KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Safiya Eshaq said she was kidnapped in Khartoum by plainclothed security men, beaten, gang raped and left in the street to limp to safety for her part in anti-government protests.
A source in Sudan’s security apparatus denied its forces had anything to do with the attack alleged by Eshaq, who says she fled the capital in fear for her and her family’s lives for broaching a taboo subject in the conservative Muslim society.
“Two men told me to stop on the street -- I tried to run away but they grabbed me and covered my mouth with their hands and took me away in their car,” she told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday from Juba, the capital of south Sudan which will become an independent nation in July.
“They were asking me if I was distributing leaflets, if I was in the Communist party and if I was at the January 30 protests,” she said, adding they were beating her all over her body with their boots and fists.
She said she passed out from the pain of the beating and awoke to find one of the men on top of her, raping her while the other two held her down. “They all took their turn,” she said.
Eshaq, a supporter of the anti-government activist group Girifna, said the attack happened on February 13 while she was on her way to a shop.
Inspired by an uprising in neighbouring Egypt, Sudanese youth called for anti-government protests which were violently dispersed by security forces starting on January 30. The movement failed to take on mass appeal and dozens of activists remain detained without charge.
The 24-year-old said she went to the hospital and got a doctor’s report confirming she was raped and then returned to the police who at first refused to record her account.
“They told me it would be better for me not to continue with this and were threatening me but after I brought the doctor’s report they accepted it.”
“I am not a strong person but I know there are so many women who are sexually assaulted but they keep silent. I want to tell girls like me to speak out, to let the world know what kind of regime this is,” she said, her voice breaking.
A source in Sudan’s security forces told Reuters there was no record of the alleged incident. “All the papers are falsified,” the source said.
Mass rape has been used as a weapon in Sudan’s multiple conflicts, most recently in Darfur where President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide.
Bashir denies the charges and Khartoum accuses the Western media and aid agencies of exaggerating the problem of rape during the eight-year insurgency.
Aid agency staff have been arrested and expelled for reporting rape, perpetuating a code of silence even among the international organisations working in Sudan. Foreign aid workers have also been raped in the war-torn Darfur.
Eshaq never returned to her home in Khartoum to avoid endangering her family.
“I used to walk down the street and feel safe because I thought Sudanese were good people but now I‘m terrified every time I see the police, terrified to leave the house,” she said.