Nuba: Victims and Heroes - Women Struggle in Two Years of War

Publication Author: 
Arry organisation for human rights and Nuba Women Activists
August 2013

File 1967



Nuba mountains is in the southern of Sudan, in Southern Kordofan state. The peoples of Nuba mountains are one of the African indigenous peoples in Sudan. The Nuba ethnicity is consist of 100 tribes, their population according to the last census in 2010 is 2.5 millions. During the civil war in south Sudan from 1980s to 2005, Nuba peoples supported the Southerners and fought beside the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (1SPLM) in South Sudan- now- and in Nuba mountains also. In 2005 the SPLM and the Sudanese government signed peace agreement ended the war and granted South Sudanese referendum in 2011 to decide to remain with Sudan or to make their own country, in the mentioned agreement Nuba mountains has been prst of what so called the “Three Areas- Nuba mountains- Blue Nile and Abyie”. On July 2011 South Sudan separated from Sudan and left Nuba mountains destiny unknown.


According to the CPA Nuba mountains peoples must elect their state governor in 2011 and to engage in a process called ” people’s consultation “, but the election results sparked dispute between the Northern part of the SPLM supported by Nuba peoples and the Sudanese government, that dispute turned to all out war in June, 5th, 2011. The Sudanese government bombed civilians areas and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes to take refuge in mountains caves or to leave to refugees camp in South Sudan or to be internally displaced in other Sudanese cities. During these 2 years of war, Nuba women faced and still facing mounting risks and challenges to survive the grave atrocities and the humanitarian crisis almost alone. 2



This report is collaboration work between Arry Organization for Human rights and Nuba Women Activists. Most of the interviews took place in the period between June 2012 and June 2013,21nwomen were interviewed. The research team went through difficult conditions to collect the informations, three of the researchers has been arrested during their work on this report, from March – July 2013. Therefore we would like to thank them and to express our appreciation of their, although we cannot mention their names for their security. We also extend our appreciation to the brave women who accepted to challenges the dangers surrounding them and break out the silence to talk to us either in Khartoum slums or in other locations.


In this report we aimed at highlighting the struggle of Nuba women through 2 years - and counting on- of armed conflict in Nuba mountains. The direct and indirect effects of this conflict on women is a major concern, putting in mind that the region has experienced a tow decades long of civil war from 1980s to 2002, where thousands has been killed and tens of thousands fled their original areas, to live in Khartoum slums and IDPs camps. During the 20 years of war is Nuba mountains, women had to cope with the situation of being displaced and powerless. Their coping options were tough and put them in danger of violence against them by a discriminative environment, either because of their gender or their race.



Nuba women struggle with the current war took several forms. There is the day by day struggle of Nuba women inside the conflict areas, where women living in caves and feeding their children insects and trees leaves, while risking their lives to take long juornies to search for clean water and fire woods, the other struggle is the brave journey Nuba women take to the refugees camps to South Sudan, searching for security and food, which put those women in serious dangers of being killed either by the wild animals in the roads or the government bombing. In the areas that far from South Sudan, many Nuba peoples, most of them were women took up the roads to the nearest towns in near states inside Sudan, either to North Kordofan or to continue the way to Khartoum. On the roads from Nuba mountains to other cities inside Sudan, women face the searching points of the Sudanese Armed Forces(SAF), where many had been arrested, sexually harassed, and forced to give up their belongings to let them leave the war region.


The suffering from the war in Nuba mountains has not been limited to Nuba women who live inside Nuba mountains or in the areas directly affected by the fighting. Nuba women who live in Khartoum and other northern cities has been affected by the war especially women activists. Nuba women activists in various fields either politics, law, human rights, media or social media, education, and peace, has been targeted and viciously attacked by the Sudanese government and its security forces. Nuba women activists, were detained for the longest terms for detention for women in Sudan. Moreover, they were raped, tortured physically and psychologically, threatened to be killed, and their families were threatened too. Therefore the experiences of Nuba women activists is reflecting how brave those women are in the face of this war which seems to be against Nuba peoples wherever they are, either inside Nuba mountains or not.


On the other hand, there is a very difficult situation that Christian Nuba women face, especially who are living in Khartoum and northern areas of Sudan. In addition to the racial and sex discrimination those women face religious discrimination. The Christian population in Sudan after the secession of South Sudan is mostly consists mainly of Nuba population. The Sudanese government attacked the freedom of religion for Christians, as they closed churches and destroyed some of them, in addition to that, the security arrested tens of Christian activists men and women in last few months, which led many of them to flee the country. Christian women also suffer from public order law because it punish women when they do not conform with the dress codes of the Islamic Sharia.


Nuba women has been the main victims of the current war and yet the courageous heroes, as the violence against women seemed to be used as a weapon in this war. In this report, we will shed the light on their struggle to survive the catastrophic conditions, especially for the women inside Nuba mountains, although we had faced serious difficulties entering the region, we managed to speak with women fled Nuba mountains, either in Khartoum or other areas, or outside Sudan. We also focus on this report on the remarkable work of Nuba women activists who helped breaking the silence about the violations in Nuba mountains, due to the government prohibition for journalists and NGOs to enter the region. Our main goal was to bring out the untold stories of those women who are fighting their own war to survive the continuous war in Nuba mountains inside and outside the region.


Nuba women IDPs:

The numbers of displaced Nuba peoples inside Nuba mountains according to the latest humanitarian reports from Nuba mountains, indicated that the number are around 700 thousands, while 400 thousands are trapped inside the SPLM/N areas.3 The Sudanese government refused to grant access to the aid agencies to provide assistance to the needed and affected peoples. The report from the Sudanese government controlling areas, such as Alabassyia and the camps in the villages around it and from Alrahad city in North Kordofan borders with Nuba mountains, confirm that most of the IDPs in this camps are women with their children living in the open without basic services. Furthermore, the women IDPs live in fear from the government to be evicted to another areas, or to be arrested on accusations of being supportive to the SPLM/N, just because they are Nuba.


Women IDPs are extremely vulnerable, as they have no protection system. Most of the families men left their wives, mothers and sisters alone, either to flee the government harassment and arbitrary arrests or to go to the big cities or even outside Sudan searching for jobs to provide their families, while women remain powerless in the face the day by day needs of their families. Nuba women inside SPLM/N areas are the most at risk as they have to deal with the daily bombardment of the Sudanese army, in addition to that, those had lost everything their homes, farms and animals, but most important they lost their family members either because they are dead or because they fled Nuba mountains. Nuba women fled to Yida refugees camp in March 2013 said “ In Nuba mountains we are eating trees leaves, so I became very weak I couldn’t nurse my child anymore, so I came to Yida searching for food”.4


The situation for Nuba women IDPs vary from the big towns and cities to the rural areas. In the camps like the ones in Alabassyia town, women have to go to search for fire woods which put them at risk of rape by the militias of the government. They also have no access to healthcare or education for their children. This conditions are different for the women IDPs in Khartoum or other northern big towns, where women had been forced to accept very low income jobs and face the danger of breaking the laws, especially the Islamic laws that imposed by the government and discriminating against the marginalized peoples with different cultures and religions. 5


Nuba woman IDP who sell tea in streets in Khartoum told us “A police man who used to drink tea from my place, started to threatening me to stop me from work if I did not go with him and let him rape me, because I have no other option, I had to do it to feed my children”, 6 this incident reflect the situation of hundreds of Nuba women working on streets selling foods and drinks facing all kinds of sexual violence every. In Madany city, in Nile state north of Sudan, “ the local authorities issued an order of banning women from selling food and tea in main streets, most of those women were IDPs from Nuba mountains and Darfur, and they had no other mean to feed their families”, Woman lawyer said. 7


The displacement situation for Nuba women is one of their worst struggles. The new environments, laws and community norms, impose extra pressure and add up to those women vulnerability. Furthermore, the government denial of the existence of those IDPs and preventing aid agencies from reaching out to them, resulted in complete isolation of thousands of IDPs inside Nuba mountains – most of them are women, children and elderly peoples- where they face famine conditions, without any means for support or any hope to go back to their original homes and cultivate their own food, as the fighting expanding and the militias belonging to the government attacking those IDPs, and using rape and sexual harassment as weapon against women IDPs, as the this testimony reveal this situation, “All the women in my village Umheitan has been raped, even old women, after the army attacked our village, we were hiding in the near valleys, trying look after our farms and animals, but because of the PDF militias attack on our women, we climbed to the mountains to live in the caves to protect our women” said community leader from Umheitan village. 8


The lack of access to the conflict areas and the fear among the IDPs from the government violence against them, made the informations about the numbers of the women raped or faced sexual violence very difficult to collect or confirm, but the witnesses and report either from Nuba mountains or in Khartoum or other cities in Sudan, confirm that Nuba women IDPs are facing increased risk of sexual violence either by the militias in war zones or outside it in IDPs camps or in the big cities, where taking jobs as house help or street food makers, as these jobs raise the risk of sexual violence against them, in addition to the stigma of being displaced. Moreover the discriminative Islamic laws that force dress codes for women, and prevent them from working at night or in the streets, is used by the authorities as another war weapon against the Nuba women IDPs outside war zones, restricting their movement and their opportunities to provide for their families.


Police harassment of those women while they are working or going to school is increased recently, Nuba woman IDP, who fled to Khartoum after the war said “I worked as house help, one day the man work for his family attempted to rape me, when I fought him, he went and filed police report against saying that I stole money from him, and the police was his relative, they police man beaten me and sexually abused me”. Another Nuba woman student said “I was arrested and beaten by police because they said I do not wear Islamic clothes”. 9


The violence against Nuba women IDPs has another dimension, which is racial discrimination against African ethnicities, which act as an essential factor in the increasingly difficult condition those women deal with in big northern city especially Khartoum, and this secret war in Khartoum and another northern cities is being fought on the same ground that sparked the conflict in Nuba mountains years ago and remain feeding it, which is the central monopolism of power by the Arab ethnicities, over the African ethnicities, which is the deep root of all conflicts in Sudan, but it seems that women are paying the highest price of this conflicts as the discrimination against them as women tripled by the war effects and racial exclusion.


Nuba women activists and the war

Since the war erupted in Nuba mountains In June, 2013, Nuba women activist has been under

vicious attack by the Sudanese security and armed forces. “I was working in the election awarenessin Kadugli with women. When the war started I was detained for seven days in Kadugli military base,” Nuba women activist continue to describe her detention conditions” I was detained for days without my family knowing about me, I was threatened to be killed, they wanted me to give them names of my colleagues and all women they think supported or voted for the SPLM/N in the election”10. Nuba women activists has a great role in peace building, they also led a strong campaign to argue Nuba women to participate in the elections in April 2011, to chose the state governor and local representatives.


The elections result has been the explosion point that started the war in the region after less than 8 years of peace after the Switzerland’s protocol in 2002, which ended the hostilities in Nuba mountains, although, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 considered to be the solid ground that ended the war in the region. During the early days of the war, Nuba women activists were the first to speak out about the situation in Nuba mountains. Nuba Women Group called for a small meeting with other women activists and NGOs in Khartoum, they talked about the bombing of their villages and the large numbers of IDPs arrived in Khartoum and their bad conditions. This meeting resulted in coordination for a campaign to help the IDPs and to collect and disseminate informations locally and internationally to break the silence about the violations in the region.


Few weeks after the war started, more than 50 thousands Nuba IDPs arrived in Khartoum.6 the government refused to open camps for them and refused to let NGOs to help them, and here comes the great role of the Nuba women activists, many of those women hosted IDPs in their homes11. “I have 25 peoples living with me now I have nothing feed them my house is small, so some of them sleep outside the house, yesterday a boy come with another family he does not know where is his mother, he said he was running and then realized he was alone, this family brought him to Khartoum, he came without shoes” said Jalila Khamis, Nuba woman activist.12 Those women started risking their lives to assess the needs of the IDPs, and went to the slums of Khartoum where they reside with their relatives who settled in Khartoum during the last war. The Sudanese security monitored those women movement and started harassing them, and threatening them. Most of those women activist were detained, and many were fired from their jobs or forced to leave the country.



Detentions, Rape and Intimidations:

One of the bravest Nuba women activist is Jalial Khamis Koko, who was detained in March 14, 2012 until January 2013, with no access to lawyers or medical care13. She spent 2 months in solitary confinement, totally isolated from the outside world. Her only crime was that she spoke in a social media video about the violations in Nuba mountains. Jalila was one of the women worked day and night to deliver small portions of food to the IDPs and she was hosting 20 peoples in her home.


Another Nuba woman activist said “ I was collecting clothes and food for the IDPs in Omdurman, I was arrested first time in September 2011, when I was distributing aid, the security warned me from entering the area where the IDPs live in Khartoum slums in Umbada Karor,” she continue “ I continued helping IDPs, so they arrested me again in April 2012 and three of them raped me, they said next they will kill me if ever contacted in IDPs or organized any gathering to collect help for them.” This activist fled Sudan eventually as the threats reached to her husband and children14.


During the period from April 2012 – May 2013, we documented 6 cases of rape of Nuba women activists by the Sudanese security. 5 of this were in Khartoum detentions. Women activists who were raped suffered physically and psychologically without any access to any support system to deal with the stigma and the trauma situation. One of the women activists who was detained and raped in February 2013 said “My family refused to let me stay at home after they knew I was detained and raped I had no money to go a doctor, because I had bad bleeding after the rape, some friends helped me, but my life was in danger for the several weeks because of the untreated infection.”15 She was detained because she working with a local NGO in documenting violations in Nuba mountains.


In November, 2012, dozens of Nuba women detained and investigated with by the security in Kadugli and Dilleng in Nuba mountains/ Southern Kordofan state. Amid of renewal of the fighting and SPLM/N shelling on Kadugli during the months of August- October 2012, the security detained more than 70 women and accused them of working as spies for the SPLM/N. Many were released of the 70, but 32 women with 4 children remained detained in Kadugli military base since November 9th, 2012. At least 10 of those women are activists, while the remaining women are housewives or regular women. One of the detainees said” we do not have food, they give us some times just one meal, so we asked them to let us buy our own food and cook it, we entered hunger strike in December 2012, so they transformed us from Kadugli military base to Alobied Prison in Northern Kordofan state, but the prison conditions are not much better.”


One of the women detainees said “We have been tortured when were in Kadugli, they beaten us and put our heads in water barrels until we lose our breath.”After almost 6 months in detention without charges the government released 14 of the 32 women, and in July 2013 they released the rest of the women detainees, with conditions to rearrest them if they went back to they done before, the funny thing is that they never known what they have done to be arrested in the first place.16


Nuba women activist are at risk of detention and intimidations for them and their families in result of their activism, either working in providing aid to IDPs, or defending democratic and political participation rights for Nuba peoples, or documenting violations committed by the government inside and outside the war zone. Nuba woman Activist who was working with local NGO in helping IDPs in Kadugli said “I have been threatened by security officers to force me to stop my work and give them informations about my organization, when I refused their threat, they tried to arrest me near my house while I was running from them one of them shot me in my leg. I still suffer from this injury.” 17Those brave women are standing alone while their organizations had been closed and destroyed like Ruaya association which was looted and destroyed by the army in the first days of war, or Hurrya organization and Nuba Women Group, which forced to stop their work, and most of their members either went in hiding or fled the country, after sever attacks, harassment and restrictions imposed on their work and freedom to assemble and communicate.


The situation of Nuba women activists in Sudan, is reflecting the expanded war against Nuba peoples from war zones to other areas in Sudan, while women are considered as the main enemy for the government especially activists, because their work created the first awareness about the violations in the region and they still work in very risky conditions to leak informations to the outside world, using their limited resources and putting their own lives in danger. Those women work has been recognized by the government which led them to attack Nuba women activists, but their courageous work has not been appreciated or found enough solidarity from the international women and human rights organizations, as these women facing enormous dangers working in war zones and trying to provide help to their own peoples. The work of Nuba activists is highly endangered by the new military law that the trial of civilians in military courts,18 in regard to cases related to the situation in war zones, this new law is designed to intimidate the activists men and women from war zones, which present new challenges for the Nuba women activists and put their work and their lives in serious danger.


Christian Nuba Women: Not wanted in Sudan anymore!

After the separation of south Sudan in July 2011, the President Omar al-Bashir declared that Islam is the official religion in North Sudan and promised a country governed by an Islamic constitution. Followed this decisions there has been serious deterioration in the situation of Christians in Sudan, as most of them are from Nuba mountains. Several churches in Khartoum, the northern capital, have been destroyed and others closed down along with affiliated schools and orphanages. Christians in Sudan are facing increased arrests, detention and deportation with church-associated centers being raided and foreign missionaries kicked out of the country, one of the Christina women said “I was working with Christian institute for biblical studies, last year during Christmas, we organized some visits to rural areas and our aim was to share them the happiness of Christmas and give people there some gifts. In our way we stopped by security and they arrested us and took our vehicle with the gifts, they released the entire group except me the leader of the group, in the detention, I have beaten and raped by security elements, then I was threatened to not tell anyone what happened.19


The majority of the Nuba Christian women interviewees, complained about the their treatment by the police on the streets and the lack of access for jobs and education, even to the basic services such health care. One woman said “We are being forced to act as Muslims, and the police treat us as prostitute just because we are Christians, the police arrest us and beat us for the way we dress, they we do not conform to the legal – Muslims- dress code.” Christian women have to deal with serious challenges when they live in Khartoum or other northern cities of Sudan, where Islam considered to be the religion of the majority, and the laws and the community norms violate the rights of the Christians minorities by forcing them to act as Muslims even to have names, so they go through the education system and to get identification papers, especially after the secession of South Sudan and the new laws of nationality.


Furthermore, Christian Nuba women face the challenges of the war effects, as the government

consider Christian Nuba, the main supporters of the SPLM/N, and most of the the Christians already joined the SPLM/N army or supporting the political agenda of the insurgents. In result the Sudanese security started organized attacks against Christians since December 2012, and continued to early may, where at least 5 NGOs belong to churches were closed, and dozens of Christians has been arrests. On May 1, 2013, more than 50 Christians were arrested in the same night, most of them has been forced to flee the country, while others remain in prison, women are facing increased harassment and being forced to leave the country, Christian women said” I am a Christian woman from Nuba Mountains, although I am qualified I am not able to live normal like my colleagues from northern tribes, the security is following me and I am not allowed to move freely. I was working in theological institute in Khartoum, I have been arrested, threatened and abused verbally and forced to leave Sudan.”


Christian Nuba women are struggling the most in their daily lives, as they have to deal with the dress code while they walk on the street, also they suffer to find jobs, “I was born and grew up in northern Sudan Karima town, after I finished my study in Khartoum I returned back to Karima to get a job there, when I went to submit my application I was told by people whom are responsible to receive the application, that I will never get the job, when I asked why? What is wrong? They said: we have been ordered not to employ any Christian in public jobs!”


The other problem is the access to health care an education, a Christian woman told us that she went to hospital for treatment, while the doctor was investigating her sickness, he asked her where are you from? she told him that she is from Nuba mountains, then he asked her also about her religion, she answered that she is a Christian, then he asked her to lay down for examination, but he raped her instead of being treated, and threatened her to kill her, if she told someone about it.” In this discriminative conditions Christian women from Nuba mountains are the most in danger of sexual violence and many other violations against them as women and religious and racial minority in Sudan, although Nuba are one of the indigenous peoples in Sudan, but they are being treated as un wanted peoples by the Sudanese government and the state institutions, where women face complete exclusion and denial of their civil rights and fundamental freedoms, which add up to the catastrophic situation created by the war in Nuba mountains, which is put Christian Nuba women at risk of grave violations inside the Sudanese government and community discriminative norms.20


Nuba women and the 1325 resolution:

Although the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, considered as major step in setting a solid ground for women participation in the decision making in Sudan’s political and representative institutions, but the actual representation of women in making the agreement itself or in the peace process followed its implementation remained limited and almost not existed. After the war started in June 201, many initiatives by the regional and international community attempted to push both the Sudanese government and the SPLM/N, to negotiate a political solution for the conflict, but during the sessions organized and hosted by the African Union and the African Union High Implementation Panel( AUHIP), no presence had been noticed for the Nuba women organizations or civil society, there has been a presence of few of the SPLM/N members, but their attendance has been as part of their positions in the SPLM/N either than representing the struggling Nuba women.


One of the important aspect of the lack of consideration for the 1325 resolution by the fighting parties and the sponsoring international and regional community, is the effective presence of women among the peace operation and aid missions and the lack of women protection systems in refugees camps such as Yida camp which is under the supervision of the United Nations agencies such as UNHCR. Women in Yida camp face rape, sexual harassment, and suffer everyday to survive the Intimate Partners Violence (IPV), without in support mechanisms21.


Unfortunately the sacrifices of Nuba women, either activists, IDPs, refugees, Christians or Muslims, are not appreciated, as they have no voices to represent them in the peace process or any other political process that spouse to determine their region, or their country future and of course their own future. This absence of Nuba women voices, is not matching the great struggle they have been through surviving this war. Therefore the international, regional and local decision makers must live to their obligations, and commitments to ensure women participation in peace process and peacemaking and transitional justice, in addition to provide women especial needs in the war zones or refugees or IDPs camps.


Nuba women has been the strong element in spreading peace awareness and their work in rallying women and men to participate in the 2011 elections has been one of the largest Sudanese women movements in the modern days, and Nuba women has the ability to fully participate in the new peace process to act as an important figure to sustain peace in Nuba mountains and Sudan.




Nuba women situation during the last two years of war has been catastrophic. The grave violations against Nuba women has been part of the war weapons used by the Sudanese government and its armed and security forces. Rape, sexual abuse, detention, intimidations used by the government to silence Nuba women activists. Nuba women in IDPs and refugees camps face humanitarian crisis, lack of security and forced to cope with very hostile environment without any support systems or protection mechanisms. The international and regional human rights mechanisms failed in condemning the serious atrocities committed by the Sudanese government in Nuba mountains,

especially against women, while the crisis in the region and the status of Nuba peoples in Sudan, and women in particular and the violations against them, has been described as war crimes that mount to crimes against humanity and warning of ethnic cleansing of Nuba peoples if the international community remained silent.




The international community must put serious pressure on the Sudanese government to stop bombing civilians areas and allow aid agencies into war zones and protect civilians during compact, especially women.


The Sudanese government must investigate all the incidents of mass and individual rape by its security and armed forces against Nuba women and present the perpetrators to fair trials without regard to impunities.


The Sudanese government comply to its obligation and respect the rights of freedom of assembly, religion, and the rights of women in work, education and access to health care especially women from religious and racial minorities.


The Sudanese government must revise and amend all the laws that violate the rights of women to be equal and to move freely and to have access to basic services and their right to work, especially the public order law.


Both the Sudanese government and the SPLM/N must respect the United Nations Security Council decision No. 1325, and ensure women participation in peace negotiations, peacemaking and political process in the region and the country.


1 - Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement is main group fought against the Sudanese government from 1980s

to 2005 in South Sudan and in other marginalized areas such as Nuba mountains and Blue Nile, demanding equal

political rights and participation in the central that controlled by the Arab ethnicities and excluding the African

ethnicities in the marginalized areas.

, accessed, august, 10, 2013.http://www.occasionalwitness.com2 - See Nuba mountains Home Page ,

3 - see OCHA Sudan 4th quarter humanitarian update of 2012.

4 - interview in Yida cmap , March 2013.

5 - HUDO report about the IDPs camps published in 25th February, 2013.

6 - Interview in Khartoum, June 2013.

7 - Interview in Khartoum, September, 2012.

8 - Interview by phone from inside Nuba mountains, January, 2012.

9 - Interview in Khartoum, June, 2013.

10 -Interview in Khartoum, March, 2013.

, accessed July, 30, -see Arry report “Nuba Peoples standing alone in the face of death”,


12 - Interview in Khartoum, June, 2011.

, and see the video that - See Girifna reports: Nuba mountains activist arrested , was arrested because of it in this link:

14 - Interview by phone, June, 2012.

15 - Interview by phone, March 2013.

16 - see Arry report:” 32 Nuba women behind bars”, ( , accessed , 2August, 2013. see AWID article about Sudanese WHRDs, (

), accessed on July 20, 2013. Women-Human-Rights-Defenders-in-the-Midst-of-the-Border-Conflict-of-Sudan

17 - Interview In Khartoum, February, 2013.

18 - see HRW press release “ Sudan: allow military trials of civilians”,

( , published, July 2013,

accessed, 20July, 2013.

19 - see Arry report : violent attack on chrisitans in Sudan”,( , accessed on June, 2013.

20 - Focus groups for Christian women in Khartoum, June, 2013.

21 - see IRC report” the conditions of women and girls in Yida refugees camp in South Sudan, February, 2012.