22. The Women of Farchana Refugee Camp

The night of Thursday 5 June 2008, seven Sudanese refugee women and girls were tied-up, beaten with whips and sticks, and publicly humiliated by a group of refugee men.

The event was heard and seen by many of the refugees in Farchana camp, some of whom reported the incident to MSF expats the following morning, using the word “torture” unprompted.  Note well: this word has never before been used by MSF staff describing domestic or other violence in Farchana camp.  The beaten women, aged 13-30 years, were accused of prostitution.  The victims have been “fined”; some money and goods have been seized from them and their families; several have had their or their family’s World Food Programme ration cards forcibly removed.  The victims have been threatened with further violence if they do not pay the remainder of the fine.

Despite having been instructed not go to MSF health services, the victims presented themselves to MSF, some coming on their own to the Farchana camp health centre, and others brought by local police.

The women were all visibly seriously injured, including several suspected fractured arms.  It is alleged that all of the victims had their arms damaged or broken in order to prevent them from working for a time.  All of the women fear further violence, including reprisals for speaking out about their abuse.

3 Responses to “22. The Women of Farchana Refugee Camp”

  1. alison Says:

    Dear Sisters of Farchana,

    Farchan rif-tuck ! Even though a Canadian woman living in a different part of the world with a life distinct to yours, I feel that there are perhaps more connections between us than there is distance. Firstly, I would like to thank you for your courageous voice which identifies the every day issues you face in Farchana. These protests regarding the treatment of women suggest that you value your dignity, creativity, and uniqueness as women who have more to offer than you are given the chance to express and reveal. I would also like to honour your integrity which allows you to ask others for assistance and support, without shame. This action of vulnerability speaks to me as a woman, as it hints at our shared femininity that is both strong and gentle- an honest combination which is very powerful.

    After reading your letter which outlines some of the ways in which you are treated unjust and unfairly as women, I am angry that the men in your community don’t see you as precious gems who are meant to be cared for; loved as rare and valuable. As walking beauties in a rugged, desert land, you should be cherished as princesses, not slaves!

    And what I would especially love to hear more about, (now that I know more specifically how you suffer), is how you are able to continue day after day, knowing that you should be treated differently, wanting to be treated equally, but living in these circumstances which are less than ideal. Please tell me about the ways in which you honour yourself and each other as valued women despite living with others who do not regard you in this way. How might these difficult circumstances bring you together as sisters in your community? What stories do you tell one other about how you would like things to change and be different? What kinds of hopes do you share about how these changes might be made possible? What is the sound of your song when collecting wood or carrying water? How do you imagine your life different (than it is now) in those moments you are found washing clothes or preparing meals? What makes your children laugh, and what are the colours of their dreams?

    I am so happy (through Dr. Steven’s blog and the MSF website), I have been given the opportunity to hear your stories and see pictures of you, your children, your land. I want to thank you again for sharing your life joys and struggles with us- we would love to hear more! As a Canadian woman on the other side of the world, I think of you as my sisters far away, but who also live in my heart as strong-spirited, brilliantly dressed, beautiful queens! May Allah be near you.

    Alison Pluim.

  2. Hiba Says:

    No one commented. So I re-read it. And I agree: No comments, only emotions.

  3. Samantha Says:

    I ask you, what can be done to change such deep seeded beliefs of male superiority? I am saddened to know that these women aren’t even safe from their own people when given the basics to live.

    Thank you for writing this blog.

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