The drama of the disappeared spreads in the war in Sudan | International
In the selfie, Arwal appears with a shy smile, a brightly colored shirt and collected braids, posing next to a small boy with a soda in his hands. The picture of her was posted Sunday night by her brother, Angelo, in a public Facebook group. It was accompanied by a brief description and a direct request: “Arwal has been missing since the war in Sudan broke out between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in mid-April in the country's capital, Khartoum, so any information we can provide them would be at least a thread to pull to try to find it "
Two days earlier, one of the group's administrators published the case of another young man named Muhammad Abdulrahim who was detained by paramilitaries last week as he was returning home after escorting a group of injured residents out of Khartoum to be treated in some hospital. Members of the Rapid Support Forces took him away. His environment continues without knowing anything about him.
As the weeks go by and the fighting in Sudan continues without any sign of abating, the tragedy of not only the hundreds of dead, thousands of wounded and hundreds of thousands of displaced, but also the missing, is becoming more and more notorious. . This is a drama aggravated by the absence of the State and by the total insecurity that reigns in the areas where the clashes are concentrated, such as Khartoum and the Darfur region, where the paramilitaries have deployed in force and are sowing terror.
Since the beginning of the fighting, on April 15, and until May 20, 229 cases of missing persons have been documented, according to the count of a local initiative dedicated to helping find people whose whereabouts are unknown. The majority are men between the ages of 20 and 35, and fifteen are minors. Only 35 have returned to their families after having disappeared, and another six have been found dead.
The vast majority of these disappearances occurred in Khartoum: some 200 were last seen in the capital. In many cases, they vanished after being arrested or having run into the paramilitaries, who control a good part of the city and have deployed and entrenched themselves in many areas and residential buildings.
Due to the chaos in which the Khartoum area has been plunged, the Missing Initiative warns, however, that it is very difficult to keep track of the real number of people affected. As with the death toll, now at more than 700, it is feared that there are many more than have been documented. Civil society campaigns such as this one also have limited resources and capacities, but it is mainly these types of initiatives that are filling the gap in state agencies.
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In the case of the disappeared, a key means of organizing is being social networks, to which families and friends are turning to share information about their loved ones in an attempt to find them with the help of other users. The number of cases is becoming so high that the International Committee of the Red Cross has also decided to provide a telephone number to seek help.
The Rapid Support Forces have an intentionally weak chain of command, operate with great autonomy, are highly seasoned in urban battles, and have a long history of human rights violations. In recent weeks, multiple news and stories about their assaults on homes and selective arrests have also spread.
A former member of the party of the Islamist regime of former dictator Omar Al Bashir, deposed in 2019 and with whom the paramilitaries are openly at odds, recounted on his Facebook profile on Sunday that he was arrested and tortured in mid-May and that he was held in a secret Rapid Support Forces detention center with 200-300 other people. Although the army is less present in the capital, there have also been reports of its arrests of civilians since the start of the war.
In addition to those who disappear in detention centers and camps, there are many who have died without their bodies being able to be recovered or identified. In this regard, organizations such as the Missing Persons Initiative and the Sudanese Red Crescent have reported large numbers of unidentified corpses on the streets of Khartoum, in hospitals that are still operating, in morgues and in pits where they have been buried.
Although the number of missing has accelerated rapidly since the fighting broke out in April, Sudanese civil society has been grappling with this crisis for years. During the violent eviction of a camp raised in Khartoum in June 2019 to demand a civilian government after the two now warring parties seized power in the country, dozens of people disappeared and their fate has never been clarified. Likewise, after the coup d'état that the army and paramilitaries executed jointly at the end of 2021 to put an end to a democratic transition that began two years earlier, numerous disappearances were documented, especially after protests were held.
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