Sudan War: Protect Refugees and IDPs including Women and WHRDs
On June 8th, 2023 the Sudanese Ministry of transportation announced that all Sudanese nationals including women and children are required to obtain visas to cross to Egypt starting June 10th, 2023. The route to Egypt was the safest and most accessible pathway of evacuation for women and WHRDs. With the new visa requirements that ended visa waivers for women and children, the most accessible opportunity for safety for thousands of women and WHRDs is jeopardized.
On May 25th, the Sudanese authorities changed regulations regarding extension of expired passports and postponed issuing travel documents. The postponement of issuing travel documents implies discrimination against women and girls. It is well known that women in conservative communities like Sudan rarely obtain passports in comparison to men.
The war in Sudan forced more than 1.4 million people to leave their homes. Most of those displaced are women and children. More than 1 million are internally displaced, and 340,000 fled to neighboring countries. Egyptian authorities announced receiving over 170,000 Sudanese refugees in the last 50 days. Those who fled to Egypt are mostly coming from Khartoum. More than 60,000 fled to Chad from Darfur, and another 70,000 fled to South Sudan.
Women and girls are suffering in the process of displacement with increasing insecurity on the roads, lack of food, and healthcare. The set-up of RSF and SAF checkpoints on the roads, blockage of bridges in Khartoum and looting are some of the main challenges for women’s movement across Sudan. Moreover, thousands of women are stranded in fighting areas in fear from the risks of traveling. The high cost of transportation is another challenge for women in need to flee conflict zones. Rising reports of sexual harassment on the roads is leading many women and girls to remain in dangerous areas. Women do not feel safe to move within their neighborhoods in Khartoum and Darfur, as they are afraid to walk on streets in fear of kidnapping and sexual harassment. A woman trapped in a fighting area in Khartoum said “I went out to fetch water in our area in North Khartoum, I did not see any woman on the streets. Our streets are no longer safe for women and girls.”
There are more than 300 reports of missing people, dozens of them are women and girls. Women displaced from Khartoum fled to Madani in Aljazeera, White Nile, Northern and River Nile states. Those who fled from Nayala in South Darfur are taking refuge in the outskirts of the city, while others fled to South Sudan. Women in Alfashir of North Darfur fled to the southern part of the city and other towns. In the meantime, the situation in Zelenji in Central Darfur and Algeneina of West Darfur is catastrophic, as both cities are under siege according to activists who fled the areas to Chad. The situation of internally displaced WHRDs is very worrying, due to the increase of reports of threats to WHRDs who fled from Khartoum to Madani in Al Jazeera state. Former regime security forces are active in surveillance of W/HRDs in the city.
In addition, thousands of women without passports are trapped in Sudan without the ability to move to safer accessible countries . The requirements to issue visitors’ visas for neighoring countries are putting Sudanese women at risk of sexual violence since they are trapped in fighting zones. The International Convention of Refugees of 1951 encourages countries to accept refugees without regular entry conditions (and encourages ‘Prima Facie’ recognition of refugee status). Consequently, dozens of WHRDs are living in distress after these new procedures that limited the options of safe and fast evacuation of those who do not have passports. It also increased the waiting time on borders, as thousands of women are stranded and living under inhumane conditions.
Our organisations/groups call on:
Both parties in the conflict to halt hostilities, protect civilians and open humanitarian corridors towards borders under the supervision of international humanitarian organisations.
Both parties in the conflict and the international community to ensure the protection of women from sexual violence and guarantee the provision of essential services for survivors.
Neighboring countries to ensure the application of the concept of Prima Facie status in line with the International Convention of Refugees of 1951 which encourages countries to accept refugees without regular entry conditions.
Neighboring countries to coordinate with civil society initiatives and international aid organisations to set-up humane places and bathrooms that ensure privacy and safety of women, and provision of timely meals and periodic medical service.
All States to ensure sufficient funding to the UN Refugee Agency and international aid organisations in neighboring countries to ensure that Sudanese refugees have access to basic needs.
Both parties in the conflict, neighboring States, and the international community to ensure the protection of women human rights defenders, in line with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the General Assembly Resolution 181 on protection of Women Human Rights Defenders,
States, in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency, create programs for resettlement of Sudanese W/HRDs and their families to countries where they can continue their work without intimidation or reprisals.
Relevant UN Special Procedures, in particular the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings to issue public statements on the ongoing violations and engage in inclusive and wide consultations with civil society including women human rights defenders.
The Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation mechanism with sufficient resources to investigate the threats and reprisals against WHRDs for their work, and to document SGBV.