Helping Malian rape victims break the silence
To mark International Women’s Day, FRANCE 24 reports from Mali on the horrors suffered by local women at the hands of Islamist fighters during the ten-month occupation of the north of the country.
Since the very beginning of the conflict in Mali that saw Islamists take control of the vast north of the country last year, women and girls there have been regular victims of sexual aggression, rape and forced marriage.
Many also chose to flee.
“We didn’t run away because of the fear of death, or rebels, or weapons. We ran away for our dignity,” said Bintou Guiteye, from a small town in the Gao region of northern Mali. “Those people even raped old women, so you can imagine what they do to young women.”
Those who managed to escape the excesses of the north’s new occupiers remain haunted by what they witnessed, while many are unwilling to talk about their experiences.
Refugee Aissa Maiga told FRANCE 24: “It's become a taboo, it’s too shameful, even for the parents. If a girl wants to talk, her parents will say ‘Don't tell anyone’.”
Because of the silence, it is difficult to gauge the real number of attacks against women.
Associations are being formed to help them speak out, while a “Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation” is due to be established in the coming days.
Malian Civil Service Minister Mamadou Namory Traore said the government would do all it could to seek justice for those women who had been victims of sexual aggression.
“The commission will not give up on these women,” he told FRANCE 24. “We will do whatever we can to help them get their dignity back. We will seek justice for the great harm that they suffered.”