Suad Abdalaziz, 28, who was raped and became pregnant during a attack by the Jajaweed in the village of Tawila, holds her 3-day-old baby girl.
Rape has been a tool of war probably since the first war millennia ago. It’s typically used to intimidate, humiliate, obtain information and to reward soldiers. Sometimes, it’s openly practiced, even encouraged, sometimes secretly done while officially condemned, but rarely is it prosecuted.
As Amnesty International notes:
Violence against women in armed conflict situations is largely based on traditional views of women as property, and often as sexual objects. Around the world, women have long been attributed the role of transmitters of culture and symbols of nation or community. Violence directed against women is often considered an attack against the values or "honor" of a society and therefore a particularly potent tool of war. Women therefore experience armed conflicts as sexual objects, as presumed emblems of national and ethnic identity, and as female members of ethnic, racial, religious, or national groups.
The consequences of wartime rape are the same as in peacetime: trauma, rage, depression, stigmatization by society, rejection by family, infertility, and, of course, pregnancy.
In the Darfur region of western Sudan, where the U.N. has proved incapable of protecting refugees from government-allied militias and continuing violation of the Abuja agreements yesterday spurred aid workers to flee, rape has been used as a tool of “ethnic cleansing.”
"Depending on the magnitude of it, [rape] can constitute a crime against humanity," said Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Investigators in Darfur have not yet determined the magnitude. Eight of them are in the region, spread across an area the size of France.
For now the victims are left to the whim of local law enforcement, in which, it is apparent, there is little or no confidence.
A recent inquiry by the Sudanese government turned up two cases of rape during the entire 18-month-long war in Darfur. Arbour, of Canada, rebuked the government, saying it was "in denial."
After ignoring the conflict in Darfur for nearly a year while repeating charges about Saddam’s “rape rooms” in Iraq, Colin Powell finally got around to calling the on-going slaughter in Sudan “genocide” 10 weeks ago. That appropriate and horrifying word conceals the pain of individual victims. Some Darfurian women caught up in the conflict face a lifetime of pain and shunning by their own community, even their own families. And, of course, their children will be outcasts as well.
Babies conceived of rapes by janjaweed militiamen face daunting futures
By Sudarsan Raghavan
ABU SHOUK, Sudan - There were no smiles, no blessings at the birth of the light-skinned girl with the ebony eyes and curly black hair. Not a glimpse of joy. For a family still bleeding from war, the baby was like salt on their wounds.
"My father didn't speak for the entire day," recalled her mother, Suad Abdalaziz, 28, her voice cracking and her face streaming with tears. "He was not angry at me. He was angry at the janjaweed and the government for giving me this baby."
In the troubled province of Darfur, pro-government Arab militias called the janjaweed have raped countless black African women in a campaign that the Bush administration has called genocide.
Now, their babies are emerging across this tableau of human suffering. They are outcasts in a war-scarred society where rape is a source of shame and a father's identity defines the child.
Relatives shun them, seeing in their tiny faces the atrocities committed by their enemies. Mothers struggle to accept them, torn between loyalty to their tribe and their instincts to love and care. Many are resigned to a life of isolation, where marriage is unlikely and where their children will forever carry a stigma. …
Suad's ordeal began in February, when the janjaweed raided Tawilla, burning huts, pillaging livestock, and raping hundreds of black African women, most of them members of the Zaghawa tribe. Three militiamen on horseback chased her down as she ran through the scabby terrain and dragged her into a hut. They ripped off her top and tore it apart, stuffing one piece in her mouth and wrapping the other over her eyes.
Then, the lighter-skinned Arabs spat out the words that haunt her today: "We want to change the color of your children."
Suad's story is hardly unique. Many of the raped women of Tawilla filtered to the refugee camp of Abu Shouk, where it's not easy to keep something like rape a secret.
When Medina Muhammed, 18, saw her body changing, she told her father about that chaotic day in Tawilla when five Arab militiamen raped her.
"This child of the janjaweed, I don't want to see it," Medina recalled him saying. "I'll remember these people. I can't accept this child."
Then he left six months ago to join his two wives and their children. Medina hasn't seen him since.
Nor did any of her relatives visit her in the hospital when the baby arrived several weeks early and she fell ill. And when the traditional naming ceremony was to be held seven days after birth, no one came to celebrate a fatherless baby born of hate.
Medina named her child alone: Menazel. In the Quran, Islam's holy book, the word means "Houses of the Stars." Medina picked it "because the janjaweed burned our houses."
For a surname - usually the name of the father - she selected Juma. It means Friday, the day Medina was raped.
Medina's mother, Mariam Adam, insisted the child would be treated like any other. But she acknowledged she hasn't learned the child's name: "I forgot to ask," she explained.
In countries such as Sudan that practice a form of Islamic law called Shar’ia under which a charge of rape requires the testimony of four adult male eyewitnesses, but adultery by unmarried women is considered confirmed by pregnancy, the adultery is likely to be punished, but the rape will go unpenalized.
As Amnesty concludes:
Rape is not an accident of war, or an incidental adjunct to armed conflict. Its widespread use in times of conflict reflects the unique terror it holds for women, the unique power it gives the rapist over his victim, and the unique contempt is displays for its victims. The use of rape in conflict reflects the inequalities women face in their everyday lives in peacetime. Until governments take responsibility for their obligations to ensure equality, and end discrimination against women, rape will continue to be a favored weapon of the aggressor.