Ghost Houses: This is no trick!
Oct. 31st of every year marks a festive holiday—Halloween— in the United States, and in many countries throughout the world. It is a holiday when people dress-up in festive attire, disguised as their favorite character, and children enjoy various activities such as pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating. It is a day when houses are decorated with scary and grotesquely –themed decorations, which creates a macabre atmosphere. Other people watch horror movies, filled with scenes of blood, gore, and ghost houses.
It is this particular theme of Halloween that resonates within me, as I think of the real life horrors that continue to take place in my own country, and the ones that already took place in what is called “ghost houses.” To people who celebrate Halloween around the world, “a ghost house” sounds like a thrilling name for a theme park ride, or a reference to haunted houses, but for others, especially those who have survived the tortures in real ghost houses in Sudan, it is a place where they lived their worst nightmare.
To survivors of torture in Sudan, ghost houses are places where they were kept in detention, in isolation and under people who lack any ties to humanity. Some of these places are not yet identified and some of their locations continue to be unknown. They continue to be used for the same sole purpose, though, as a tool for intimidation and curbing political opposition and dissent among people. Namely, they are used for interrogating and torturing those who seemingly threaten the power of government, or exhibit any form of opposition to its ideology. Captives suffer the pain and agony of various forms of torture in these obscure detention cells kept under the most inhumane circumstances.
The so-called ghost houses earned their notoriety because their walls—which continue to be occupied by new victims—are haunted by the anguished cries of detainees, who suffered the hostilities by their perpetrators who paid no regard to human life, rights or dignity. As for the forms of torture used against the detainees, they are numerous, and equally horrifying. For example, some survivors have stated that they have suffered a wide range of torture forms, from cigarette burns to their skin, up to extreme forms of physical violations.
The torture houses are run and sponsored by a government that has—although sounding a bit vampirish, but nonetheless accurate— a taste for blood and a dark history of human rights abuses throughout Sudan. For a government that seeks to destroy the very existence of its own people throughout the country by instigating wars and genocide, it is a continuation of their legacy of terror. Furthermore, the human rights abuses taking the form of torture add to a blood stained record Bashir has held since taking power in 1989, a time that was marked with violent detentions and arrests of political opponents and activists who found their way into the ghost houses. Some survived and found their way out, others did not.
It is estimated that the Sudanese government spends 70 percent of its budget on defense and security, which funds the National Intelligence and Security Service (N.I.S.S), that runs and oversees ghost houses and perpetrates such deplorable acts. Their oppression and repression of political detainees, and dissidents is funded by the government, their torture is systematic, and their impunity is paid for by the continued silence and lack of action towards this type of atrocity taking place in Sudan.
Based in Cairo, Egypt, Al Nadim Center for the rehabilitation of torture survivors has published facts and testimonies on torture in Sudan. According to the publication, it is estimated that 1,324 Sudanese patients frequented the center since its opening in 1993 up to the end of 2002. This huge number of patients reflects the extent of the trauma and the numerous counts of torture incidents that had occurred. Because of threats for more violence, and subsequent detention and torture, few were able to break the chains of fear and silence and share their accounts of the horrors they faced inside the ghost houses. I start to wonder how many more Sudanese people must fall victim in order for torture in Sudan to be confronted at both local and global levels.
The use of torture in Sudan has been the hallmark of all the dictatorships that have taken power, and still continues to be used in all its forms against activists who fall victim to detention. Torture is a crime against human consciousness, and it comes as no surprise that a government like that of Bashir’s practices it, since it is accustomed to the lowest level of moral insolence, torture being an example of such. Worse than that is hearing and witnessing such stories of pain and horror, and remaining unmoved. This is no festive occasion, nor is there a way to disguise it in a more pleasurable candy-filled form. After all, while we enjoy stories of ghost houses, and monsters, let us not forget that there are those that experienced, and continue to experience unadulterated horrors by the hands of government sponsored depravity.
 Presenting and Summarizing: Torture in Sudan-Facts and Testimonies. Publication. Al-Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, 29 Dec. 2005. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. .