Militias are enslaving people in Sudan to be laborers and sex slaves

Sudanese hospital with visible shelling damage near top

In Sudan, Arab militias such as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are enslaving thousands of black men to be laborers in western Sudan. They are also enslaving women, using the lighter-skinned ones as sex slaves, and are abducting women from Sudan’s capital city of Khartoum and rival Arab tribes in north Sudan.

This follows the preference of Arab slave traders in the middle ages — to use black men as slave laborers, and lighter-skinned women as sex slaves. Arab slave traders enslaved between 12 million and 15 million Africans. As Wikipedia notes, “between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly 1 million and quite possibly as many as 1.25 million white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast of North Africa.” The Ottoman Turks also preferred lighter-skinned women as sex slaves: “Girl sexual slaves sold in the Ottoman Empire were mainly of three ethnic groups: Circassian, Syrian, and Nubian. Circassian girls were … fair and light-skinned…They were the most expensive, reaching up to 500 Turkish lira and the most popular with the Turks. The next most popular slaves were Syrian girls, with ‘dark eyes and hair’, and light brown skin. Their price could reach to thirty lira….Nubian [black] girls were the cheapest and least popular, fetching up to 20 lira.”

In Sudan, few people are all that light-skinned — even Sudanese Arabs have some black ancestry — but some people are lighter than others — in the north of Sudan, predominantly-white Arabs are found, while in regions further south, even Arab Sudanese are of mostly black African ancestry.

CNN reports that an enslaved black boy, “Mahdi, 16, was blindfolded when a strange man felt for his biceps. He was looking for a ‘strong’ boy to use as a farmhand. The size of his muscles helped the man determine Mahdi’s price as he bought him from a militiaman who had captured him in the West Darfur capital of El Geneina. ‘They hit me and called me a slave. And they kept hitting me,’ Mahdi said.”

Witnesses “described the abduction of people en masse, with women forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for food and water and both men and women being traded by their captors.”

The atrocities peaked after the RSF captured the western Sudanese city of El Geneina in June. RSF fighters were seen escorting over a dozen shackled women into the El Geneina Industrial School. “They flogged them with whips that they use on animals while the girls were screaming,” said a teacher at the school who was hiding in a wood pile. Throughout the day, fighters forced women into classrooms at gunpoint, after which the teacher heard sounds suggestive of torture and rape. Many of the women appeared to have been trafficked from further north in Sudan, “where the tribal and racial mix is typified by generally lighter complexions.”

“One former abductee from Darfur— who CNN is not naming — said she saw a 4×4 vehicle roll up into an Arab neighborhood in El Geneina, carrying four women who appeared to be northern Sudanese women in the back. In Darfur, captured women from non-Arab tribes appear to have been treated differently — the apparent sexual exploitation of women tends to involve shorter periods of captivity, and their abuse is reported by dozens of witnesses, survivors and activists to be racially fuelled.”

The RSF, a largely Arab fighting force that ethnically cleansed some non-Arab tribes in Darfur, is the largest perpetrator of mass rape and sexual slavery in the region. It has targeted the Masalit ethnic group for the brunt of its massacres and enslavements, while being milder toward some other black ethnic groups in Darfur, such as the Zaghawa, because the Zaghawa also live in the neighboring country of Chad, where the country’s president and key leaders are members of the Zaghawa ethnic group.

The RSF is made up mostly of Arabs from Sudan’s impoverished west. It is fighting Sudan’s army, led by Arabs who live near the Nile River in northern Sudan.

Chad’s president has allowed the United Arab Emirates to set up a base in his country to help the RSF, in exchange for a huge loan from the United Arab Emirates. The $1.8 billion loan is bigger than the entire annual budget of Chad, one of the world’s poorest and least-developed countries. So the RSF is focusing on killing the Masalit in Darfur, rather than the Zaghawa.

The RSF recently slaughtered 1600 people, almost all Masalit, at a camp for displaced people in Western Sudan. 85-year-old Mohamad Arbab was one of them. RSF fighters stormed his home and killed him, his son and eight grandchildren. Masalit tribal leader Abdelbasit Dina was also killed with his wife, son and 50 other residents from their community. “They want to kill [our leaders] so they can replace us with their own as well as Arabs from countries like Chad and Niger,” Hamid said, referring to the Arab mercenaries who have joined the RSF from across the region.

About 1.5 million Arabs live in neighboring Chad, which is inhabited mainly by black Africans, and about another 100,000 live in Niger. Some of these Arabs are as black as the surrounding non-Arab-speaking peoples, having intermarried with them, and lived near them, for centuries. Sudanese Arabs are mostly black, although a minority in northern Sudan are predominantly white.

Russian Wagner mercenaries are helping the RSF fight Sudan’s army for control of the country. In response, Ukrainian special services reportedly mounted” a series of drone strikes and a ground operation directed against a Wagner-backed militia near Sudan’s capital,” according to CNN. Later, an elite Ukrainian military unit reportedly arrived in Sudan to hunt down Wagner fighters.

The RSF has largely destroyed the city of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur province, and formerly the home to 250,000 people, most of them Masalit. Over 15,000 people had already been killed in the city of El Geneina by mid-June, and up to three-quarters of its population had fled to the neighboring country of Chad. Bodies lay in the street, and lay by the side of the road all the way to Chad.

Sudan’s army created the RSF, which later turned on the army, and seized most of Sudan’s capital this year. Thousands of corpses have rotted on the streets of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and the neighboring big city of Omdurman. The RSF is fighting Sudan’s army for control of the country.

By August, more than 13.6 million children were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan as fighting has cut off the transportation of food stuffs. Children in orphanages have died in droves as snipers and fighting make it hard for orphanage workers to go to markets to buy food, or even get to work to feed the orphans.

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