Even over a crackling phone line, our Darfuri eyewitness was unequivocal. One year ago, at the very end of October, Sudan army troops stormed into her town in Tabit, North Darfur, dragged her out of her home, and beat her almost to death. Three of her daughters, all under 15, were raped by the soldiers. Over the course of 36 hours, the soldiers raped at least 221 women and girls in Tabit. She told my colleagues, “They put clothes in [my daughters’] mouths so that you could not hear the screaming.”
A few months later, our researcher interviewed a young woman from the town of Golo, in the Jebel Mara mountains, who described how the government’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fighters raped her and her two sisters in January, after killing her father who was defending them. For three weeks, RSF fighters used Golo as their base, looting property, raping women and men, and summarily executing those who refused to cooperate After being told by military officials that they would be safe there, hundreds of civilians sought shelter in a nearby hospital. But in February, the RSF stormed the hospital, separated women from the men, and raped at least 60 women and girls. Naked bodies were later found in the streets, others were burned alive.
In both Tabit and Golo, the Sudanese government has done everything possible to cover up its crimes. There is no evidence that anyone has been charged with any crimes. The survivors have not received medical or psychosocial services, let alone justice.
Tomorrow, the United Nations Security Council is meeting to discuss a report from the the joint African Union-UN mission in Darfur – a report that, somehow, excludes any mention of the RSF’s role in violence and abuses in Darfur. Instead of allowing this one-sided narrative to stand unchallenged, council members should use this opportunity to press for justice.
So far, the Security Council has responded to the attacks with a single press release about Tabit. This despite its seemingly robust women, peace, and security agenda and a special briefing from the UN representative on sexual violence in conflict urging an independent investigation into the Tabit attack.
Sudan’s government is notorious for blocking peacekeepers, journalists, and other international actors from freely moving around the country. Although peacekeepers were allowed to conduct a handful of interviews in Tabit last November, they have been barred since. Long prevented from entering the Jebel Marra mountains, the peacekeeping mission has not even acknowledged the February mass rape at the hospital in Golo. Neither has the council.
This month marks the 15-year anniversary of a Security Council resolution designed to better integrate women’s perspectives and needs into international responses to conflict. But despite incredible policy progress, the system set up by resolution 1325 has not been able to address the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war against Darfur’s women..
Resolution 1325 needs to be more than just words. When discussing the peacekeeping mission’s latest report, the Security Council should make clear that, even if peacekeepers can’t access Golo and Tabit, they should investigate these allegations remotely. That means speaking with those who fled the area or through long-distance means of communication. The council should also dispatch a special team with expertise in sexual and gender-based violence and remote research methodology to investigate the alleged rapes.
Sudanese soldiers put clothes in their victims’ mouths so that no one would hear their screams. The Security Council should make sure they are not successful.