Physicians for Human Rights, in partnership with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, has published a report documenting the scope and long-term impact of rape and other sexual violence experienced by women who fled attacks on their villages in Darfur and are now refugees in neighboring Chad.
The report -- titled "Nowhere To Turn: Failure To Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women" corroborates women's accounts of rape and other crimes against humanity that they have experienced in Darfur, as well as rape and deprivations of basic needs in refugee camps in Chad. Based on interviews with female refugees living in Chad's Farchana refugee camp, the report calls for "vigorous prosecution of rape as a war crime."
Drawing courtesy Human Rights Watch, artist "Salah", 13: "There were soldiers from Sudan, Janjaweed, and planes and bombs. I saw the Janjaweed take girls and women. The women were screaming. They seized them, they took them by force. The pretty ones were taken away...Girls were taken, small girls too, I think 5 and 7 and 14. Some came back after four or five hours...some we haven't seen again."
"Many Darfuri women refugees live in a nightmare of memories of past trauma compounded by the constant threat of sexual violence around the camps now," said said Susannah Sirkin, the physician group's deputy director.
"Women who report being raped are stigmatized, and remain trapped in places of perpetual insecurity. There's no one to stop the rapes, no one to turn to for justice for past or ongoing crimes, and little psycho-social support to address their prolonged and unimaginable traumas."
Dr. Sondra Crosby, a Physicians for Human Rights consultant and expert in refugee trauma, said "the atmosphere of intimidation was palpable as we listened to women describing their profound suffering and fear, and their yearning to return safely and with dignity to their former lives."
Of those refugees interviewed, "32 reported instances of confirmed or highly probable rape" -- 17 in Darfur and 15 in Chad, the group said. "Among the instances of rape reported in Chad, the vast majority (10 of 11 confirmed reports) occurred when women left the camps to gather firewood." And just over half of the 88 women interviewed -- 46 of them -- live in fear of sexual assaults around the refugee camp.
The group supports the issuing of International Criminal Court warrants against the Sudanese perpetrators, calls for "legal reforms in Chad to end impunity for sexual violence," and for "effective psychosocial support to survivors." Further it said increased protections are needed by police and peacekeepers, including "effective firewood patrols."