Saturday, November 25, 2006

Darfur war breeds ’dirty babies’

By Ishbel Matheson

The sickly, three-month-old child, named Hawa, is the result of terrible atrocity.

When Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, came to Fatma’s home in January, they threatened to kill her father.

Fatma intervened but the gunmen turned on her.
"They said to me: ’You are a prostitute’," she says.
"They pinned me down, one on my hands and one on my legs. The others took turns."

Fatma was held for four hours and raped repeatedly.
They left her alive, but injured so badly, that she could not walk.

When her family eventually found her, they had to carry her home.

Marked for life Two months later, Fatma realised that she was pregnant. She is just 15 years old.

"At first my father wanted to throw me out. But others pleaded with him."

Her family moved to a refugee camp in the town of Kass, along with other survivors from her village.
But in this traditional society, Fatma and her baby are marked for life. The young mum tells how neighbours whisper about her.

"They say I’m a bad girl - that I had this Janjaweed baby. They say that I should be sent away," she says.

As she speaks, baby Hawa frets and cries. She is malnourished and light as a feather.
Her mother presses her to her breast, but she has no milk.
We ask an older woman who is present, to try to help us soothe the baby.
She refuses, cursing the child as if she were a bad omen.

"She is calling the baby ’a dirty girl’," says Unicef’s Eman el-Tigani.
"Fatma has no future here. Islam does not allow for a baby to be killed. Otherwise this baby would be dead."

Rape ’commonplace’

Fatma and her baby are victims of a brutal scorched-earth campaign in this remote region in western Sudan. Read more >>>

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