Case study 12 - Mary (Sudan, 1999)

Wartime enslavement

It has been common in wars over the centuries for prisoners to be taken and used as slave labour. This has happened both to soldiers and civilians. In the recent civil war in Sudan many ordinary people have been affected, especially young women.

Mary (Sudan 1999)

Read information about Sudan.

Mary is a Christian who lived in a town with her husband, and enjoyed going to church. When the war in Sudan made their town too dangerous, they fled and went to live in a village where they had three children, and survived by farming. When Mary was five months pregnant with her fourth child, soldiers arrived at the village. She tried to run away but they threatened to shoot her so she stopped running and five soldiers grabbed her and took her to their army camp. Eventually she was rescued.

Mary's story

They put me in a big pen with a lot of other people. I spent two days in the pen. Then, everyone had to start walking to the North, together with the cattle. I was not able to walk, so they again put me on one of the horses. It took us many days to get to Matarik. We were all divided up there. I was given to Mahmoud Abdullah. He called me Zeneib, and took me to his home nearby. He is a trader there. In his shop, he sells sugar, grain, soap and things like that.

I had to clean his house, wash clothes, cook and fetch water with the donkey. Mahmoud had four boy slaves to look after his cattle. He has two Arab wives. They were kind to me. They gave me clothes to wear. But Mahmoud was very unkind. Whenever he was unhappy with me, he would beat me. Once he wanted me to go to the Koranic school and cook for the boys there, but I refused to do it because I am a Christian. He did not force me to go there.

One day the trader Ibrahim came and took me and my baby to the forest and then brought us back to the area I came from. I am very happy to be back here. I thank everyone who helped me come back. I am sure I will be even happier when I find my husband and children. I will now return to my village and look for them.

Questions and discussion points

  • Why do you think Mahmoud changed Mary's name?
  • How do you think that affected her?
  • Why do you think he beat Mary?
  • What do you think about Mary's refusal to go to the school?
  • What would you like to say to Mary?


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