Al Jazeera English Op-Ed: World idle as Sudan’s women raped, killed and bombed

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“World idle as Sudan’s women raped, killed and bombed
Claims 200 women, including 80 minors, mass raped not surprising in a country where women are systematically violated.”

Darfur no longer grabs the headlines as it falls out of favour as a cause celebre yet the atrocities, especially against women, haven’t stopped.

Last week a report emerged that some 200 women, including 80 minors, were mass raped by a Sudanese Army garrison in the village of Tabit, northern Darfur. Reportedly, the soldiers started their raping spree on Friday evening and went on until 4am the following day.

The special prosecutor for crimes in Darfur denied the mass rape saying they inspected and “verified the inaccuracy of what has been circulating in social media, and some of the local radio stations”. Initially denied and then granted access, the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) investigated and concluded its “team found no evidence confirming the claims and received no information regarding the purported acts”.

The depressing fact is that it’s not inconceivable for such a crime to have occured. The systematic degradation and violation of Sudanese women has been a trait of the regime’s 25-year-rule. Articles 151, 152, 154 and 156 of the criminal code “enforce restrictions on women and the way they dress and behave in public”. If they commit an act “deemed by an officer of the law to be in violation of these articles, they may face a lashing sentence [or] be forced to pay a fine”.

Systematic rape

The power and authority handed to officers to arbitrarily decide what they deem acceptable attire and to enforce the punishment is clear in a number of graphic videos of females being brutally flogged. In Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, women are the target of “systematic rape and other forms of sexual violence, such as threat of rape, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, sex trafficking, forced marriages, forced prostitution and sexual slavery”.

Female Darfurian students continue to face detention and harassment from officials. In early October, 70 female students were forcibly evicted from their dorms, with 16 held without charge and reportedly subjected to abuses

An Amnesty International report from 2004 documented how rape was used as a weapon of war: The testimonies “all describe a pattern of systematic and unlawful attacks on civilians in North, West and South Darfur states, by a government-sponsored militia [the Janjawid] … and by the government army”.

“Violence against women is occurring in a context of systematic human rights violations against civilians in Darfur. Women have been summarily or indiscriminately killed, bombed, raped, tortured, abducted and forcibly displaced… girls have, like women, been the particular target of rapes, abductions and sexual slavery.”

A decade later, the picture is the same for the people of Darfur. Female Darfurian students continue to face detention and harassment from officials. In early October, 70 female students were forcibly evicted from their dorms, with 16 held without charge and reportedly subjected to abuses, including sexual, and accused of supporting rebel Darfur groups.

How much more sexual violence against Sudanese women will the world tolerate? The UK Foreign Secretary released a statement regarding the alleged attack in Tabit, which is nice but what about the training of – and support for – the Sudanese military, police and security personnel by his own government?

What good is such a statement if officials continue committing their alleged atrocities with the tacit support of others who play the blind, deaf and ignorant cards? The UN isn’t innocent either – accusations of a “cover-up” and “failure to properly report crimes against civilians … in Darfur” is another example of abetting the Sudanese government.

Global attention

Gross violations against civilians will continue to occur unless more is done. Will global attention and campaigning keep Darfur and the Nuba Mountains in the headlines thereby putting pressure on the government? Possibly. But reform of legislature is paramount.

The Bill of Rights promises equality to all, yet the “legal code entrenches gross gender oppression and an environment in which violence against women can be perpetrated with complete impunity, especially by state and military personnel”.

Legally, rape is defined in Article 149 as “sexual intercourse by way of adultery or homosexuality with any person without consent”. This means the law itself “conflates rape with adultery, with serious consequences for victims of sexual violence”. Furthermore, “legal action cannot be taken against members of the military, security services, police, and border guards and immunity may only be lifted by the individual’s superior officer”.

There’s also the cultural drawbacks to contend with as women who do report a rape can be accused of committing adultery (zinna), a crime in the eyes of Sudanese law especially as the burden of proof lies with the victim. The social and cultural stigma of reporting a rape can also break the strongest of wills as evidenced in the case of Safia Ishag. A member of the youth movement Girifna, she says she was gang-raped and beaten by three officers from the notorious National Intelligence & Security Services (NISS) and after posting a video documenting her rape, the harassment she faced forced her to seek refuge in France.

Back in 2007, Bashir laughingly said to NBC News: “It is not in the Sudanese culture or people of Darfur to rape. It doesn’t exist. We don’t have it.”

This, from a head of state still wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes – crimes that include rape.

Debate on whether the alleged attack on the village of Tabit did or didn’t take place will continue but one thing is certain – these violations will also continue as long as the regime is given carte blanche to do so.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/11/world-idle-as-sudan-women-rape-2014111112378477268.html

World idle as Sudan’s women raped, killed and bombed

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Op Ed piece for Al Jazeera English on the abuse of women in Sudan

World idle as Sudan’s women raped, killed and bombed

Achrin Mapio claims she was raped by South Sudanese rebels [AFP]
Darfur no longer grabs the headlines as it falls out of favour as a cause celebre yet the atrocities, especially against women, haven’t stopped.

Last week a report emerged that some 200 women, including 80 minors, were mass raped by a Sudanese Army garrison in the village of Tabit, northern Darfur. Reportedly, the soldiers started their raping spree on Friday evening and went on until 4am the following day.

The special prosecutor for crimes in Darfur denied the mass rape saying they inspected and “verified the inaccuracy of what has been circulating in social media, and some of the local radio stations”. Initially denied and then granted access, the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) investigated and concluded its “team found no evidence confirming the claims and received no information regarding the purported acts”.

The depressing fact is that it’s not inconceivable for such a crime to have occured. The systematic degradation and violation of Sudanese women has been a trait of the regime’s 25-year-rule. Articles 151, 152, 154 and 156 of the criminal code “enforce restrictions on women and the way they dress and behave in public”. If they commit an act “deemed by an officer of the law to be in violation of these articles, they may face a lashing sentence [or] be forced to pay a fine”.

Systematic rape

The power and authority handed to officers to arbitrarily decide what they deem acceptable attire and to enforce the punishment is clear in a number of graphic videos of females being brutally flogged. In Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, women are the target of “systematic rape and other forms of sexual violence, such as threat of rape, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, sex trafficking, forced marriages, forced prostitution and sexual slavery”.

Female Darfurian students continue to face detention and harassment from officials. In early October, 70 female students were forcibly evicted from their dorms, with 16 held without charge and reportedly subjected to abuses

An Amnesty International report from 2004 documented how rape was used as a weapon of war: The testimonies “all describe a pattern of systematic and unlawful attacks on civilians in North, West and South Darfur states, by a government-sponsored militia [the Janjawid] … and by the government army”.

“Violence against women is occurring in a context of systematic human rights violations against civilians in Darfur. Women have been summarily or indiscriminately killed, bombed, raped, tortured, abducted and forcibly displaced… girls have, like women, been the particular target of rapes, abductions and sexual slavery.”

A decade later, the picture is the same for the people of Darfur. Female Darfurian students continue to face detention and harassment from officials. In early October, 70 female students were forcibly evicted from their dorms, with 16 held without charge and reportedly subjected to abuses, including sexual, and accused of supporting rebel Darfur groups.

How much more sexual violence against Sudanese women will the world tolerate? The UK Foreign Secretary released a statement regarding the alleged attack in Tabit, which is nice but what about the training of – and support for – the Sudanese military, police and security personnel by his own government?

What good is such a statement if officials continue committing their alleged atrocities with the tacit support of others who play the blind, deaf and ignorant cards? The UN isn’t innocent either – accusations of a “cover-up” and “failure to properly report crimes against civilians … in Darfur” is another example of abetting the Sudanese government.

Global attention

Gross violations against civilians will continue to occur unless more is done. Will global attention and campaigning keep Darfur and the Nuba Mountains in the headlines thereby putting pressure on the government? Possibly. But reform of legislature is paramount.

The Bill of Rights promises equality to all, yet the “legal code entrenches gross gender oppression and an environment in which violence against women can be perpetrated with complete impunity, especially by state and military personnel”.

Legally, rape is defined in Article 149 as “sexual intercourse by way of adultery or homosexuality with any person without consent”. This means the law itself “conflates rape with adultery, with serious consequences for victims of sexual violence”. Furthermore, “legal action cannot be taken against members of the military, security services, police, and border guards and immunity may only be lifted by the individual’s superior officer”.

There’s also the cultural drawbacks to contend with as women who do report a rape can be accused of committing adultery (zinna), a crime in the eyes of Sudanese law especially as the burden of proof lies with the victim. The social and cultural stigma of reporting a rape can also break the strongest of wills as evidenced in the case of Safia Ishag. A member of the youth movement Girifna, she says she was gang-raped and beaten by three officers from the notorious National Intelligence & Security Services (NISS) and after posting a video documenting her rape, the harassment she faced forced her to seek refuge in France.

Back in 2007, Bashir laughingly said to NBC News: “It is not in the Sudanese culture or people of Darfur to rape. It doesn’t exist. We don’t have it.”

This, from a head of state still wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes – crimes that include rape.

Debate on whether the alleged attack on the village of Tabit did or didn’t take place will continue but one thing is certain – these violations will also continue as long as the regime is given carte blanche to do so.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/11/world-idle-as-sudan-women-rape-2014111112378477268.html

What We’re Getting Wrong About the Sudan’s Infamous Apostasy Case

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my latest piece on Meriam Yehia’s apostasy case for Policy Mic

 

Once again it seems Islam is in the middle of another contentious matter. A Christian mother of two, found guilty of apostasy, was sentenced to death in a Muslim country.

At least that’s the narrative you might believe if you’ve been piecing together the tragic story of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman facing possible death after being accused of apostasy. Her case has incited a slew of the tweets featuring the #SaveMeriam hash tag, and online petitions that have garnerned hundreds of thousands of signatures.

But this is not a story about religion or apostasy. This is a story about about Sudan’s particular brand of corruption.

Of course, the charges faced by Ibrahim are no light matter. But there’s a deeper issue at play here. The Sudanese regime, led by Omar Al-Bashir, is known for its underhanded tactics and dirty dealings. In April, right before Ibrahim’s case came to light, the office of Khartoum’s governor was facing accusations of widespread corruption. Perhaps that is no coincidence.

Leading a disgruntled nation that has seen popular protests in recent years, Bashir’s regime is no stranger to diverting attention from the country’s long list of troubles — unemployment, rising costs of living and the depreciation of the Sudanese pound, to name a few — by fixating on politics.

In January, for example, amid widespread reports of internal party splits, Bashir announcedreconciliation talks with the opposition, of which the Umma Party, one of the largest political parties in the country, was a part. In early May, the leader of the Umma Party, El-Saddiq El-Mahdi, was arrested on charges of “defamation” after he accused paramilitary forces, the Rapid Support Forces, of abuses including rape and murder in the conflict-ridden Darfur state. The National Dialogue initiative is now left in tatters. Right now, all eyes are on Ibrahim’s case.

Ibrahim’s case has, most certainly, sparked a discussion within Sudan. As any political strategist will tell you, any story that combines “defining values” and religion will lead to a polarizing national debate.

And what dominates the national conversation in Sudan has a thing or two do with the government: After all, Bashir’s regime keeps the media on a short leash. He goes to great lengths to muzzle any independent publications, including confiscating issues of newspapers from printing presses, a tactic that uses economic pressure to silence dissent.

While the motives behind pursuing Ibrahim’s case are unclear, there are lessons to draw from the victim of the country’s last death verdict for apostasy in 1985, which was politically motivated.

Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a religious Sufi thinker and leader of the now-disbanded Republican Brotherhood party, was hanged for “sedition and apostasy” for vocally opposing the imposition of Sharia law in Sudan, a change for which the country’s president at the time, Jaafar al-Nimeiri, strongly advocated.

Unlike Taha, Ibrahim is not a political threat to the government. She is, however, political fodder. Just as Taha’s death was Nimeri’s way of flexing his political muscles, Ibrahim’s case could very well be nothing more than a tactic to further promote the ruling National Congress Party’s (NCP) political ideology and agenda, which he achieved through the “Islamization” of society.

It’s a debate from which the ruling party stands to gain politically, whether that involves using it to flex a muscle over the country’s more left-leaning and secular opponents, including the country’s popular youth movement, or creating a debate designed to pit Sudan’s religious conservatives against more secular segments of society. Either of these scenarios are carefully constructed attempts to deflect attention away from the ruling party’s catalogue of failures and troubles.

A report did surface saying that Ibrahim was to be freed, after a presidential pardon. ButSUNA, the state-run news agency, said that overturning a verdict can only be done by the court, and that was dependent on the outcome of the appeal.

If the aim of this case is an elaborate game of political chess for Bashir’s government in order to further their own agenda, it’s the topic of the year in Sudan, and Ibrahim is the sacrificial pawn. All other matters — the failing economy, the rising inflation, the continuing bombings of civilians in the Nuba Mountains, the spiralling crises in Darfur, the student protests, etc. — have taken the back seat as many continue to discuss and dissect the case that undoubtedly will be dragged out for a while, or until another “issue” pops up and dominates.