“Life without dignity is not life at all” Salim* explains to me. At just 33 years old, he has lost everything. Unable to protect his wife and children from attacks by the Sudanese government’s militia, they were forced to make the difficult decision to leave Salim and seek safety elsewhere. Salim fled his home and now lives with more than 68,000 people in the Hamidia displacement camp in Zalingi, West Darfur. This is his story:
We were forced to flee to save our lives; it was our only option. We went to a nearby town and stayed at a school for shelter, but the government quickly forced us out of the school and into a displacement camp, where there was little to no food, water or shelter. This is where I remain, to this day, nine years later.
To be in a camp in Darfur is the most dangerous place — the government and the militias continue to target the most helpless, particularly women and children. Attacks continue on a daily basis and the Sudanese government is restricting food and humanitarian access, placing more than 500,000 people at severe risk.
It’s not just the government and militias we fear. There is very little food — what food aid is distributed to our camp is done so in partnership with pro-government elements, so we receive very little. Children are dying every day from malnutrition. When women try to leave the camp to seek food or any means of providing for their families, they face the threat of rape and abduction.
As I write to you now, I am expecting to die at any time. Because I have chosen to speak out for the rights of my fellow displaced people, I have been repeatedly targeted for attacks by the government. My wife and children had to leave me because it was not safe for them to be with me. Being a man in Darfur means you must protect and provide for your family and I am unable to do that. This humiliates me.
Still, I will not stop speaking out for my people until the last moment of my life. I have heard that the international community thinks the violence in Darfur is over, but I am here to tell you otherwise. Your silence will only aid President Bashir, allowing him to continue carrying out his violent attacks on innocent civilians like me, without consequence.
Things are getting worse, not better for Salim, as attacks in Darfur and other parts of Sudan are increasing. And even those sent to protect them are at risk. In July, UN peacekeepers suffered the deadliest single attack on the international force in Sudan.
But there’s something all of us can do right now to help. The Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2013 has the potential to be a critical tool in bringing lasting peace to Darfur and all of Sudan, urgently address the humanitarian crisis faced by Salim and hundreds of thousands of others; and hold those responsible for human rights crimes accountable.
We’re gaining momentum, but we need your support.