Female students from Darfur arrested and beaten in Sudan, says HRW
Sixteen female students are being held without charge in Sudan amid fears that they could face the death penalty after the government accused them of supporting rebel groups.
The students, all from Darfur, were arrested in a police raid on their dormitory earlier this month.
Government security forces evicted about 70 students from the Zahra dormitory complex 10 days ago. Nineteen were beaten and arrested, three of whom were released after five days.
“I was in the room collecting my things when six policemen came into the room and beat me with batons on my chest and on my arms and back,” one student .
One of the freed women – an art student from Khartoum University – told the Guardian that police had been both verbally and physically abusive. She said she had been detained at the government’s National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS) offices, and the Omdurman prison for women in Khartoum.
According to Human Rights Watch, university administrators had demanded that students vacate the Zahra dormitory complex in late September in order for planned maintenance to take place. refused, on the grounds that they did not have anywhere else to go. On October 5, police raided the dorm.
They took me with other girls from the dorm only because we are Darfuri
The Sudanese government has since claimed that the female students were offering assistance to Darfuri rebel groups, saying their refusal to evacuate their dormitory was further evidence of seditious intent.
Another student who was recently released spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity. She denied being a political activist, saying that she believed she was being targeted for being Darfuri. She claims that she was given drugs, and that authorities took blood samples from her. Other students were sexually abused by the security forces, she adds.
“I am not a political activist but they took me with other girls from the dorm only because we are Darfuri,” she said. “They blindfolded us until we reached their offices in Khartoum Bahri district. Then they started beating and harassing us. They gave us tablets and they took our blood.”
She also alleges that the students were subjected to racial abuse, taunted as “negros” and told they were not equal to ethnic Sudanese people.
Human Rights Watch has asked the Sudanese government to investigate the reported abuses and expedite the judicial process for those detained. “The authorities should release or charge all those remaining in detention,” a statement said.
There is an organised campaign against the Darfuri students at universities in
This is the third time that female students from the region of Darfur have been targeted by security forces since the 2003 Darfur war. In addition, 11 male students from the same area have been killed in different incidents at various universities in Sudan.
Darfuri people increasingly view these events as part of a coordinated action against their students, says Darfuri activist Abelrahman Degas, whose sister Salma Degas was among those arrested in the dormitory crackdown. “There is an organised campaign against the Darfuri students at universities in Sudan which is part of the war on Darfuri people in Darfur itself,” Degas says.
The young women potentially face accusations of undermining the constitution and spying against the state, charges which carry the death penalty. Human Rights Watch’s notes that the Sudanese parliament passed legislation in July criminalising “a range of broadly defined offences”, of which undermining the constitution is one.
Authorities have not permitted visits from the students’ families or lawyers.
Darfuri women are always targeted by this government
In the meantime, Salma Degas’s family have released photos on social media showing swollen hands, claiming that their daughter’s hands became bloated because she didn’t take her medicines for 10 days. Her brother explained: “She is suffering from diabetes, so she needs to take daily medicines and meet her doctor weekly, and security officers refused to [allow her to] take the medicines, or take her to a doctor”.
Degas added: “Her flat mates told us when they were released that she was beaten for three days when she refused to tell them her tribe.”
Sudanese women’s rights group ‘No to Women’s Oppression’ has condemned the dormitory incident and demanded the students’ immediate release, with a full investigation.
The group told that the authorities have tried to “methodologically filter out Darfur students” from the dormitory in question since 2011.
Group member Amal Habbani, a journalist, told the Guardian, however, that the incident is also indicative of the Sudanese government’s wider disregard for women’s rights.
“Darfuri women are always targeted by this government, as they target women in general,” Habbani said. “They should release the students immediately and take the responsible people to the court”.