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Hearts in Chains: Unveiling Testimonies of Oppression - Alleged RSF-Led Campaign to Enslave Men and Women in Sudan


"Silent Screams: Testimonies Unveil RSF-Led Horrors of Enslavement in Darfur"

In the dark shadows of El Geneina, the largest city under the grip of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the harrowing ordeal of Mahdi, a 16-year-old boy, unfolds. Blindfolded and defenseless, he found himself at the mercy of a mysterious man who assessed his strength by feeling his biceps, setting a grim price on his young shoulders destined for forced labor on a farm.

Mahdi's narrative is just one of many wrenching testimonies, including those of women alleging sexual enslavement, documented in an exclusive CNN documentary airing this Sunday on "The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper." The exposé reveals a chilling RSF-led campaign to enslave both men and women in El Geneina, where the ruthless clash between Sudan's ruling military and the formidable RSF has exacted a heavy humanitarian toll.

In the refugee camp of Adre, just across the border from El Geneina, a CNN team gathered firsthand accounts from over a dozen witnesses. These survivors painted a grim picture of mass abductions, with women coerced into degrading acts in exchange for basic necessities, while both men and women faced the dehumanizing trade orchestrated by their captors. Their narratives cast a stark light on the ongoing violence in the genocide-scarred western Sudanese region, a tragic saga that has unfolded over the past five months.

To shield the identity of the witnesses and survivors, CNN has opted not to disclose their real names. The apparent surge in atrocities occurred following the RSF's capture of El Geneina in mid-June. According to a CNN investigation, the RSF, allegedly backed by the Russian mercenary group Wagner, stands accused of unspeakable acts that have further plunged Darfur into despair.

Khalid, a witness to the unfolding horror, recounted seeing RSF-uniformed fighters herding shackled women into the El Geneina Industrial School. From his concealed vantage point behind a stack of wood, Khalid described the barbaric scene of whippings reminiscent of cruelty towards animals, accompanied by the agonized screams of the captive girls. As darkness descended, he emerged from hiding, only to witness the fighters forcibly escorting women at gunpoint into classrooms, where he could discern sounds indicative of torture and rape.

The testimonies collected in this documentary lay bare the shocking reality of an RSF-led reign of terror, casting a spotlight on the urgent need for international attention and intervention to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

"Trafficked and Trapped: RSF's Alleged Exploitation of Women Unveiled"

Khalid, a witness to the unfolding horrors in El Geneina, reveals a disturbing facet of the RSF-led campaign, suggesting that many women, possibly trafficked from northern Sudan, have fallen victim to the paramilitary group's stronghold in Darfur. In the capital, Khartoum, where women's attire often reflects relative affluence and a diverse tribal and racial mix is characterized by lighter complexions, reports from rights groups like the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) and the government’s Combating Violence Against Women Unit indicate a belief that the RSF abducted numerous women, trafficking them to Darfur.

Activists from Sudan-based rights groups have spoken to CNN, detailing scores of local sources who claim that these abducted women were likely sexually exploited by the RSF. In Adre, four additional witnesses, echoing Khalid's account, reported seeing evidence of the RSF trafficking women from northern Sudan. One anonymous former abductee from Darfur recalled witnessing a 4x4 vehicle arriving in an Arab neighborhood in El Geneina, transporting four women who appeared to be from northern Sudan. The RSF fighter reportedly approached the driver, negotiating the price for the women and boasting that he had "handpicked" them, with no amount of money sufficient to release them.

The trafficking of women from Arab-majority areas in the north has become a widely discussed practice in Sudan, with reports of RSF fighters demanding ransoms for their release. In Darfur, a stark contrast emerges in the treatment of captured women from non-Arab tribes. Reports suggest that the apparent sexual exploitation of these women involves shorter periods of captivity and is often racially fueled, as witnessed and attested by numerous survivors, activists, and witnesses.

The RSF, a predominantly Arab fighting force accused of ethnically cleansing non-Arab tribes in Darfur, is implicated in widespread sexual exploitation. Despite repeated requests for comment, the RSF has remained silent on allegations of sexual enslavement. Their denial aligns with previous refutations of conducting ethnic cleansing campaigns and committing sexual violence in Darfur. A Human Rights Watch report from August underscores the severity of the issue, revealing that the RSF allegedly raped "several dozen women and girls" in El Geneina between late April and late June. The plight of these trafficked women adds another layer to the urgent need for global attention and intervention in the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

"Echoes of Ethnic Cleansing: RSF's Relentless Assault on Darfur's Masalit Tribe Revealed"

A damning report reveals that the recent wave of violence in Darfur, orchestrated by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their Arab militia allies, specifically targeted individuals based on their Masalit ethnicity and, in some instances, their known activism. Former Darfuri abductees have recounted to CNN the relentless racial abuse hurled at them during captivity, shedding light on the RSF's apparent ethnic cleansing campaign.

Raghm, a 22-year-old woman from the Masalit tribe, shared her harrowing experience, detailing how an RSF-uniformed fighter abducted her from her home and confined her in a brothel. She overheard her captor negotiating payments for her enslavement, with prices reaching up to 7,000 Sudanese pounds, approximately $10. Recalling the degrading comments, Raghm said, "To us, you all are slaves. To us, you are not free." Amid beatings, she endured insults, being labeled as "dirt" and a "disgrace," with the Arabic word for 'slave' used as a racial slur equivalent to the n-word.

Another survivor, Hawa, revealed a gruesome account of rape endured by herself and female family members during their four-day captivity. Following their escape, they faced further brutality, with Arab militia members flogging them in the streets, taunting them as "donkeys" and "goats." The trauma inflicted upon the children left them barely able to walk, collapsing after only a few steps.

Disturbingly, evidence of male enslavement has also surfaced in the RSF's assault on El Geneina. Mahdi, a 16-year-old boy, disclosed his abduction by the RSF alongside his brother. Blindfolded and bound, Mahdi overheard negotiations about his "price" as a farmhand, his captors inspecting his strength by feeling his biceps. After enduring ten days in captivity, Mahdi managed to escape to relative safety in Chad, but tragically, his brother succumbed to the violence inflicted by the RSF.

This Sunday's documentary, part of CNN's ongoing investigations into RSF atrocities in Sudan, unveils the shocking realities faced by the Masalit tribe. Beyond ethnic cleansing, the RSF's partnership with the Russian mercenary group Wagner is exposed, linking them to arbitrary executions, widespread destruction of homes, and the forced displacement of Sudanese civilians. The revelations underscore the urgent need for global attention to curb the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Editor's The genesis of this report owes its existence to the invaluable contributions of courageous Sudanese journalists whose names remain undisclosed to safeguard their safety. Their commitment to unearthing the truth underlines the profound risks they undertake in pursuit of journalistic integrity and accountability. In regions fraught with peril, these unsung heroes navigate a path of anonymity, ensuring their vital work prevails above the threat of reprisal. Their dedication serves as a testament to the resilience of the journalistic spirit and the enduring pursuit of truth in the face of adversity.

In conclusion, the revelations brought forth by this report shed a glaring light on the atrocities inflicted upon the people of Darfur by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their allies. The testimonies of survivors, the harrowing experiences of individuals like Raghm and Mahdi, and the tireless efforts of anonymous Sudanese journalists collectively expose a deeply disturbing pattern of ethnic targeting, sexual exploitation, and enslavement.

The bravery of those who shared their stories, especially the unnamed Sudanese journalists who risked their safety to uncover the truth, underscores the urgent need for international attention and intervention in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The systematic abuse and violence perpetrated by the RSF demand accountability, and the role of external actors, such as the reported backing by the Russian mercenary group Wagner, adds another layer of complexity to this pressing issue.

As the world becomes aware of the extent of the horrors unfolding in Darfur, it is imperative that the international community takes swift and decisive action. The voices of the survivors must be amplified, and those responsible for these egregious crimes must be held accountable for their actions. The revelations in this report serve as a call to action, urging global leaders, human rights organizations, and individuals alike to stand against the forces of oppression and work towards justice, peace, and the restoration of dignity for the people of Darfur.