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Tears of the Desert [Audio]
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Halima Bashir was born into the Zaghawa tribe, whose customs have remained unchanged for centuries, in the remote western deserts of Sudan in the region of South Darfur. Halima's father named his daughter after the traditional medicine woman of the village, and she grew up in a happy and close-knit childhood environment. Her father became a wealthy man by his tribe's standards, so he could afford to send Halima to school and university. Halima went on to study medicine, and at twenty-four she returned to her tribe and began practicing as their first ever qualified doctor. But shortly thereafter Janjaweed Arab militias began savagely assaulting the Zaghawa, often with the backing of the Sudan military. At first, Halima tried not to get involved. But in January 2004 the Janjaweed attacked her area, raping 42 schoolgirls and their teachers. Halima treated the traumatized rape victims, some of whom were as young as eight years old, then spoke up about what she had witnessed in Sudanese newspaper and to the UN charities. But the secret police came for her and Halima was interrogated and subjected to unspeakable torture and multiple rapes. She managed to escape into hiding in her home village, but Janjaweed raiders backed by helicopter gunships attacked her home. Halima's father was killed, her village turned into a smoking ruin. She knew that she had to leave for good. Taking what little money her mother could spare her, Halima set out on an epic journey to escape the hell of Darfur. With little idea how she might get there, she chose to head for England, where a long-lost childhood cousin was waiting to marry her. Now she is determined to share her story with the world in hopes that her tale will help shed light on the hundreds of thousands of innocent and beautiful lives being snuffed out by what is quickly becoming one of the most terrible genocides of the 21st century.
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