Darfur: The Victims of Mass Rape Need Our Help

Article excerpt

Saida Abdukarim was eight months pregnant and tending her vegetables when she was raped and beaten by men who told her: "You are black, so we can rape you." As the blows rained down she crouched to protect her unborn baby. The baby is still alive. She, however, is unable to walk.

Her story, recorded by the journalist Nicholas Kristof, is not unique or even unusual. In Darfur, where close to 400,000 have died in a government-sponsored programme of ethnic cleansing, rape is a weapon used to break the will of communities, weaken tribal ties and humiliate people to the point where they abandon their land.

Every day women in Darfur risk rape and assault when they leave their homes to find food or firewood--even though the international community claims it is protecting them. And if they survive an attack their prospects are still bleak. Many have seen their villages burned and their male relatives killed; they must walk for days to refugee camps, through baking heat and dust storms, carrying their children. Here, instead of finding safety and comfort, they must build their own shelters--and they are still vulnerable to attack.

No one knows how many women are raped because their society shames the victims into silence. Until a few weeks ago, women who sought medical help after being raped were arrested by the Sudanese security forces. (The arrests stopped when the international community complained, proving we can make a difference when we bother.)

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We haven't heard much about Darfur recently. The killing and raping continue, but the regime in Khartoum has changed tactics. …