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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 21:07 GMT
Darfur war breeds 'dirty babies'
By Ishbel Matheson
BBC News, Darfur

Fatma gently unwraps the bright, pink folds of her shawl, to reveal her baby girl.

Darfur abuse victim Fatma with her baby
Darfuri women believe rape is being used as a weapon
The sickly, three-month-old child, named Hawa, is the result of terrible atrocity.

When Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, came to Fatma's home in January, they threatened to kill her father.

Fatma intervened but the gunmen turned on her.

"They said to me: 'You are a prostitute'," she says.

"They pinned me down, one on my hands and one on my legs. The others took turns."

Fatma was held for four hours and raped repeatedly.

They left her alive, but injured so badly, that she could not walk.

When her family eventually found her, they had to carry her home.

Marked for life

Two months later, Fatma realised that she was pregnant. She is just 15 years old.

"At first my father wanted to throw me out. But others pleaded with him."

Her family moved to a refugee camp in the town of Kass, along with other survivors from her village.

They want to destroy everything - by violating us, they want to make our men ashamed and to demoralise them
Hawa Seliman Mohammed, rape victim
But in this traditional society, Fatma and her baby are marked for life.

The young mum tells how neighbours whisper about her.

"They say I'm a bad girl - that I had this Janjaweed baby. They say that I should be sent away," she says.

As she speaks, baby Hawa frets and cries. She is malnourished and light as a feather.

Her mother presses her to her breast, but she has no milk.

We ask an older woman who is present, to try to help us soothe the baby.

She refuses, cursing the child as if she were a bad omen.

"She is calling the baby 'a dirty girl'," says Unicef's Eman el-Tigani.

"Fatma has no future here. Islam does not allow for a baby to be killed. Otherwise this baby would be dead."

Rape 'commonplace'

Fatma and her baby are victims of a brutal scorched-earth campaign in this remote region in western Sudan.

More than two million people have been driven from their lands, in what the UN has called it the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world".

Human rights groups say Arab militia backed by the Sudanese government are seizing the land from Africans in Darfur.

The Sudanese government says it has been fighting a rebellion. It denies funding and arming the militia.

Whatever the politics of the conflict, the crime of rape is disturbingly prevalent.

Every day, aid workers hear reports of women and girls from African tribes being abducted and gang-raped.

Shame amid love

Fatma is not the only one to be bearing the baby of a enemy fighter.

As she tells her story, other heavily pregnant women listen.

I will keep her - I want my baby
Mother of 'Janjaweed baby'
Hawa Seliman Mohammed, 24, is due to deliver any day now.

She was grabbed by the Janjaweed militia, while taking a shower on the outskirts of her besieged village.

Like many victims, she believes rape is being used as a deliberate weapon in this war.

"They want to destroy everything," she says. "By violating us, they want to make our men ashamed and to demoralise them."

There is one report of a Darfuri woman who has tried to abandon her Janjaweed baby.

But Fatma loves her child. She rocks her, murmuring her name.

"I feel ashamed, because she is the child of a Janjaweed - and they are the ones who are carrying out this war against us. But I will keep her. I want my baby."

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