"Only women and children were in the village, the men were with the cattle a bit further north, closer to the hills. When the attack occurred, men ran up the hills in order to see and the women ran into the village to take their children and flee south of the village."
Women in most cases have described how during attacks they started looking for their dependants before leaving the village. K., a 40-year-old woman from Jaroko explained:
"When the Janjawid came, they put fire on our huts and they beat the children and the women. I have seven children and six are here with me now, I put one on my back and on in front and the others were holding my hands and we ran. Also my grandmother was with me. On the way there were many Janjawid and they were beating people and we saw them raping women and young girls."
Another 45-year-old woman, A., from Mamoun describes a similar flight:
"We heard when the Janjawid attacked Kenu and then, before breakfast they came and killed people. I collected my children and the old woman who is deaf and whom I am taking care of."
However, even before the escalation of the conflict and the systematic attacks against civilians in Darfur, there was no gender balance in many rural villages, for several reasons. There is a high rate of migration from rural to urban centers in Darfur, partly because of desertification and lack of development in the region. Many Sudanese women interviewed by Amnesty International in Chad said that their husbands, brothers or other male relatives were working in towns in Darfur, in the Sudanese capital Khartoum or in neighboring countries and that the men were not present during the attacks. This is important to note; as a result of the higher percentage of women than men in the refugee camps in Chad, there is speculation as to what happened to the men. A partial explanation stems from the pre-war gender ratio in the rural villages. Of course, there are other explanations: the fact that many men appear to have been extra-judicially executed or summarily killed during attacks, or arrested and detained incommunicado, and the suspicion that some have joined the rebellion.
Mohamed (33), a local leader from Magarsa explained:
"I was in Khartoum for many years and when I found out what happened in my hometown I returned to Magarsa in February 2004. I learned that my relatives went to Fur Baranga".
[Refugees fleeing Darfur ©AI/Philip Cox]
3.3Rape during flight
Women have been victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence during their flight. The Janjawid have raped women at road blocks or checkpoints, or while chasing groups of people who had escaped attacks on their villages.
A. from Khusha in North Darfur said that she witnessed a rape and abductions when she and several other women ran away from the attack on their village in August 2003:
"A woman had her legs and arms broken and was left on the road. Others were beaten up when they refused to undress and they were taken away to a Janjawid camp."
A., a 40-year-old Tama(28) woman from Azerny (30 miles south of Jeneina) witnessed rape while she was fleeing:
"After the attacks we ran for four hours to our neighbours who are Tama as well. On our way from Aserny two women were raped by three Janjawid. I was there; I saw it with my own eyes".
She gave the names of the women reportedly raped to Amnesty International.