Sudan: WHRDs Await Assassination!
Statement – 1 June 2023
The war between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese army, which began in the early hours of April 15, 2023, is still ongoing as a result of the conflicting parties’ failure to reach a new agreement other than the one signed late last year (which) was supposed to pave the way for democratic elections, but actions of violence on Saturday erupted after weeks of escalating tensions. Its ferocity and danger are increasing every hour on several levels, including those of women, children, the elderly, WHRDs, HRDs and feminists. The various crimes committed by the two warring parties continue to escalate day after day, in the midst of a media blackout and limited action by international organizations. In this light, the Regional Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders in West Asia and North Africa (WHRDMENA) received directly a number of violations that were committed through documentation with some members of the Coalition, in addition to the crimes and information included in the joint statements signed by the Coalition with organizations, including The Nora Center for Combating Sexual Violence (NORA), the Action for Sudanese Women’s Rights (SUWRA), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), and finally, news from WHRD members of the coalition in countries receiving refugees from Sudan.
Accordingly, this paper aims to highlight as much as possible information of violations and crimes committed in light of this war in Sudan, in addition to calling on the regional and international feminist communities to strengthen the voices of Sudanese women human rights defenders and feminists who work under cruel conditions at the very least, and to emphasize their demands, which include and not limited to an immediate and unconditional cease-fire, the speedy decision of the United Nations to form an international and independent investigative committee and hold all those involved in the killing and crimes against women human rights defenders, feminists, women and children accountable, work with civilians to establish a peaceful transition to a democratic Sudanese state that reflects the demands of the democratic revolution, in addition to calling on organizations and media groups to work on greater coverage of this war, and to amplify the voices of Sudanese women and WHRDs in Sudan by taking their lead, and international organizations to work quickly on providing humanitarian support to the Sudanese people.
Violations documented directly by members of the coalition:
More than one female doctor and WHRD were killed due to the use of ammunition that finds its way into their homes, as Alaa Fawzi Al-Mardi was killed on the first day of the war by a bullet inside her house, and another bullet hit her mother’s shoulder. On April 16, 2023, ophthalmologist and WHRD Najwa Khaled Hamad was killed, and nutritionist Nahed al-Imam was killed on the same day, and her colleague Muhammad Mahmoud was injured in the right shoulder. These crimes also affect WHRDs and journalists in West Darfur, where one of them was directly targeted at her home at 7:00 pm on April 15, 2023, specifically in El Geneina area, when a vehicle full of Rapid Support Forces arrived and stayed for more than forty minutes, shooting bullets at her house. On April 17, 2023, this WHRD learned that one of the former leaders of the Rapid Support Forces had searched for her to assassinate her, as a result of news published about the events in El Geneina in June 2021. She was attacked several times by the Rapid Support Forces, and on the same day at 8:15 pm, her uncle and two of his sons were murdered. Due to her work in defending human rights and the human rights of women, 9 of her relatives were also assassinated on April 25, 2023 in El Geneina, and her entire house was looted and set on fire, and the home of WHRD, who is a member of the coalition in Khartoum, was bombed. She was unable to take anything from her house before leaving except her clothes and those of her children. While they are physically safe so far, their psychological condition is troubled and they live in constant terror, especially children, because of the sounds of shelling, bombs and the continuous exchange of fire.
Violations collected and published in joint statements:
According to a joint brief issued on May 2, 2023 by the Sudanese Women’s Rights Action Organization (SUWRA), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the WHRDMENA Regional Coalition, the death toll has reached hundreds, specifically about 600, and the number of injured exceeds five thousand, where these numbers include killing four female doctors and defenders and 38 women and children in the western regions of Khartoum, Nyala, Al-Obeid, Al-Fashir and Al-Jeneina in West Darfur on April 15 and 16, 2023, in addition to the bombing of a shelter for homeless girls in Khartoum on April 16, 2023. Elderly women and children also suffer from scarcity of resources and the inability of Sudanese citizens to go to the market during the allotted time, due to the continuation of the war and the breach of the announced cease-fire times, or the lack of market opening time, which is only 30 minutes, and the scarcity of products in it. It was reported that eight women were raped by members of the two warring parties, and irregular communication and internet service also contribute to the lack of knowledge of the real numbers of dead, wounded, and victims of rape crimes. As a result of cutting off electricity and water, more than a hundred hospitals have suspended their work, which causes the lack of reproductive health services for women, especially treatment services for patients or war-wounded. The number of men and women refugees as a result of their displacement from the war on the borders of Egypt, Chad and Ethiopia, and others trying to reach Saudi Arabia has reached hundreds of thousands, and they suffer on these borders from several problems, including the strict security measures imposed on men on the Egyptian borders, and their separation from their families, which imposes on women the harsh choice of leaving Aswan to return to the border to join them again and return to the war in Sudan, or the lack of provision of sanitary pads for women.
Sudanese WHRDs and feminists also struggle with a double burden as a result of the aforementioned conditions that threaten their lives, given their work to document the committed crimes and receiving clear and direct threats to assassinate them, either as a result of their role during the Sudanese revolution, or documenting and exposing the various violations in the previous period, or their work to provide humanitarian and medical support during this war, which fore-shadows the assassination of a number of brave WHRDs and feminists, either by the supporters of the old Bashir regime, or by each of the two warring parties, as they are accused of treason by both parties, and receive threats of assassinating a number of their family members because of the human rights work they are doing. Moreover, “Abd al-Hay Youssef, a religious leader who supports the army and the former regime (issued) a ‘fatwa’ to the army to kill the leaders of the pro-democracy movement, including WHRDs.”
In another context, the documented numbers of sexual and gender-based violence crimes against women and girls in Sudan have recently exceeded 50 crimes, “reported by doctors, lawyers and other first responders documented in the past two weeks,” which indicates the continued use of sexual violence as a weapon of war against women, perpetrated by both warring parties. The exact number remains unconfirmed as the fighting makes it impossible for WHRDs to reach all victims/survivors, and most victims are unable to access medical assistance due to the closure of many hospitals.
Accordingly, the Regional Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders in West Asia and North Africa (WHRDMENA) affirms the demands contained in a joint statement published by the SUWRA, ISHR and the WHRD Regional Coalition, including the need for “both parties of the conflict and the international community to take (necessary measures) to ensure the protection of WHRDs, in line with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and General Assembly Resolution 181 on the Protection of Women Human Rights Defenders, international humanitarian aid organizations (to identify the necessary) means and pathways to provide emergency services and relief required, support the work of local WHRDs and feminists, (as well as having) the UN Human Rights Council (establish) an international investigative mechanism with adequate resources including investigating threats and reprisals against WHRDs due to their work, and their documentation of sexual and gender-based violence.” The regional and international feminist community must amplify and disseminate the voices and demands of Sudanese WHRDs and feminists, and work to provide sources of relief support for them, as the bodies of dead women, children and men are still lying in the streets of Sudan, without the ability of relief and humanitarian organizations to reach them as a result of the intense fighting.
Other important resources and links: