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Family who fled West Darfur’s El Geneina recount horrendous experiences

A picture showing the carnage orchestrated by Arab militias in West Darfur. (AFP photo)
A picture showing the carnage orchestrated by Arab militias in West Darfur. (AFP photo)

Members of a family that escaped the violence and resultant mass killings by Arab militias in West Darfur State’s capital, El Geneina say they encountered horrific sites of, looting, indiscriminate killings, and suffering along the way.

A downcast grandfather recounted how his family witnessed the killing of 52 civilians including their son, Jasim, which forced them to leave the town.

Taj Al-Sir Ibrahim, 65, the patriarch of the family said that when the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) first swept through El Geneina in September, they had no choice but to flee with their daughter and 5-year-old granddaughter after their eldest son was killed during the attack on the Madaris neighborhood, a stronghold of the Masalit tribe.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj from the home of a family hosting them in the Awlad Al-Rif neighborhood, the family narrated, in tears, the hardship they faced on their way to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.

Faiza Mohammed Ahmed Ishaq, 50, said that she witnessed three wars in El Geneina including Kireniding 1, Kireniding 2, and Al-Jabal violence which were all characterized by killings, burning, and plundering, especially among the Masalit tribe, until the city witnessed renewed battles that broke out in mid-April between the army and RSF.

As she wept, Faiza recounted that the war began on the third day of Eid, and within four days, many young men were killed and on the fifth day, the Arab militias resumed mass killings.

“I witnessed the killing of my beloved son, Jasim, along with the death of 52 other innocent civilians on the twelfth day of the war in April. Even though I lost my son, I cannot describe the hideous massacre that I witnessed,” she sobbed. “There is an elderly woman who was suffering from kidney disease and a young bride who was killed along with her father. Another man, a lawyer from the city of El Obeid, was burned inside his room,”

A 5-year-old child, who only identified herself as Rahaf and is still visibly shell-shocked, reticently described the summary execution of her uncle Jasim who was killed in front of the entire family.

According to the family, Rahaf’s shrieks and screams at the killing of her uncle saved her grandfather, Taj Al-Sir, because the marauding Arab militias took pity on her.

The girl said she misses her toys and the family house which the militias destroyed.

Ibrahim explained that he was originally from El Fasher and settled in El Geneina in 1996.  

“I lost my eldest son, Jasim, may God make him a Martyr,” he said. “In addition, we lost everything from vehicles to all our belongings including our home and livelihoods. Our home had three rooms and a storage room.”

According to Ibrahim, the attackers loot systematically in three stages; first, they attack and rob men of their phones and property, then they round up women and ask them to lead them on a search for jewelry and prized possessions, and then they take everything and destroy or burn down houses. The wives of the militia members and their children are also actively involved in the looting of their erstwhile neighbors’ properties.

“When we lost our son, we decided to go towards the Al-Zariba neighborhood and from there to the Shati. We stayed there for 39 days before we negotiated with the Arab militia and paid them with a rickshaw which was the only thing we had left,” he explained. “So, they allowed us to be transported to the town of Saraf Umrah. From there we traveled to Kabkabiya before we reached the El Fasher after four days of suffering.”

May, the 27-year-old daughter of Ibrahim, said the tragedy of the war in El Geneina is painful and shocking.

“I witnessed the killing of my brother Jasim who was my pillar and used to support me in all aspects of life in addition to the killing of my dear friends and classmates,” she lamented.

May said she was horrified when she saw a mother holding a child who was bleeding because the infant’s hand had been cut off by the Arab militias only for belonging to the Masalit tribe. She noted that such a child and many others will grow up to hate Arabs and seek revenge in the future.

“No to war, no to war! Stop this damned war before you (Arab militias) demand that the warring parties (RSF and the army) stop fighting,” she demanded.

The United Nations has called for an investigation into reports of a second wave of ethnically motivated killings in West Darfur.