ANNEX: Project Update, February 26, 2023: Responding to Sexual Violence in Darfur
From the coordinating counselor of Team Zamzam (translated by Gaffar Mohammud Saeneen)
The report for this month (from January 21 through February 22, 2023) focuses on:
 highlighting ongoing violence against civilians, especially sexual violence;
 work that was carried out by Team Zamzam during the month;
 sharing accounts of the suffering endured by fistula patients.
From our perspective what is most consequential is the continuation of violence by armed Arab militia forces that rape and assault displaced girls and women in North Darfur. Sexual violence and rape continue to occur in the states of Darfur and indeed is increasing. The most recent assaults occurred in mid-February: on in particular one especially brutal assault occurred on February 15th at eleven o’clock in the morning—and is all too indicative of the deterioration of the security situation since the fall of Omar al-Bashir’s regime.
The first incident on which we are able to give a first-hand report involves two girls who were raped and two others escaped in the assault. In a second incident a girl was injured by bullets, after which she was tortured and her phone was taken.
The four girls/young women assaulted were 24 years old, 21 years old, another who was 21 years old, and a fourth who was 19 years old. The four victims went to fetch straw and firewood, and while on their way they were assaulted by two armed men, wearing military uniforms worn by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and riding camels. The four victims were threatened and then tied to trees: two to one tree, the others to individual trees; they were raped for nearly two hours.
After the news reached Zamzam camp, the families of the victims rushed to the site of the incident, accompanied by a small group from the local peacekeeping/security force. They followed the trail from the site of the assault to the village of Hajliday; they proceeded to the larger village of Qalab, arriving at five o’clock in the evening, where they met with the mayor, making clear to him what had happened.
After two hours of quarrels and disputes, the mayor allowed four people to enter the village. They then followed the trail to a house where they found the camels used in the attack and the two suspected men; however, there were no arrests. The mayor pledged to bring the suspects to the police station and the matter would be left for the authorities. And the two suspects were indeed in custody on February 16 at 10:00am; but after only a few hours they were released. The mayor had certainly not kept his promise to the victims’ families, who waited until the evening and then left in frustration.
The women of the Zamzam camp for displaced persons condemn the rape of these displaced women by armed militias and the continuing assault on others in Zamzam camp (North Darfur State). This particularly abhorrent and vicious assault occurred only two kilometers west of the camp; it was here that the militiamen attacked the women, who were collecting straw and firewood.
The women of Zamzam also emphasized that most of the perpetrators belong to militias affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and that the displaced know most of the perpetrators, as they drive around in RSF vehicles. The women from the Zamzam camp emphasize that the rapes occurring February 15th were carried out at gunpoint, and one of the victims was shot, which led to her forearm being broken and another bullet lodged in her stomach. Other women were also beaten with sticks, weapons butts, and whipped.
With this crime, a statement was issued by the women of the Zamzam camp, declaring that the number of women raped in the area of the camp had increased to 167 cases during the half-year period between July 2022 and February 2023.
The statement indicated that the joint force tracked one of the perpetrators even to his home, but he refused to comply with police orders. Instead he was rescued by the Rapid Support Forces, accompanied by the supposed “joint security force.”
The victims had recognized the man immediately, but noted that, outrageously, he is immune from prosecution under Decree 19 of the Rapid Support Law. Immediately after leaving the police station he was transported by an RSF vehicle.
The statement continued: “The Rapid Support Forces are the ones who commit most of the heinous crimes against the displaced women, especially in the Zamzam camp for the displaced.” The statement held the government responsible for these crimes and demanded that the perpetrators be arrested and brought to fair and public trials within a period not exceeding 72 hours, given that the perpetrators are known and all belong to the Rapid Support Forces in the Qalab area in the east of Jebel Marra (central mountain range in central Darfur).
The statement continued: “In the event of the authorities’ failure, we will follow all additional steps necessary to protect our legitimate rights. With this sexual assault, the number of raped women in Zamzam camp alone increased to 167 cases from July 21, 2021 until now, and hundreds more have been wounded or killed. Most of the perpetrators belong to the Rapid Support Forces, and the majority of the perpetrators are known to everyone as they roam widely in public using RSF vehicles.
We, the women of Zamzam camp for the displaced, wish to inform all people by all means of the following facts:
 The Rapid Support Forces are the ones that commit most of these heinous crimes against the displaced women, especially in and around Zamzam camp for the displaced;
 The present government authorities, at all levels, are complicit in the crimes committed against displaced persons, this despite the fact that the security and safety of all citizens are the responsibility of the state.
 The recently created “joint security force” was meant to extend the authority and protective functions of the state, but instead it has served to protect the perpetrators in most cases.
We hold the government responsible for these crimes and we demand that it arrest the perpetrators and bring them to fair and public trials. We also appeal to all relevant organizations and human rights bodies, especially those focusing on women’s rights, to exert more pressure on the authorities to implement the rule of law and advocate for the victims.
To State and Territory Governments:
 We held you fully responsible for violence against the women in the country, especially displaced women and girls; it is the responsibility of the authorities to pursue the perpetrators and bring them to justice. It is shameful that no protection has been provided for women and girls vulnerable to sexual violence.
To the commander of the Rapid Support Forces:
 It has become clear to us that among the rapists and violators of basic human rights are members of the Rapid Support Forces; consequently, we hold you responsible for handing over the perpetrators of sexual violence to the authorities, which is your responsibility.
With this demand, we are setting a time limit for apprehending the perpetrators; otherwise we will be forced to use other, legitimate options in order to obtain our rights in full, and God is the best of witnesses. Glory and eternity to the righteous martyrs, a speedy recovery to the wounded and injured, and hope for the missing.
Media Secretary of Zamzam’s women on other recent sexual violence
Aisha Abdel Nabi, 28 years old, was originally from Tayara area before displacement, and she now lives in Zamzam camp, next to Tawila Gate, west of Raleef Health Center.
Aisha said: “We went on donkeys to fetch straw with six of my neighborhood sisters and when we arrived near the village of Abunqi, which is about four kilometers from Zamzam camp, we dismounted from our donkeys and began to collect straw. Suddenly, herds of camels driven by four Janjaweed militiamen appeared before us and asked us where we were from. We said we were from El Fasher, because as usual, if one tells them she is from Zamzam camp, they will angrily torture her.
“After that one of the camel herders said, ‘Give me water to drink.’ And I said, ‘I don’t have enough water to give you water.’ The second herder said, ‘Give me your axe.’ I said to him, ‘Why must I give you my axe?’ The herder replied, ‘My mother doesn’t have an axe, so I want to give it to her.’
“After that, an argument began between us, and one of the four herders pulled out his weapon and said: ‘Throw the axe on the ground.’ I said, ‘No, it is my axe.’ He got down from the camel and took out the knife; he stepped toward me and threatened to stab me in my belly. The rest of the girls came to defend me, but they were knocked down and beaten; then the herders flogged the girls and stripped them naked; after that they took everything from us—water, ropes, sweepers, and even donkeys.”
In this incident, Aisha was seriously wounded in the head and hand. Her companion Maqbula also suffered from serious scratches and deep wounds. Until now, their psychological condition has been very bad, and the rest of the girls in the group are suffering from serious depression. But they are better off than Aisha and Maqboula. After they tortured the girls, the perpetrators took whatever the girls possessed and left. The victims managed to return to Zamzam camp around four o’clock in the morning. So far, no party has mobilized or attempted to find the Janjaweed perpetrators, nor have any humanitarian services or support has been provided.
For its part, the Coordinating Body of the Zamzam Camp for the Displaced have condemned the attack with strongest terms. In a statement, the High Committee of Zamzam Camp issued a statement of condemnation and denunciation:
“We strongly condemn the rapes that took place on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, as well as other attacks occurring in area in the southwest of Zamzam camp. We note the crimes of raping girls and women by the Janjaweed militia; and we also note that the perpetrators are sheltered by the Rapid Support Forces in the Qalab area in eastern Jebel Marra. Although sexual assaults have been carried out repeatedly, no concrete action is being taken.”
The women and girls who were victimized in the first of recent incidents in the Qida Be are from the neighbourhood under supervision of Mayor Hassan Bakhit in the Mashjirah area of Zamzam camp:
 a woman 23 years old
 a woman 19 years old
 a girl 16 years old
 a woman 20 years old
The women who were victimized in the second incident were attacked in the Bi Sinqur area, and they are from the area under supervision of mayor Ahmed Idris, mayor of the Tayyarat area in the Zamzam camp:
 Mona Ahmed Muhammad Khareef, refused to surrender and was set on fire by ammunition, her left forearm was broken, and the one bullet lodged in her stomach; so far no surgery has been performed on her, and she is now bedridden in El Fasher Teaching Hospital;
 Three other women and a girl were attacked, although we do not have accurate date about them or their attackers.
We appeal to defenders of freedoms and human rights to condemn the kidnapping and rape that have taken place and continue to take place in the region. Sexual assaults against displaced women and girls have made clear that the forces entrusted with maintaining security and safety are failing. Many rapes take place within the sight and hearing of the state government.
We consider this a manifestation of moral weakness when it affects children and women, who are particularly deserving of protection. We condemn the frequent recurrence of these heinous crimes and call upon the conscience of Sudanese society, especially the community of North Darfur State. We call on officials to confront these crimes that destroy values, principles and morals with strength and firmness, and not to be complicit with their perpetrators. We call on humanitarian and human rights organizations to condemn these crimes and put pressure on those responsible to assume their responsibility. In turn, we will take the necessary means to prosecute the perpetrators, no matter what.
Conditions in Zamzam IDP camp
Psychological conditions in Zamzam are very difficult and deteriorating day after day, as all service and humanitarian organizations have ceased completely; even the World Food Organization has for the past four months ceased to operate. Today every house or every tent in the camp is filled with hunger, disease, thirst, deprivation and disease, especially for women, children and people with special needs.
The issue of education has been completely ignored. Education in the camps for displaced persons, especially Zamzam camp, is deteriorating and becoming more difficult. Indeed, education throughout Sudan has seen a gross deterioration. As economic conditions in Sudan have deteriorated, most of the public schools in the camps remained closed due to a lack of government funding; in turn, this has made children, especially boys, wander in the streets. The lack of any employment or income has left many children in camps to engage in stealing at all levels, as well as developing destructive habits.
The worst of these derives from the fact that dangerous drugs, in large quantities, have made their way into the camps. This has contributed significantly to the educational failures of most children, especially in adolescence. Today, over fifty percent of school children drop out, and most of them end up on the streets. Notably, street stabbings and killings among the adolescent population have increased. And as the unemployment rate increases, family income has decreased dramatically. This has led to serious family problems and family disintegration. Divorce has become significantly more common amid the increasing pressures of daily life.
The current living conditions of the Zamzam camp residents and security challenges
Zamzam camp is located about 13 kilometers southwest of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State, and is home to over 400,000 displaced people. Displacement to this camp began in 2004, due to conflict and fighting between the Sudanese government and rebel fighters. The camp itself is a rectangle about 15 kilometers long and 8 kilometers wide [i.e., roughly 120 square kilometers, a truly vast area—ER], and its management is supervised by 93 mayors [omdas] and 840 tribal sheikhs.
The camp’s security problems and challenges:
 Acute food shortages, lack of clean drinking water suitable for human use, and the loss of educational services once provided by humanitarian organizations;
 The World Food Program has continuously decreased food aid to the needy beginning in 2011, just as UNICEF stopped its support for education years ago.
 The lack of health services is a serious issue, as is the lack of electricity. Broken water pumps in the camp are a particularly serious problem.
 It is presently impossible for displaced persons to return to their areas of origin for farming, even if they wished to do so, because of the control and occupation of their areas by military and tribal militias.
 Women who go out of the camp to collect straw or firewood or even to cultivate around the camp are always threatened with rape and other physical attacks, as well as verbal abuse from tribal militias that enjoy legal protection from the government and the Rapid Support Forces.
 Since the creation of Zamzam IDP camp in 2004, Sudanese authorities have always viewed Zamzam as a security threat to the state, and consider it a place that offers support to the rebel movements with fuel, soldiers and intelligence information.
 Citizens of the camp are often exposed to acts of looting, killing and theft when leaving the camp’s border by the government and its affiliated militias.
 Lack of planning within the camp and the spread of unregulated weapons in the hands of Arab militias has led to their control of the area southwest of the camp.
 The high rate of poverty among the displaced is a function of their working in poorly paid, marginal jobs such as herding, menial construction work, and other forms of poorly paying day labor. The high inflation rate of the Sudanese currency has also exacerbated poverty.
 Faisal is a 10-year-old child who works long days as a water seller on a cart pulled by a donkey; he earns 1,000 Sudanese pounds a day (less than $2). Faisal said he would rather die than live in Zamzam.
 Nimat is a mother of ten children—eight of whom do not go to school because she does not have the means to pay the expenses. Nimat said that she has been in this camp for almost 18 years, and said that the income of her husband, who works as a daily construction worker, is not enough for them even to purchase water and bread, let alone sugar, clothing, or medical treatment.
This is Zamzam camp, whose women are mostly widows whose husbands died in attacks by the Janjaweed and the regular Sudanese army assaults on thousands of non-Arab villages and locales. It is a camp with countless orphans and massive numbers of unemployed youths. It is a camp that awaits an unknown future despite the deposing of President al-Bashir in 2019. For even after the fall of his regime, the country continues to suffer from political and tribal conflict, conflict that grows out of the competing interests of those attempting to gain political power.
Work carried out by Team Zamzam through February 22, 2023
Our work in February continued to assist the displaced and as usual, the Zamzam Team counselors visited vulnerable families with special needs, including the physically and mentally handicapped, and the sick; the Team assessed their living and health conditions, and to count the number of families who are in desperate need. The Team began in Sector A and ended with Sector D.
After the assessment, at 6am the following day elements of the Team assembled at the warehouse to gather the food needed by the most impoverished, including sugar, pasta—and soap.
In Sector A, 170 families were targeted, including those with mobility disabilities, the elderly, those with medical conditions, orphans, and those with severe psychological issues.
During distribution, the beneficiaries have made the following they made clear their desire for:
 clean water
 health services
They called for urgent intervention by international organizations, civil society organizations, and charitable organizations to help them.
The number of people benefiting from the February distribution was 284.
Other activities by Team Zamzam
 58 patients suffering from various illnesses were accompanied to different hospitals in El Fasher for treatment.
 24 inspection visits were carried out in various neighbourhood within the camp to evaluate the living conditions and to share views on security concerns.
 Two meetings took place with different groups of women to discuss issues concerning the camp’s women, and share point of views, and agree on future cooperation on information sharing.
 Two health education and health advice workshops were provided to the camp’s pregnant women.
 Six different meetings were held with some omdas and sheiks of different neighborhoods in Zamzam to take notes on their present concerns.
 Two separate visits were made to the family of one of the victims of sexual violence of recent attacks to provide psychological counselling.
 82 individual counseling sessions
 41 group counseling sessions
For urinary fistulas
Assisting fistula patients was again a priority. Ikram Adam Saleh, 21 years old, and Hawa Salem Otman, 24 years old, were accompanied to receive medical treatment at an El Fasher clinic (13 kilometers away by car). The first patient has recovered completely, but the second patient is still suffering from pain and has difficulty in walking.
Full moral and psychological support was provided to the two patients during and after the surgery. After treatment, and from her beside, Ikram sent the following message:
“Over the past two years I nearly lost my sight from so much crying; my throat was constantly dry and I had so many restless nights because of pain. I nearly lost my hopes in life. But I have been rescued by strangers who have now become my best friends ever. I thank the sisters of Team Zamzam for their tremendous support and everyone else who helped me to recover.”
Ikram added that prior to fistula surgery, she lived in an extremely difficult psychological state. She was unable to participate in her community, whether in joys or sorrows, because of involuntary urination; but now she feels as if she had been reborn anew with plenty of optimism about her future.
Despite the tangible improvement of patients who received reparative fistula surgeries over the past two years, the waiting list is still long, with continual increases in new patients coming every month. For their part, the counselors are doing everything they can to provide psychological and moral support in order to ease the pain.