“Every day I dream of returning home,” Aisha* says, “but in reality, I know that we can’t go home any time soon.” Aisha hasn’t been home in ten years, forced to live in Kassab displacement camp in North Darfur after her village was attacked by the Janjaweed in 2003.
My village was attacked in August of 2003 when I was only 12 years old. My two brothers and my father were killed in the attack; it was devastating. My mother was wounded and became handicapped. To this day, she can’t take care of herself, so I took on the role of caring for my whole family: my younger siblings, my mother and my grandmother. A child that young should never have to serve as the primary caregiver for their entire family, but what choice did I have?
After the attack, we fled our homes and sought safety in the Kassab displacement camp, but what we found was the farthest thing from safety. Every day, we are vulnerable to attacks by the Janjaweed and because of this, we live in fear. Just yesterday, a 12-year-old girl was abducted and raped by the Janjaweed. When people attempted to rescue her, the Janjaweed fired multiple gunshots at the rescuers. The young girl has now returned to the camp and is desperately in need of medical treatment, but we have nothing to offer her in the camp.
When the Janjaweed attacks us, we run away to seek safety, but we always have to return to the camp because we have nowhere else to go. We are sitting ducks.
I’ve been living in the camp for ten years now and life has not gotten any easier. We walk for more than 72 hours back and forth to collect firewood for our family to use, selling part of it to buy food. However, malnutrition, particularly in women, children and the elderly is still a severe problem in the camp. We do receive a little assistance from international aid organizations, but the distribution is not enough.
We used to be farmers, but there is no land to farm in the camp. To make matters worse, our land, which was our livelihood, was taken from us by the Janjaweed and new settlers to the area. Now, if we want to earn money to feed our families, we have to work on farms that were previously ours to make a meager income. It’s not uncommon for the Janjaweed to steal our belongings as we are walking from the farms back to the camp. It’s utterly humiliating.
We’ve waited for ten years to leave these camps, return home, and resume normal and peaceful lives. How long we should continue to wait?
The Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act of 2013 could turn the tide for Aisha, help usher in lasting peace to Darfur and all of Sudan, urgently address the humanitarian crisis and hold those responsible for human rights crimes accountable.