Shining a light on suffering

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 07 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:70
  1. Tony Sheldon
  1. Utrecht

    The aid worker Vincent Hoedt was threatened with three years in a Sudanese jail. He tells Tony Sheldon that his experience was worth while

    “Sudanese government tries to silence aid workers,” the head-line from Associated Press proclaimed at the end of May, while the BBC carried the message “Second Sudan aid worker arrested.”

    The articles told the world of the arrest by the Sudanese authorities of Vincent Hoedt, the Darfur coordinator for the Dutch section of Médecins Sans Frontières. He had been thrown into jail a day after the same authorities had seized Paul Foreman, the head of the section. Both men were charged with spying, destabilising society, and publishing false information.

    Their real crime, however, had been to publish a report on the brutal rape of African women in Darfur by armed militia men.

    The report described how between October 2004 and February 2005 doctors from the agency had treated almost 500 women who had been raped in Darfur, most of whom had had to flee their villages and were living in makeshift camps. Many of the victims had been raped when they had ventured outside the camps to collect wood, fetch water, or work in the fields. Some of the rapists had told the women that they were raping …

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