Left Menu
Development News Edition

Beaten and abused, Sudan's women bear scars of a fight for freedom

Both her arms are now wrapped in bandages. "While we were running, they beat us. To protect my head, I used my hands. This is why my two arms are broken," she said.

Reuters | Updated: 11-07-2019 14:43 IST | Created: 11-07-2019 14:30 IST
Beaten and abused, Sudan's women bear scars of a fight for freedom
Image Credit: Reuters

After six years abroad, Khadija Saleh returned to Sudan in March to join protesters in the streets demanding change. She was taking part in a sit-in near the Defence Ministry in Khartoum on June 3 when security forces stormed in. The area had become a center for anti-government protests.

Saleh said she was beaten with sticks, and still wears bandages on her wounds. "I came back from a safer place because I want a better future for this country," the 41-year-old said.

Women were a driving force during months of protests against President Omar al-Bashir's 30-year rule before he was replaced by a military council in April. But the protests didn't stop as demonstrators demanded the military swiftly hand power to civilians, leading to a stand-off and then a crackdown.

Nahid Gabralla, a 53-year-old activist, said she was beaten and threatened with rape during the June 3 raid. "Sudan can be better," she said. "My daughter deserves to live in a nice country ... We will fight for a democratic Sudan, real change and for our rights."

RAPES REPORTED Physicians for Human Rights, a U.S.-based group that investigates rights violations, cited local medics as saying women had their clothes torn off and were raped, though the sexual violence was hard to quantify.

Local women's activists, citing multiple eyewitness testimonies, said soldiers held up women's underwear on poles to symbolize the women they had sexually assaulted. "They know that if they humiliate the women, they will humiliate the whole people," said 42-year-old activist Hadia Hasaballah. "None of the Sudanese women will officially say that they were raped because of the stigma."

It was not possible for Reuters to independently verify the reports of rape. A spokesman for the military council could not be reached for comment. The council has previously denied that rape took place. The head of Sudan's Human Rights Commission, which is appointed by the presidency, said it had launched an investigation into violations committed during and after the dispersal of the sit-in, which it condemned, without giving details.

Under Bashir's rule, women's lives were tightly controlled by men. Morality laws meant a woman could be arrested for wearing trousers. For that reason, 35-year-old Mahi Aba-Yazid wore trousers while she campaigned for change at the sit-in. She believes she was beaten more because of her choice of fashion.

"There was already a bullet in my arm. I was bleeding but they continued to beat me," she said. Duha Mohmed, a 23-year-old student who escaped the sit-in raid before returning to help the injured, said she also wanted a life in which she could make her own choices.

"I don't want to wear a headscarf, but it is not my choice. I want my right to wear what I want." Amel Tajeldin, a 41-year-old mother of four, said she and her husband took turns watching their children.

"While it was his turn to look after the children, I took part in the demonstrations," she said. She had been teaching songs to street children in a makeshift tent at the sit-in. During the June 3 raid, members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shouted at her and other protesters and told them to flee. "We ran. We were surrounded by soldiers and policemen," she said.

Both her arms are now wrapped in bandages. "While we were running, they beat us. To protect my head, I used my hands. This is why my two arms are broken," she said. "The ones like us were beaten by police were lucky, the ones beaten by RSF members were brutally injured." BEING INVESTIGATED

The military council has said excesses were committed as the sit-in was cleared. It said these are being investigated and that those responsible will be held accountable. Despite the violence, Sudan's military rulers and a coalition of opposition and protest groups agreed last week to share power for three years ahead of elections.

But Nagda Mansour, a 39-year-old translator who was imprisoned for 75 days after attending a demonstration in December, said it was difficult for many to accept the idea of negotiating with the military because of its leadership's involvement in the war in Darfur. The RSF, headed by the deputy leader of the council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, are accused of committing atrocities in Darfur. Officials in the past have denied those accusations.

The power-sharing agreement with the military council marks "the beginning, not the end," said Mansour. "We as human rights defenders want to have a guarantee for transitional justice in Sudan." Manal Farah, 49, lost her son, a 22-year-old university student, in the violence. She said he insisted on protesting even though she asked him to stay home.

"The aim of the government is to convince mothers of revolutionaries to prevent their sons from joining the revolution. But no matter what we say to them they will never stop before achieving their objectives," Farah said. "When he started in university he started to ask why there is corruption in Sudan. He said there must be a change, a new Sudan ...I pray for my son's dreams to come true."

For a related photo essay, click here: https://reut.rs/2NL40qt


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Why COVID-19 is unstoppable in USA despite it being ranked at the top of GHS Index?

Several worst-hit countries such as Italy, France, Spain, the UK, Canada, and Russia have peaked COVID-19 cases in April. Almost all of them have gradually flattened the curve. However, the USA is setting new daily records of infections tha...

COVID-19 seems cooking biggest ever global scam

The increasing number of corruption cases on COVID-19 funds from throughout the world and involvement of high profile persons indicate that the countries cant ignore corruption in their pandemic response programs. This has generated the nee...

Health Management Information Systems lack holistic, integrated, and pandemic resilient character

Being a part of the United Nations system, the World Health Organization WHO deserves its share of rebuke for its alleged failure issue COVID-19 health emergency alerts on appropriate time. However, the pandemic has also exposed loopholes i...

Pride in the time of coronavirus: a welcome move online?

This year is different in many ways not least as celebrations are also taking place against the dramatic backdrop of a global health crisis and a resurgence in grassroots activism following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. ...

Videos

Latest News

Farmers in Northern Cape warned against fake inspectors

The Department of Employment and Labour in Northern Cape has warned farmers and employers in the Namakwa area to be on the lookout for suspicious individuals who act as inspectors in an attempt to access their farms.Provincial Chief Inspect...

US aerospace major Boeing completes delivery of 37 military helicopters to India

In the midst of Indias tense border standoff with China, US aerospace major Boeing delivered the final five of the 22 Apache attack helicopters to the Indian Air Force around two weeks ago, and the entire fleet is now part of the assets dep...

Making masks compulsory everywhere bad for tourism, Balearic lobby group says

Making face masks mandatory everywhere is likely to chase off tourists when Spain badly needs them, the Balearic Islands business association said on Friday.Tourism all but shut down in Spain in March because of the coronavirus pandemic and...

Hundreds gather for funeral of Palestinian shot by Israeli troops

Hundreds of people gathered in the occupied West Bank on Friday for the funeral of a Palestinian man shot by Israeli soldiers a day earlier. Israels army said troops opened fire after the Palestinian and another man started throwing fire bo...

Give Feedback