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memri
March 7, 2011 No.
3645

A Victim of Rape in Sudan Tells Her Story

Safia Ishag Mohamed is a member of the pro-democracy Sudanese activist group Girifna (Arabic for "we are fed up"). In a country where political dissent is not tolerated, the group has successfully conducted voter education and election monitoring campaigns before the Sudanese elections. The group now has over 7,000 members on Facebook, their own YouTube channel, and a radio station. The group's leaders say that its members have been tear-gassed, beaten, and tortured.[1]

The following are excerpts from Safia Ishag Mohamed's story, published February 24, 2011 on the liberal Arabic website Aafaq.com:

"I Participated in the Rallies of January 30, and I was a Member of Girifna"

Safia Ishag Mohamed: "I am Safia Ishag Mohamed. I am 25 years old. I graduated from the Fine Arts College of the University of Sudan. I graduated from the painting department last October, 2010. I had my Bachelor's degree exhibit and it was about the role of women. All the paintings were about women and their role in society. I have a mission through my art to show that other than the spoken word, you can spread your message through painting, and it can be a powerful message. I participated in the Youth Forum for Social Peace, and we showed [how] to reject ethnic discrimination. I participated in the rallies of January 30, and I was a member of Girifna. After the rallies of January 30, I felt that I was being watched, and I even told my friends that there are people watching me. On Sunday, February 13, I left the university to get some things from the bookstore. On Hurriya Street, I went out to get some papers and paints. When I bought them and came back, two [men] found me and told me: 'you girl, wait.' I tried to run away from them but they caught me. I tried to scream so they covered my mouth so I can't scream. They put me in a small white car. They were hitting me inside the car until I started paying attention…"

Before the Attack, They Told Me: 'We Saw You Handing Out flyers, and You are One of the Participants of the Rallies of January 30'

"In the car, I wasn't paying attention to the road but I noticed we got on the Bahri Bridge. They took me next to Shandi's Station, to a building where the car went inside. After that, I came down from the car and they were still hitting me. Two people came from inside a room. They started hitting me too. Two [were] holding me and two hitting me. I went into the room. They threw me on the ground. They were hitting me while asking me if I was a communist, and what is your relationship with Gririfna, and who prints the papers for you in Girifna. They told me: 'we saw you handing out flyers, and you are one of the participants of the rallies of January 30.' They were verbally insulting me with bad insults. I feel too embarrassed to speak those insults. The beating continued for a long time. After that, one of them… I wear my hair short. With the beating, my headscarf fell from my head. So one [of them] told me: 'your hair is cut short. This is the style of the communist girls, and you are not a decent girl.'

"He asked me: 'have you ever had sex before?' I told him no. He said: 'You are a liar. I want to see if you had or had not.'

"I tried to resist as he wanted to remove my skirt. I resisted him removing my skirt. I tried to resist so he hit me and I passed out. When I awoke, I found two holding my legs and a third penetrating me. I was in a lot of pain. They were three, taking turns on me. They tied my hands with my headscarf. They removed my skirt and underwear, and they were taking turns. They would leave me for a little bit, then they would hold me again and repeat the process. Three of them were involved. During this process, they were hitting me.

"After that, they told me to leave, [and] if we found you again the issue would escalate. They had hit me on my leg, and I was not able to walk on it. I left with difficulty; I was scared. Fear made me walk a long distance, until I found transportation and went to Sorq al-Arabi. I wasn't paying attention where I was going, as I was scared that they would find me again and repeat what I went through. I went back home, I was scared. I was very scared. I got on [public] transportation and got home. My mother asked me, why are you late. It was 11 pm. So I told her we had an exhibit. I couldn't tell her what happened. My leg is still suffering from the beating and I cannot walk well. I am not strong enough to say what happened to me. But there were people around me. They took away some of the pain I went through."

"I Wanted to be an Inspiration to Other Girls, so They Can Speak Out on Their Experience with Courage"

"That is why I wanted to be an inspiration to other girls, so they can speak out on their experience with courage, so we can out these people. These are not people. So we can out these beasts. Because seriously, this is not humane. I want to send a message to any girl that got tortured. I want to tell her to be strong, to stand for the struggle. To change the situation, we have to sacrifice. Things are not easy, but people need to be patient. And with my art, I am going to send a message. I will paint and have exhibitions about the issues important to women.

[Pauses, crying for a moment]

"I thank all the people who stood next to me, and I will be strong so that… so that things become better. I went on the rallies and handed out flyers and worked because I know that there are women being raped in Darfur, [and] in Khartoum. They don't have the courage to come out, because this is a difficult subject for families. So I want to be courageous, and show them that… that change will happen. That the situation will not continue like this."

Endnote:

[1] Washington Post, August 14, 2010.