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Last Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Sudan survivors answer your questions
Composite image of Darfuris [Pics: Mohammed Nureldine]

The BBC's Amber Henshaw has been in a camp for displaced people in north Darfur, where she put your questions to some of its residents.


Four-and-a-half years of fighting between Sudan's government, pro-government Arab militias and rebel groups in the western Sudanese region of Darfur has driven more than 2m people from their homes.

The government denies links to the Janjaweed militia, which is accused of trying to "cleanse" black Africans from large swathes of territory.

Question from Tiffany Martinbrough, New York

Q: To me, rape is the most violent and mentally destructive act that can happen to a woman. I constantly hear about all the rapes that happen to women in the camps. How in the world do so many women, especially the ones you know, survive being raped multiple times and find the strength to smile in photos?

Hawa [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Hawa: Me, myself I am trying to work at a workshop with people who have been raped. I try to offer them moral support. Naturally, people are changing their minds over the rape issue but it is still painful. Women are ostracised less now. And the women have the courage to talk about it, not like before.

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: Before it was a very big problem and the father or brothers of the girl would kill the person responsible. But now rape has become common because of the fighting. Previously, the girls would be cast out of society and no young man would marry them. She would be ostracised. But now that rape is common the victims are not being ostracised. Society is changing our ideas and they are supporting these women more by letting them live a normal life. But it is still difficult. I smile because I strongly believe that everything that happens to us is God's will. And this is what our father taught us. Even death is by God's will. And we are all going to die.

Mohammed: The face cannot reflect all the time what is inside the heart. We have a saying: a laugh or smile can cover your tears.

Question from Susannah Gachoka, Nairobi to Khadija

Q: What was life like before you were displaced? I'd also like to know how a year was like - the yearly rhythm of life.

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: We would get up before sunset to pray. Then I would drink a cup of tea and take my food with me to the farm and work until it got too hot. After lunch I would work again until the sun set. Then I would take my donkey back home. I used to cook for my husband and my sons and then we would have dinner. We would go to sleep between 2000 and 2100 local time after we had sat around talking. I was happy with my life then.

My house was one room and I had a small shop on the corner. There was a green tree outside. We used to work very hard in the rainy season. We would harvest between July and September - okra, watermelons, different kinds of seeds and tomatoes. I would sell the surplus. In the summer time we used to harvest tobacco because it does not need much water. We used to have folklore parties when there was a wedding or any kind of celebration - girls and boys would dance together and old women would sing.

Question from Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado, US to Khaled and the others

Q: In your opinion what would be the best outcome from the meeting in Libya and does it really matter if all factions involved in the conflict attend?

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: We are not expecting big results from the negotiations because it is not well-organised and because of the place and the time - some movements are not participating, especially the main and important ones. The lack of guarantees from the government is another problem. They are not serious about the demands of the rebels.

Hawa [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Hawa: The Libya talks are going to be useless. We need security on the ground first. We need the hybrid force on the ground. The talks shouldn't be held in Libya because it is not neutral. We also want compensation and we want development all over Darfur. Abdul Wahid [leader of one of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army factions] understands our ideas - we are not against the talks but they have to be serious. We need all the movements to be at the negotiating table. There is a theory here amongst us that the rebel splinter groups are being paid by the government and the international community.

Mohammed: The talks in Libya are not going to succeed for a number of reasons, including the place - Libya is assisting the Janjaweed as it is part of the Arab agenda- and the time - [UN chief] Ban Ki Moon only spoke to the government, not the rebels. And now the rebels are not taking part. Thirdly, the mediator is not neutral - Colonel Gaddafi thinks the problem of Darfur is just an internal problem of camels.

Wodi [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Wodi: We don't trust Arab countries because we can't speak openly in Arab countries and so we can't give all the details because we are too scared.

Question from Daniele to Khaled

Q: From my understanding, there appears to be two views from political experts on how to approach the current situation. One view is to send in UN troops to bring a halt to the violence thus saving civilian lives and the other view is to continue support and funding of the African Union. What do you think is needed to be done to reduce and hopefully stop the fighting and killing completely?

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: To stop the killings we there needs to be a neutral force on the ground like the planned hybrid one. People have to work harder together to know the causes of the problems and to give the right medicine to eradicate this sickness. I am not worried about the international community. I have sat with the African Union soldiers many times and they tell us their mandate is to monitor and report only, and they are not responsible for even protecting themselves - this is not enough for Darfur. We need protection. They have very few mandates and I feel sorry for them. We need people who can stop the shooting, not just monitor.

Question from Shannon Smith, Gainesville, US

Q: What do you think could most change your situation right now?

Wodi [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Wodi: It is very important to have the hybrid [African Union/European Union peacekeeping] force. We think they will learn from the mistakes of the African Union and the rebel movements. And they can come in with new ideas to help and protect us. I hope they can be here before tomorrow. Because the government is still terrifying us inside the camps - people wearing uniforms.

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: I would like to ask the international community to protect us so we can live our lives again.

Omda: If the government stopped marginalising us. Everyone needs respect.

Hawa: The hybrid force has to be on the ground as soon as possible because we need protection.

Question from Charlsey Bickett, Pittsburgh, US

Q: I am currently doing a research project in which I looking at the security (or lack thereof) in internally displaced people camps. Could you tell me if there were any protection forces in the camp? Was there any method of screening individuals entering the camp?

Omda: There is less violence in the camp than before. When the government heard that the international force were coming they reduced their presence and so there is less than before but it is still very violent. Everyday after 1900 local time you can hear gunshots.

Question from Tim Grout-Smith, Lane End, Bucks, UK to Wodi

Q: What is your attitude to the European people who have been working in the refugee camps? What more should Europe do?

Wodi [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Wodi: The Europeans who are staying with us are reporting everything that is happening. The Europeans can get information and tell the world our demands. Me, myself I work with the Europeans as a translator. I know they are assisting us but I know that the government doesn't want them to.

Question from Isobel Anderson, Calgary, Canada to Hawa

Q: This question is for Hawa. I was wondering where you got the inner strength to attend university with all the horror around you. It must be hard to study - so how do you do it? What are your dreams for your future.

Hawa [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Hawa: Some people used to stop us when we were coming and going to the university which is in El Fasher town. Especially the police at checkpoints. They would call us names. It was very difficult and it is still very hard. We want to move outside the camps but it is dangerous.

Question from Steven Laredo, Nantucket, Massachusetts to Hawa

Q: I'm wondering where someone like Hawa finds the funds to afford fees for University.

Hawa [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Hawa: The situation is really hard for me and my mum is trying to help me. She is working as a private trader selling onions. Sometimes I work as a volunteer for the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). My university fees are $250 each semester. There are two a year. And I have to pay at the beginning of each semester.

Question from Jared Simmons, Brooklyn, US to Hawa

Q: Hawa, with so many siblings, what does your family do for health care? Do NGOs provide enough care within the camp or do you have to pay at clinics in the surrounding area? Good luck to you and your family.

Hawa [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Hawa: It is not easy to get medicine. If you have someone who is sick it is hard to get the money needed to pay to take them to the doctor. But if it is a small thing you can go to the NGOs who provide basic healthcare.

Question from Krisztina Eles, Budapest, Hungary to Wodi

Q: What kinds of possibilities you have to start a new life? Have you ever thought of coming to Europe with your family?

Wodi [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Wodi: I want to go abroad and do a masters degree, maybe in English. Then I want to come back to Darfur but not necessarily to my own village then I want to get a job, like one in government so I can help my people. I want to help people re-build their lives.

Question from Penelope Bissett, Pittsburgh, US

Q: With more and more people coming to the camp seeking protection, is there enough housing, materials, food and water to sustain everyone? Has the camp been attacked?

Hawa [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Hawa: Women and children are suffering from lack of security in different ways. We are being terrorised by the government. The government drive cars very fast through the camp and it makes the children very afraid. Further education is still difficult and we struggle from poor nutrition. We are suffering, especially the women and the children.

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: There is a shortage of water. We have to buy one can a day for 25c, so unless you work you don't get any money or water. Sometimes there is food, but not all the time. We get food rations once a month from the United Nations World Food Programme but it is not enough unless you add something. They provide for a max of four people in a family but in mine there are 10 of us. There's an NGO hospital that can get you a doctor and a prescription but we can't get medicine because it is expensive. So we share with other people. We have an NGO elementary school for which you pay two Sudanese pounds ($1) a month. It goes to the teachers who are from the camp. There is no high school.

Omda: We don't think that the camps are safe. Every day we listen to shootings by the government - they want us to be afraid. The government security used to check the camps because they thought the people in the camps were part of the rebel groups. They still do check us, even now.

Question from Susan Morgan, Wellesley, US

Q: Some world leaders have said that the root cause of the crisis in Darfur is global warming and the ensuing competition for scare resources in the region. Others have described the situation as a civil war due to long-standing tribal tensions. Do you feel that either of these analyses accurately explain the reasons behind the conflict in Darfur?

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: The main cause of this problem is the government and the marginalisation of the people of Darfur. And the lack of services and development. The Darfuris have no voice in the government. I think the government had an idea to help the people close to them - the Arab tribes - but I am not sure if they want to completely eradicate all the African tribes.

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: If you want to know and to look at the cause of the problem, go to Khartoum airport and then go to El Fasher airport and you will see the difference. That's what has caused the problem. People in Khartoum are living in a good situation but here we are very neglected.

Mohammed: Before, the people were living peacefully as one tribe but unfortunately the government had its own agenda - they wanted to create these problems because they believe that they have to make space for all the Arab communities in the north of Africa to help them take over Darfur. Then all the Arab nomads from other countries can come to live in Darfur. It all started in 1916, when they started to remove Darfuris from power.

Question from Goolam Dawood, Johannesburg, South Africa

Q: Do you know what the major differences are between the rebels and the government? Why are Muslims fighting each other?

Mohammed: There's a struggle between Arab and African tribes. The government used to assist the Arab tribes with guns and weapons and at the same time there was no assistance for non-Arabs or protection for all of Sudan, not just Darfur. When they came they wanted to change the land from belonging to African tribes over to Arab ones. They would like to eradicate black skins and only have Arab skins. It is a kind of genocide. And why are they doing this? It is because we have asked for power sharing. But they want to be in government forever so they need to secure their power. Some Arab countries are assisting them like Iraq, Libya, Syria and Malaysia.

Wodi [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Wodi: I am a supporter of Abdul Wahid and I think the rebel movements know the concerns and the problems and the needs of the nation but the government is preventing them helping us. Some people are killing each other not because of religion but because of the money - they are just bandits some of them. It's nothing to do with religion.

Question from Achieng Akena, Kampala, Uganda

Q: What would you like to see happen after the war that will make you feel that justice has been done? Would you like to see anything happen to the perpetrators of these crimes, would you like the government to do something for you and your family specifically or would you like the government to do something big for the whole community?

Mohammed: I don't think there will be any justice or equality unless the people who committed these crimes against us are sent to court. This is not going to happen unless there is some involvement from the international community. Because when we see the people who committed these crimes, they are still in power. This means we have no future. We didn't force anybody to take our wealth - the government decided to send us to camps and even inside the camps they are trying to get rid of us. We are insisting on compensation, both individually and in groups - we need the government to be convinced that they committed crimes and they should pay.

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: Justice in Sudan is not neutral and the people who committed these crimes are ministers like Ahmed Haroun [The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Haroun for committing war crimes]. We believe that people are good inside. But it is not easy to forgive those people who have caused us pain. If there is no justice then we might have to think about bringing it ourselves. People have lost their cattle and wealth - it was looted and taken from them and we need to get it back.

Question from Barbara Kits, Utrecht, Netherlands to Omda

After having been through so much, what is the most important thing that still gives you hope?

Omda: My dream is to sleep and to wake up and find the Darfuris are living in peace and good situations. I hope all the people around the world feel what we are going through.

Question from Stacey, Baltimore, US

Q: After living through the horrors that you have lived through, do you still believe in the goodness of humanity? Do you still believe that there is hope for the people of the world to overcome the evils that occur everyday?

Hawa [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Hawa: Hawa: I believe that there is goodness especially in the international community. They give us their help and they report what we are going through and they give us the humanitarian assistance we need. They care about what we are going through and that's how I can still believe in the goodness of people. I am hoping to be able to live in peace and finish university and to repay society from what I have learnt. I would like to help society by telling people their rights in life - how they can get dignity. I want to help in any way I can.

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: Yes I do because when we walked from our village life was very bad and I was thinking that this was the end but thanks to God we are still alive. The NGOs have given us food and help with shelter and this has given us hope in people.

Question from Julie, Nebraska, US

Q: Are the people in the camps getting any news from the outside world about the efforts to bring this crisis to an end? How do they get such news in the camps?

Wodi [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Wodi: There are radios and televisions in the camp. There is a watching club and we can go there. We listen to BBC Arabic on the radio. People also call us on our mobiles and tell us about what is happening where they are.

Omda: We depend on the media to tell us what's going on when something happens on the ground. The mobile network goes down and that means the government is attacking some places.

Question from Ameer Ali, London

Q: Islamic Relief have raised millions for Darfur. Has this charity helped you in your life?

Omda: No, Islamic Relief haven't helped us here in this camp. They have withdrawn from here.

[Islamic Relief manages the Kerinding II camp in El Geneina. It has never had any involvement with the Abu Shouk camp, or worked in the region of El Fasher.]

Question from Severine, London, UK

Q: How do you imagine the future? How do they think the conflict could be solved?

Wodi [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Wodi: I don't think there will be peace in the current conditions. We are living as refugees. There are no schools - we are in camps. We lost our money and we don't have our rights. If we get all this back then maybe peace will come.

Mohammed: My future is linked to the future of Darfur. When there's no peace I can't plan for my own future. I am not optimistic because the international community make different resolutions but it has not done any good on the ground. I would be optimistic if I saw the resolutions of the UN carried out.

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: We hope to return back to our old lives but I don't think that will be easy. We need people to protect us. I would like the international force to come so we can go back to farm our land and so our children can go back to school.

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: I am not optimistic. I am pessimistic and depressed. And if the situation goes on like this for another year, maybe we will leave Darfur - we'll be killed or we will die.

Question from Merrilee, Ionia, MI to Omda

Q: I would like to know why, in your personal case, you have been targeted. Is it religious, or because of your location, or exactly what? Thank you and I wish you the best and send my prayers.

Omda : We are targeted because the government wants to get rid of our tribes.

Question from Jonathan, Skokie, US

Q: Is the divestment movement having any effect on the Sudanese government? If not yet, will it?

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: Yes of course it can change a lot. It is the voice of the people around the world and their demands it can be useful but it could be painful for the people getting through their daily lives. But it is better because it will hit the target. The people need the government to be removed and if you want to do something you have to pay the price.

Question from Cynthia English, Omaha, US

Q: What's the one thing you want the world to know about what you have been through? What is the one thing I (and others like me) can do to help?

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: The thing that you can do is talk to the American people about what is happening to Darfuri women at the hands of the government and the militia, especially the Janjaweed... the raping and the kidnapping. Ask them all a question: is this right? And then you must raise awareness.

Question from Chris Harvey, Copenhagen

Q: Considering that the Sudan area is seen as one of the worst-case scenarios for human rights violations in the world, is there any time or demand for fun, excitement, or play-time in the camp?

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: We are trying to live our basic lives. We sometimes think of enjoying it but in the back of our minds all the time we are thinking of protection and looking for our daily bread.

Mohammed: People sometimes celebrate but not like before in their old homes. Sometimes you remember the tragedies and the sadness and then it becomes sad and not a celebration - it is very painful.

Question from Cornelius Christian, Edmonton, Canada to Khaled

Q: Khaled, what is your favourite part of economics?

Khaled [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khaled: I studied both economics and politics but I prefer economics. Economic theory can help everyone but a political party can only help people in that party. Practical economics is what I liked most.

Question from Rafael Smith, Indianapolis, US

Q: I am a design student and I am currently working on developing a shelter for displaced people. My concept is a structure that will be easily assembled for immediate relief, but is amenable for later use. What conveniences, beyond a basic shelter would be most important to you - electricity, a stove or running water?

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: I don't have electricity or running water. I have to collect water every day. What I'd really like in my house is a refrigerator and electricity and an oven. My home in the camp is built of stone and is one room.

Question from the BBC's Amber Henshaw to the camp residents

Q: Have you enjoyed participating - hearing from others around the world and giving them your views?

Hawa: Yes it is very nice to think that we can be in contact with other people all around the world.

Wodi [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Wodi: It is excellent to have the BBC here - our situation is all a matter of having a discussion with the world and that's what we want.

Mohammed: It is a very good idea. It is a conversation with the world and is a way for people to know what happens to us here in the camps.

Khadija [Pic: Mohammed Nureldine]
Khadija: It is very nice to talk to people and to know what questions people are asking and for them to find out what our life is like.

Khaled: I wish it could've been done before and I hope that it will happen again soon. We listen to the radio in the camps but I hope the BBC can improve its frequency. We trust the BBC very much.

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