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  • Writer's pictureEcumenical Women

Rape in Armed conflicts, or when women’s bodies become battlefields

By Paola Salwan, Programme Assistant for Africa, Middle East and Europe at the World YWCA

This week I just finished reading Tears of the Desert, by Halima Bashir, a very moving and tough biography about a female Sudanese doctor during the height of the ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

Being a Zaghawa, a black tribe from Southern Sudan, Halima soon discovers that her people, along with many other black tribes, have become the target of the central government and their de facto militias, the Janjaweeds, “Arab” nomad tribes. Being an educated woman who didn’t make distinctions between whom she was treating and curing, she stood out, and was therefore punished for it.

Nothing was spared to her: she endured torture, gang rape, threats, and loss. Her pain was so intense, I cringed even reading about it, it was as if I could feel the atrocities being perpetrated on my body. This book got me to wonder about rape and its use during armed conflicts, but also on the state of a “humanity” that loses its rights to call itself that as soon as it starts violating bodies designed to give life.

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