4 million displaced. 300,000 lives lost. Over 270,000 refugees living in Chad.
The hard numbers are sometimes difficult to grasp. The meaning behind them can get lost as we try to understand the significance of statistics when translated into individual lives and experiences. Time, however, and specifically the passage of time, is something that we can often relate to and grasp quickly.
In the past 10 years alone, we have seen: Our relationship with music shift completely, from recording songs from the radio on cassettes to walking around with personal music libraries in our pockets. The rise of reality television, documenting everything from the mundane to the very intimate. And of course, the digitization of nearly every aspect of our lives. Is there any activity that we do that doesn’t have an app?
For Darfuris, however, the past 10 years are not been marked with pop-culture phenomena, but instead with violence, displacement, and constant uncertainty about the future. And rather than resolution, the Darfur crisis has the legacy of failed peace agreements, the lack of political will to advocate for the Darfuri people, and a long-term humanitarian crisis that is now mirrored in other areas of Sudan.
For a new generation of Darfuris, the only life they know has been inside the confines of camps in Sudan or in neighboring countries where the customs, language, and way of life are different from their own, each year tainted with hardship. Men and women have had to shift their outlooks on life, and children have been forced to grow up too quickly.
Farha, a young 14-year-old girl, writes:
…My father was shot and killed. I saw it.
In the chaos my family was separated. I had to run. The government soldiers were there too, shooting at us as we ﬂed the village.
Outside of the village, I found my three sisters and my mother. But we couldn’t ﬁnd our brother. We walked 25 days across the desert to make it to a refugee camp in Chad. We were given a tent and received some food and water. After a while, my mother went back to Darfur to look for my brother but we haven’t see[n] her in 41 days.
Now I am taking care of my three younger sisters. I collect ﬁrewood and cook, wash clothes and fetch water. But these things don’t stop me from wanting to study.
These are the realities of Darfuri displaced persons. Resilience has not been an option; it’s the only way to get by for millions of Darfuris.
Makka, a Darfuri grandmother wrote:
…I don’t have a good roof for my home. It’s layers of sheeting and blankets. It does not hold the rain. When I ﬁrst arrived four years ago, they gave me a tent, but it has long since worn out. The blankets they gave us are harsh, brittle, and itchy, so I used them as another layer of protection for the roof under the white sheeting.
I want to provide a home for my grandchildren. I have four. Two from my daughter, and two others I grabbed during the attack on our village. They are my responsibility now.
They killed my husband, in the village, during the attack. My daughter, too, was killed. They stripped me of my family. That is why I am taking care of my grandchildren. So many children lost their mothers and fathers.
But even with the hardships, many people hold on to hope that they will someday have a life beyond the confines of the camp. Miriam, a mother, writes:
I want for Mansur the same thing he wants for himself. He wants to be a doctor, so I want my son to keep studying and become a doctor. Right now he is a refugee, like everyone in this camp.
He likes school, and he likes to draw. A wall in his room is ﬁlled with drawings. He drew what are his last memories of Darfur. He wants others to know what happened.
… Why do I keep hope? I see our future in Mansur. We cannot give up hope—for our children.
There is a semblance of life in the camps: children are born, new generations are dreaming and learning, and young families are being formed. But for most Darfuris, the past 10 years are filled with many of these same stories and experiences. How will the next 10 years be marked?
These testimonies, republished with permission from iAct, are experiences of Darfuri women and girls, recorded in their own words.
The conflict in Darfur began 10 years ago. To commemorate the anniversary—remember the lives lost, acknowledge the continuing struggle of the displaced, and recognize the ongoing effort to establish justice and find peace amid ongoing conflict—Enough and its partners will mark 10 days of activism. Please visit darfur10.org and share the special site with your friends. Read the rest of the blog posts in this 10-day series.