Annex to July 30, 2021 Update: Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur
Given the almost total lack of human rights reporting from rural areas in Darfur—and indeed the region as a whole—the first-hand observations by the counselors of Team Zamzam provide a singular glimpse into life in Zamzam camp and rural areas as represented by both the Dar Al Naiem region significantly to the east of El Fasher and the area from Tawila (North Darfur, 30 miles west of El Fasher) and Shangil Tobay (40 miles to the southwest). We hear nothing about these populations, often desperate, without access to news sources, and threatened by acute insecurity, especially during the spring planting season and fall harvest. Thus the particular value of these observations and reports from Team Zamzam for June (a planting month, as the rains have started):
“[The coordinating counselor reports that] it became clear to us from reports that the area that needs attention in the coming period is the strip of southeast of El Fasher, from Tawila to Shangil Tobay. This is because most of the residents of Zamzam camp go to their farms in these areas despite seasonal security challenges and continuous attacks from nomadic camel herders. The reports, based on the statements of victims of sexual violence, indicates that most of these crimes take place in the rainy season and over 80% of these heinous crimes went unreported [to local authorities]”.
Victims of recent attacks in the region the coordinating counselor refers to
Despite the security risks, the counselors of Team Zamzam have been extremely active throughout the month of July. Summaries of their activities appear below:
“[July 2], in the presence of all Team Zamzam members: We have held very constructive meeting and fruitful exchange. In this meeting, the coordinator provided a comprehensive and detailed report on the achievements of the past month and the challenges during their future activities. In the meeting, we have discussed the immediate challenges which are represented in the security concerns for people who wish to return to the planting season, and we agreed that the priority and focus in the coming period should on the families who wishing to return to their villages in the rural areas.
We have concluded the meeting with following action plan for the coming period;
 Regular visits to the rural areas on a monthly basis to inspect the conditions of farmers in their villages;
 Each month, six counselors should be assigned for one week mission to the rural villages to provide health advice, organise private counseling sessions, group counseling sessions, and identify potential new victims.
 The action plan in Zamzam camp must continues as the primary focus for victims of sexual violence, both by means if private counseling sessions, group counseling sessions and fistula patients.
 Six counselors accompanied by two security personnel will visit Lamina village southeast of El Fasher for a one-week mission. Lamina is small farming village located between El Fasher and Shangil Tobay.
Update for the period July 3 – July 11:
Distribution of basic necessities:
Basic necessities have been distributed in all four sectors of the Zamzam camp. These include sugar, tea, flour, oil and laundry soap.
Some of the supplies provided by the project, to be distributed by counselors
29 families caring for disabled persons
37 families caring for orphans
An orphan who has lost a limb
Total number of persons assisted: 316
Other necessities distributed:
• 46 boxes containing women’s cotton, toothpaste, shaving razors, and shaving creams
• 2 boxes of Infliximab and other antibiotics
• Therapeutic art supplies
46 victims of sexual violence
32 fistula patients provide with medicine, hygiene kits
31 persons benefited from art materials
67 group counseling sessions in Zamzam camp, sections A, B, C & D
97 individual counseling sessions- Zamzam camp, section A, B, C & D
25 group counseling sessions in Lamina village (23 kilometers southeast of El Fasher)
54 individual counseling sessions in Lamina village
Total: 92 group counseling sessions
Total: 151 individual counseling sessions/private talk sessions
Number of repeat visits: Zamzam camp
42 victims returned twice in Zamzam camp.
23 victims returned three times in Zamzam
Fistula surgeries scheduled for July 2021:
 Hamida Ali xxx, 23 years old
 Hawa Galle xxx, 19 years old
 Aida Youssef Abdel xxx, 25 years old
 Mounira xxx, age unknown
 Gena Adam xxx, 27 years old
 Jara Arbab xxx, 19 years old
 Souad Khater xxx, 31 years old
Report of July 5
As planting season has started in Darfur, most IDPS left the camp in the last weeks to the rural areas for planting seeds.
The rains in Darfur started well on time, especially in South Darfur, East Darfur, southeast West Darfur State, Central Darfur and southeast North Darfur State but the Northeastern part of North Darfur still has yet to start.
On Saturday 3rd of July, six counselors accompanied by two security personnel went to the village of Lamina for 1 week mission and yesterday from there the coordinating counselor s us the following message:
“We arrived at this village (Lamina) on a Saturday evening while most of the residents were returning from their daily work from their farms near the village. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Amana, who had expected us. Amana is in her forties and is the leader of the women in this village, which consists of 32 houses, and six other villages around a village two to three kilometers away.
Amana have never had a chance to go to school in her life, but she is someone who has exceptional wisdom and charisma among the women of these villages. The following morning at ten after breakfast, one after another, 53 women from these villages came to greet us before we started our counseling sessions. Amana had informed them all three days before our arrival. Despite the difficulty of life and constant insecurity, the women of these villages have a rare determination and courage that made us all proud as women of the strength of their determination. The women of these villages are heroes in their own right and have heroic stories against the Janjaweed militias, but they are forgotten on the margins.
Here, we met one eye Assaila who lost her right eye in fighting against seven Janjaweed men who tried to rape her on her farm. Assailla said, “Hell no, if I had weapon like them on my side they would not dare to come a near me, but when they attacked me I had only axe and I managed to beat them until they stabbed me in the eye and I lost conscious.” Assaila is a 32-year-old widow and since she lost her eye, she had created a women’s defense group, and she focuses on encouraging women to fight back. Assaila is someone who is very brave with a sense of humour and we will make our best efforts to support her in leading her group. We met many other brave women here, and they all have different stories that deserve to be heard and shared and I will send you some when get back to El Fasher on Friday.”
July 15 to July 25, 2021
Basic necessities of health supplies and hygienic essentials:
• 823 healthy soap hand-washing bars were distributed for elderly groups.
• 413 locally made masks were distributed to the most vulnerable elderly people.
72 group counseling sessions in Zamzam camp, Sections A, B, C & D
119 individual counseling sessions in Zamzam camp, section A, B, C & D
43 individual counseling sessions in Tabladiyat village, northeast of Shangil Tobay
Tours and inspection visits to inspect the situation of Zamzam inhabitants who left the camp for planting season to the northeast of Shangil Tobay:
From July 17 to July 22, six counselors accompanied by two security personnel visited about eight small-sized agricultural villages located in the northeast of Shangil Tobay and Jebel Hires locality where they provided Covid-19 awareness, provided individual counseling sessions and group counseling sessions, and inspected the security situation of the villagers.
During this visit, the counselors met many local leaders, sheiks, and the representatives of the villages who raised security concerns and everyday challenges:
One of the sheikhs [AM] said, “My daughters and sons [referring to the Zamzam team], I have been following your noble work for the last many months in Zamzam camp. You have provided us with very important health awareness when the invisible pandemic was raging and killed many elderly people in the camp; and you have provided us humanitarian aid when people were suffering badly. And now even you come to pay us visits to our villages.
“Your efforts and what you have been doing is something that deserves the highest value of praise and appreciation from the entire communities of IDPs in Darfur. Today we are here and our main and foremost concern is the security of our people which we have desired for a very long time. This area is an agricultural area and our lives depend on agriculture; but there are always problems with armed shepherds who don’t respect anyone. We live here in a constant fear, but we don’t have a choice. We have managed to set up local committees to defend our farms and people from being beating up and killings, but we still have worries. Any time it can happen that some dreadful attack might occur, yet we have a problem of effective communication between the villagers. Before the departure of UNIMID things were much better, but now these Janjaweed militias’ behaviour has totally changed: they thinks they are free and exert more power than before.”
Fistula patients, as of July 25:
Health condition of patients:
With regard to the seven fistula patients who successful received reparative surgery this month, the coordinating counselor said,
“Their health condition is good and there is continuous improvement. Their psychological condition is the best I’ve seen it in a long time, and addition to this their self-confidence is on the increase.]
“This is bringing a lots of positive energy within the team, and now a great many people are talking about our constant presence in the camp and the impact that we are having here. This month is one of the best months because of the number of patients who received treatment and brought us a very positive and encouraging accounts of our reputation in the camp. Those patients who were slightly hesitant for surgical treatment are now starting to come in numbers on daily basis to ask when they will be selected.
“This month we had a plenty of hugs, many thanks, many encouraging words, and many tea invitations from the families of the patients who were on the verge of losing hope.
“If there is one thing I’m more certain of than ever is that the only cause of these painful fistulas is gang rape. These girls have found it hard to tell stories because they think it’s shameful to let their families know what happened to them; but they told us in private sessions a lot of the disgusting things happened to them and I believe they are telling the truth.
“What makes us feel proud and grateful is of this project is that we have managed to break some of the barriers of fear and shame that resulted from the casual ignorance of this illiterate society, many of whom think it is shameful to talk about the brutal, disgraceful things that have happening to their daughters here and everywhere in Darfur, sexual violence that continues on a widespread basis. But thankfully, some of these people are now beginning to understand the importance of sharing these terrible experiences.”
Testimonials from victims who received reparative fistula surgery:
● “My name is Jara Arbab and, I’m 20 years old now. I am fine now, and thank God and thanks for everyone who helped me to get a treatment, and my special thanks to my sisters of Team Zamzam, who helped me with kind words and warm hugs. Had it not been for them and their constant attention, I would have still been in the bed that I have been in for almost a year and a half.
“Since ten days ago the pain has eased and I feel that I can do things that I have been denied in the past year and half. Now I can move and walk easily, I can wash my clothes, I can cook and I can do many things. I missed so much going out with my friends but I can reward myself. The only thing I don’t want to do anymore is to go to our village in the countryside, where I went through this pain.
“They were two Janjaweed men riding camels and they had weapons. I have been tied up for two days, and each day they took turns on me many times and laughed and spit on my face. I pray God punish them in this life and in the day of judgment. The same people did this to my friend from a neighbouring village two months after me. She nearly got her throat cut off and she got breathing problems and always complains of pain. When my friend’s uncle and older brother tried to get those people arrested, the next day they came in a group to surrounded our village and all of them were armed. Everyone in the area got scared of them and they let things go. Thank you for helping me.”
● “My name is Hamida Ali Ahmed, I am 23 years old and I come from the village of Tabladiyat on the outskirts of Shangil Tobay. I have lived in this camp with my mother, younger sister and older brother since 2007. We fled to this camp after our village was burned and my father was killed along with many people of surrounding villages during the armed attack by the Janjaweed.
“In 2019, we went to our village to cultivate our farms in the autumn season, and one day while we were returning back from market where we went to buy basic supplies we have been attacked by eight masked men who were carrying firearms with them. We were girls from same village. Two of my friends have managed to escape but one friend and I were caught and tied up. After that, six of the men took turns on me to do disgusting things.
“I don’t know what happened to my other friend but all I heard was her screaming from few meters away and I think they did turns on her as well. After two hours of torment, they released us on condition not to say anything or any word to anyone or otherwise our entire villages and families will be wipe out from the surface of earth. It’s was very painful. We couldn’t walk properly and it took us many hours to reach my village, which was only one-hour walk.
“People of my village and other surrounding villages felt that something bad happened to us but we kept denying out of fear of revenge until I felt very sick. Eight months after the attack I went to hospital in El Fasher and doctor told me that I’m suffering from a fistula. When I finally admitted to my mother about what happened to me, my brother got angry and immediately he left us without saying where he was heading. Some of my relatives said he could be in Libya but nobody is sure where he is right and my mother is very worried about my brother.
“In the hospital, they told me that I can’t stay without paying the cost and afterward I left hospital in a hope to find work to get treatment. I went on work on brick carrier for two weeks, but my health condition became worse and I was sacked by the brick owner for being lazy. Last month sisters from Team Zamzam came to register my name and I thought they were joking. But thankfully they came back this month to surprise me with good news. After getting my first treatment, I already feel much better, feel less pain, more energetic and more hopeful even though worried about my mother’s wellbeing. My short term dreams is to get on feet strongly, find work to support my mother, search whereabout of my brother and I also went back to tell that stupid brick owner that I’m a lazy. I thank sisters of Team Zamzam and everyone else who supported me to gain my health.”
● “My name is Awadiya xxx and I am Munira’s mother. I came here today to I want to give you words of thanks on behalf of my family for helping my daughter who suffered from pain for about three years. For three years my daughter cried a lot and even we cried with her until our tears dried. We were dreaming one day that we can find her treatment costs, but here in Darfur we live in a camp among people who are all suffering from poverty like us.
“You don’t know what is like to see your daughter suffer in pain and wake up in the middle of night and cry. Because of her, I too suffered in silence and it was very painful to go through that. My words of thanks wouldn’t be enough but if you were mother who went through that you may understand the feelings of my happiness and gratitude.
“Munira now for the first in three years she eats well, she sleeps well, she’s always wakes early, she begins to talks positively about her future and now she feels so energetic. I have nothing to give you except my words of thanks but you are all invited next Friday for dinner at my home to come to taste Munira’s cooking. I will never stop praying for the people who helped her for costs of her treatment. God bless these good hearted people.”