vast, arid region of western Sudan: the use of rape against women and girls in a battle over land and ethnicity that has killed tens of thousands and driven 2 million people from their homes. Interviews with traditional midwives and aid organizations here indicated that there are probably at least two dozen such babies just in Al Riyadh, the displaced people's camp where Fatouma lives. It is one of scores of places where ethnic Africans have fled in Darfur and eastern Chad from attacks by government forces and their allied Arab militias. A recent U.N. investigation into war crimes in Darfur laid out, in page after graphic page, evidence of widespread rape in the two-year conflict. In one incident, a woman in Wadi Tina was raped 14 times by different men in January 2003. In March 2004, 150 soldiers and janjaweed abducted and raped 16 young girls in Kutum, the report said. In Kailek, it said girls as young as 10 were raped by militants. The fruit of these attacks is now being born in Darfur and will inevitably become a long-term legacy of the conflict. In a society where deep taboos surrounding rape persist and identity is passed, according to Muslim tradition, from father to child, the fate of these children and their mothers is uncertain. "She will stay with us for now," Adoum Muhammad Abdulla, the sheik of Fatouma's village, said of the days-old "infant. "We will treat her like our own. But we will watch carefully when she grows up, to see if she becomes like a janjaweed. If she behaves like janjaweed, she cannot stay among us." The fact that he and the new mothers call the children janjaweed, a local insult that means "devil on horseback," underscores just how bitter the division between those who identify themselves as Africans and those who see themselves as Arabs has become, and points to the potential difficulty of acceptance and integration in the years ahead. In a conflict that began over land but has been fueled by ethnic strife, these children will carry a heavy burden. Long after the fighting ends, they will endure as living reminders of war. "I am very happy to be a mother," Fatouma said, after a long afternoon of sitting in her tent, staring at her daughter. "I will love her with all my heart." But if her neighbors are any guide, Fatouma's prospects are dim. Ashta, a 30-year-old woman who lives on the other side of Al Riyadh camp, also spends her days alone in a bare tent with her 2-month-old son, Faisal. He was born nine months after Ashta was attacked by a group of militants. Ashta's husband, who has been in Libya for eight years working as a cow herder has cast her off, abandoning her and their two children. She lives in a tent next to her brother, who has taken her in. Ashta does not know what to make of the child she has borne. She has no expectation of remarrying and stoically faces a long life of loneliness and hardship. Ashta's brother, Mohammad, said he refuses to blame his sister, despite taboos about rape. "It is not her fault," he said. "She is a victim of war. We will take care of the child. It is very difficult to love a janjaweed, but we will try to accept him as our own."

"Ethnic rapes shatter lives in Darfur " By LYDIA POLGREEN THE NEW YORK TIMES

View at Survivors United – to save the women of Darfur Genocidal Rape in Darfur

An older article which still stands.  

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4 Comments

Posted by on May 14, 2006 in Bookmarks, The Sudan

 

4 responses to “Darfur: Happy Mother’s Day

  1. Anthony Lemons

    May 14, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    Hello there, and welcome to my blog. I put a post up in an attempt to steer people to your blog. Come check it out.

     
  2. Anthony Lemons

    May 14, 2006 at 11:39 pm

    heres the link, above one was wrong.

     
  3. weirsdo

    May 16, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    What brave mothers and supportive family members.

     
  4. shayna

    May 22, 2006 at 9:31 am

    Wow… this story got to me…

     

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