Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

Thirty minutes from Khadija’s life… Thirty minutes from a Darfurian girl’s life

(I’ve changed the names for “Khadija’s” own safety)
When she entered the office we were waiting her in, my heart beats raised, I strongly wanted to runaway, to forget all about this interview, to just take the plane and go back “home”, I was told about her story, and so many others, but when I faced her, it was so difficult to emotionally deal with the case.
We were told she is fifteen years old, though her appearance indicates a little bit younger; she was in her school’s uniform, smiled at our faces, a cold smile… painful one... a smile of someone hiding deep sorrow.
Accompanying her, a woman in her forties, introduced herself as her aunt (later we knew that she is a third degree relative), wearing a colorful tobe, but when you look at her cracked feet, you can’t miss her poverty and her drastic work environment, how not and she is a street vender in the nearby market works from 6am to 6pm every day.
Khadija is a bright child, that’s obvious from the way she looks at you, how she scanned the whole room in few seconds and the way she interacted with the pre-interview chat, she speaks in low, though rattled, heartbreaking voice; she avoids eye contact; disguising her anxious, her fear or even her hatred.
Her aunt says: she is clever girl, always the first of her class, although the exams took place few weeks after that incident, she still remains on her class’s top ten,
Now let me tell you what happened few weeks before Khadija’s exams….
As we aforementioned, Khadija is a bright child, you would admire her cleverness more when you know about what she went through since her early childhood, she grew-up in a small house with her mother and grandmother, her father abandoned them longtime ago, he left before she managed to save a picture of him in her memory, before she could recognize his voice, he left with all his belongings, without leaving a shirt or shoe she can keep from him. Because of the bombardment in her village ten years ago, her mother was left deaf and unable to walk. Her grandmother is the only breadwinner at home; she sells food and tea in the city’s big market.
Our little friend goes everyday to school, then pass-by her grandmother’s workplace to help her with serving customers, she leaves the market few minutes after sunset, not to sleep or play with friends, but to take care of her mother, to clean up the house, and then she “might” get some time to do her homework.
That was Khadija’s routine before that day …
It was Eid-Aladha; Khadija wore her lovely dress… the one her grandmother bought last year… she keeps it for special occasions, for Eid or a wedding in the neighborhood.
On that day she was full of life and her pockets with candies, walking through the city’s roads, exchange greetings and best wishes with everyone.
The city is forlorn, yes it is, how not, and its packed with armored, the number of army’s cars exceeds the number of taxies; how not, and it’s the same city where Khadija’s mother lost both hearing and walking ability, the same city where the sisters, neighbors, mothers and grandmothers paid a burdensome from their own bodies and lifetime trauma.
Let us forget about the city now, and let me tell you more about that day…
Despite the extremely hot weather, Khadija continued her Eid’s greetings, she wanted to share a joyful moment with people… she just wanted to forget about her/their sorrow.
Its sunset time now, and she wants to return back home to spend some time with her mother. On her way back she met (x); they know each other very well, he is a “government militia’s soldier”, a customer of her grandmother, although he doesn’t have the same feature of Khadija’s “people”, he tend to be nice with her,it’s unusual for people like (x) to nice with people like Khadija ( the inherited racism doesn’t allow, the war in her region doesn’t allow), he often comes to her grandmother’s workplace at the time she is helping her, she handed him tea and water several times and he kindly thanked her as many times as she served him.
On that day, they exchanged Eid’s greetings, and then had this conversation:
(x): why didn’t you passed by my “family’s house” to greet them?
Khadija: I don’t know where they live; otherwise I would have visited them.
(x): it just couple of streets away from here, I’m already on my way home, so why not you go with me, greet them, take the Eid’s candy and then go?!
Khadija: sure, why not?!
They walked for minutes before they arrived to his “family’s” house…
They entered the house through small door, she waited in the parasol while he brought her water and some candies, she smiled, though she was little bit anxious, she couldn’t hear any signs of anyone at the house but both of them… she decided to play smart, to not show him her tension, her fear, but.. why the fear for?! Maybe his relatives went to greet the neighbors or their extended family… well, it doesn’t matter, she would excuse herself and leave quietly, she would promise him to come back tomorrow to greet them, she would keep up her smile until she reaches home, she might indeed comeback tomorrow to greet his family, as the holyday still on.
By then… she discovered how naïve she is, just by then she discovered what beneath his invitation, she then realized that (x) has never had family in her city, that he came here just for war, this damned war! What if this war never started?! her mother wouldn’t have lost her legs, she could have be able to hear now, her father wouldn’t have abandoned them, her grandmother would have been farming in the village instead of selling tea in the market, and… she wouldn’t have been through the next thirty minutes..
well, wishes wouldn’t safe Khadija, she knew her destiny the minute he locked the door, the minute he gets very close to her, the minute her heart beats very fast, when he became too touchy, when her voice disappeared and the minute she was again able to get her voice back and screamed, to ask for help, to call for her mother…
Khadija screamed a lot, she called all the people she knows and those she doesn’t know, no one would respond, no one would hear, maybe they did but never cared… who knows?!
Khadija says: when he “finished” he opened the door and let me go, I ran, very fast, I couldn’t see, but I wouldn’t care, I just wanted to go home, I just wanted to reach my mother’s arms and cry forever…
She was telling me this details while I was so busy hiding my tears, I again wanted to runaway, this time to the middle of nowhere, to a world that these atrocities would never happen, I woke-up myself from this naïve daydreams, I was telling myself, just stay and learn from this little brave heart, at this moment I smiled the very same smile she had when we firstly met… I looked at her face and realized that nothing would let her continue stay in the room but her kindness, her welcoming culture, however she couldn’t continue the story, she just wanted to stay away and cry, she told us later that she is “Ok”, her only struggle is her memory… she just wants to forget… she just can’t forget!
Her aunt continued the story: when she arrived home, her grandmother hardly recognized her, the beautiful Eid dress splintered, her eyes were too red, and her face and breast were bloody injured, the blood of resisting the horror!
Her grandmother immediately called me, we took her to the hospital, where they issued the medical report stating that she was raped, we did “all the medical process”; the next morning we went to police station and filed the case, they asked her about the house description, and she gave them full details, Khadija has very strong memory..
I was the only family member who was able to attend the court sessions, the aunt said, her mother is with disability and her grandmother is old, additionally we were in need for her to continue working while the sessions goes. It broke my heart when she had to meet with him every single session, the aunt continued, she would cry the whole night after every session, Khadija don’t like anyone to see her crying, so she would go to the backyard and stays for hours until midnight.
Do you want to know what happened with the court? Ok, let me tell you:
Despite Khadija’s fast reporting to the case, the fact that she has a medical report evidencing her rape, and that she described every single detail of (x)’s house to the police and the court, despite her age as child, despite of all the time she and her family paid to follow the court case, that she had to meet (x) every session, despite all that… Khadija forgot “very important fact”..
She forgot that she is from Darfur!
That she is from a region the government is denying recorded rape history for more than decade, she is from a problematic region that many human rights groups lost access to the victims, where the government deeply believe that hiding rape records (especially when an army personnel or government’s militia’s is involved in the case) is a “state interest”; Khadijia and her family “forgot” that army\militia officers have a “de facto impunity”, and that the hospitals in Darfur do not make DNA tests to the evidence collected from the victim’s body, the government has no interest in doing so.
Khadijia lost her rape case, yet the judge was “embarrassed” to let (x) walk free without any punishment, thus he was convicted by committing “sexual harassment”, the court didn’t name things by its names, it feared to do so, thus, he will spend two years in prison!
But don’t worry, the court considered Khadija’s financial, economical and before all psychological situation; the court compensated Khadija by 200 Sudanese Pounds (less than 30 US Dollars)!

Comments

Dear Walaa,

Thank you so much for sharing Khadija's story. I do not know how you held back those tears but well done on being strong for this young woman. I hope that Khadija has not given up hope and will continue to be a strong woman who knows her rights and is able to do deal with it or do something about it when she is an adult.

As painful as it is, stories such as Khadija's have to be told. The more stories told, the more awareness there will be. And the more awareness there is, the more pressure can be placed on the State, the systems and the "culture" to question these violations which will reduce with time....we have to be hopeful in these circumstances.

xx Gaya

Gaya

This is so wrong. How little justice is served around the world - is so wrong.
The agony the girl must be living through is unimaginable.

Gaya is right. We need to hear these stories more often. We need to digest it and understand that these atrocities are real. Just imagining Khadija, her family, and her surroundings I feel ashamed to sit in the comfort of my home.

Thank you for sharing this with us, and caring for her.

Salaam
Aminah

calupo's picture

So moving

Thank you Walaa Salah for publishing such a touching story. To Khadija, she is a heroine! To have gone through such an ordeal and still be able to narrate and stand up without fear of intimidation. Surely justice should have prevailed but given the circumstances at hand, thank goodness there is this platform for us to air out such voices.

Thank you everyone and continue praying for the peace in that region.

Christine

pelamutunzi's picture

this is wrong

when the law does nothing to protect people that is wrong. when innocent girls are raped and the perpetrator protected because they are army or whatever that is wrong. its time other women stand together to fight. today its Khadija tomorrow its you. your daughter, your mother. lets stand together to fight. as part of your community lets us know what we can do to help and also protest. im circulating this story to friends and colleagues right now.

we amy be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Sangita Thapa's picture

i feel the pain!!

Dear Walaa, this case is similar to the one where i took interview of a 17 year old girl. She too was raped. I cant tell you in words how so hard it is to ask such tough questions to the victim when we know we're just giving her enormous pain. She broke into tears while talking and I couldn't control my own tears, no human with heart and senses could have. The perpetrator was a rich married man who later on persuaded her family and relatives to compromise the case by giving cash. I was infuriated at the stupidity of her family but her parents and relatives were confident that the perpetrator would win ultimately and that it was worthless to fight the case, so they decided to remain silent and took money from the perpetrator. They thought it was wise and easy to let him compensate for the pain at least with his money. There are many such cases where victims are either humiliated by losing their case against the perpetrator or forced to accept the meager amount of money for remaining silent.

Poverty is often the main reason that silents victims and leaves them yet more vulnerable and prone to several sort of violence. Repulsion and embarrassment grip my senses when i hear and see many such incidents. We must rise to speak against such injustices and crimes. I pray for Khadija and i pray more for the justice to reach the victim's access.

kakahani007's picture

Inspiring Story

Thanks Walaa Salah for such great and inspiring story for all Darfurian Women.

Dr. Hani Mohammed Ibrahim (MBBS, SRH2012 Course)
Medical Doctor and Reproductive and Child Health Coordinator at SK Ministry of Health
Research Fellow at RCRU
Tel:+ 249 111 226 075
Email : hani.bashir85@gmail.com
Skype:kakahani007

I posted a comment in your journal, but it did not carry over to this post, so here it is again...

simpy horrified by this, and more horrifying to know it happens all the time, in so many places! What a shame on the system- I don't know what questions to ask or advice to give on positive progress for change with the courts and laws, etc. I have been scouring the web and the site for help, and have two suggestions for now: One is to contact IJM (international justice mission) in the U.S. and file a report here: http://www.ijm.org/report-a-case They may or may not take up this cause, but it doesn't hurt to try.

I came across this post on WP, and she mentions Darfur. She works- or at least used to work- at a rape help and recovery type center. Here is her post and contact: http://worldpulse.com/pulsewire/exchange/post/69350

For now, I hold this young lady in my heart and prayers.

Peace and Hope-
Michelle

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

CAMEROON: Forced Into Marriage at 14

CAMEROON: Forced Into Marriage at 14

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

EMAGAZINE: Bridging Borders

EMAGAZINE: Bridging Borders

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative