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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Nowhere To Turn.

Physicians for Human Rights, in partnership with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, has published a report documenting the scope and long-term impact of rape and other sexual violence experienced by women who fled attacks on their villages in Darfur and are now refugees in neighboring Chad.

The report — titled “Nowhere To Turn: Failure To Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women” corroborates women’s accounts of rape and other crimes against humanity that they have experienced in Darfur, as well as rape and deprivations of basic needs in refugee camps in Chad. Based on interviews with female refugees living in Chad’s Farchana refugee camp, the report calls for “vigorous prosecution of rape as a war crime.”

Drawing courtesy Human Rights Watch, artist “Salah”, 13: “There were soldiers from Sudan, Janjaweed, and planes and bombs. I saw the Janjaweed take girls and women. The women were screaming. They seized them, they took them by force. The pretty ones were taken away…Girls were taken, small girls too, I think 5 and 7 and 14. Some came back after four or five hours…some we haven’t seen again.”  

“Many Darfuri women refugees live in a nightmare of memories of past trauma compounded by the constant threat of sexual violence around the camps now,” said said Susannah Sirkin, the physician group’s deputy director.

“Women who report being raped are stigmatized, and remain trapped in places of perpetual insecurity. There’s no one to stop the rapes, no one to turn to for justice for past or ongoing crimes, and little psycho-social support to address their prolonged and unimaginable traumas.”

Dr. Sondra Crosby, a Physicians for Human Rights consultant and expert in refugee trauma, said “the atmosphere of intimidation was palpable as we listened to women describing their profound suffering and fear, and their yearning to return safely and with dignity to their former lives.”

Of those refugees interviewed, “32 reported instances of confirmed or highly probable rape” — 17 in Darfur and 15 in Chad, the group said. “Among the instances of rape reported in Chad, the vast majority (10 of 11 confirmed reports) occurred when women left the camps to gather firewood.” And just over half of the 88 women interviewed — 46 of them — live in fear of sexual assaults around the refugee camp.

The group supports the issuing of International Criminal Court warrants against the Sudanese perpetrators, calls for “legal reforms in Chad to end impunity for sexual violence,” and for “effective psychosocial support to survivors.” Further it said increased protections are needed by police and peacekeepers, including “effective firewood patrols.”

See the photos included in the report.


  1. is someplace that we should be involved in. A long time ago even. And were we not bogged down in Iraq, and under-represented in Afghanistan still, we might be.

    Had we the political will to change things. Then again, it still galls me that while there are plenty of folks who criticize the US’ lack of involvement on a large scale, the UN response has been not just slow, but lazy even.

    The situation in Darfur will not be resolved or mended by strongly worded letters of condemnation–nor will it be ameliorated by sanctions and waves of poorly distributed aid. Until action is taken, the strongmen who have been rising in Africa–not just in Sudan, or Somalia, or Ethiopia–will continue. And sadly, the tactic of sexually brutalizing populations is hardly an African oddity–as the Bosnian conflict showed with such a glaring spotlight.

  2. DeniseVelez

    through the pages of history till today.  Sadly, there will be little outcry here.  

    Someone once said to me “women are like footnotes in the pages of history”.  I told them, rarely do we even merit a footnote.

    Thank you for highlighting this here.  

  3. creamer

    I would have had no reservation about interveneing in Darfur. Now I’m not so sure we have the ability to change the situation. Sure we could kill lots of locals, posibly allieviate some suffering short term, but unless we want to stay long term we would merly provide a break in the killing and raping.

    On a global scale, women outside the West are treated criminaly, like property. My heart goes out to them, and where we can help change things with sanctions, diplomacy and enlightenment, I’m all for it. But I’m very pessimistic about our ability to change people customs by force of arms.

  4. DeniseVelez

    “Darfur is Dying is a viral video game for change that provides a window into the experience of the 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan. Players must keep their refugee camp functioning in the face of possible attack by Janjaweed militias. Players can also learn more about the genocide in Darfur that has taken the lives of 400,000 people, and find ways to get involved to help stop this human rights and humanitarian crisis.”

    One of my students brought it to my attention.

    Rape by soldiers is dealt with in the videogame

  5. DeniseVelez

    and a different set of lenses.

    I don’t agree with all that he writes, but it helps keep me from simply making assumptions based on one pov.    

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