We visited Amira again today, a woman we met on our second day in the camps. But this time we were able to sit down with her for more than hour and really hear her story. She told two stories of young girls and violence against them during attacks in Darfur. The one I will tell here reflects the decisions that we are forced to make when faced with no water or food, when we are faced with life or death.
Cornoye remains only in name, Amira reminded us as she began to tell the story.
After fleeing from the attack, children were lost, and adults began to protect who ever they could. When most of the women and children finally were able to gather, they were in such shock they were unable to move very far from their destroyed village. As the days past, they group needed water. There were two water sources they could pull from: a nearby village that was Janjaweed controlled or walk to Chad and back, about a week’s time. The group made a decision that they would attempt to pull from the well in the village at night when perhaps the Janjaweed and government troops were no longer there.
They could not send any boys. Because here boys are considered men, and they are all targets, no matter the age. They believed that the men would not harm young girls. That they would be safe from evil, so they sent a group of 6 to bring back water for the large group in the darkness of the desert night. The Janjaweed did not leave the well at night, instead they captured the girls and locked them away for two days, with no food, and no water – the very resource they risked their lives for.
Back at the makeshift encampment in the wadi, the group began to worry about the girls who had not returned. They decided to send a group of men to the village in search of them, knowing that their lives were at risk. Once they reached the well, they did not notice any government soldiers or militas. Instead the scene seemed calm, and they decided to drink from the well.
But it was not safe. From the bushes and behind the huts, rapid ammunition began. They shot all the men dead.
Two of the girls had to eventually be evacuated to a clinic in Cameroon for medical attention. One of them died, and the other is permanently deaf and mute. Her scars, the memories of their men, and the ashes of Cornoye remain to tell the story.
Have you ever been faced with such a decision? Why are we exempt from having to decide, send my husband or brother to death or send my baby girl or sister to sexual assault and kidnapping?
What do you tell Amira? To stay strong? To believe that things will get better?
No. We tell her that we will ensure that al-Bashir is prosecuted for his crimes. We tell her we will work to bring Peace, Protection, and Justice so she can return home and rebuild her life.
And we will not give up. We will not allow our lives to go back to being normal citizens of this earth. With this knowledge, we must act. And we can not give up until we can say to Amira, “I will walk with you home to Darfur. I will help you rebuild your home, your life. I will not desert you as the world has.”