“This memoir helps keep the Darfur tragedy open as a wound not yet healed.”
-Elie Wiesel, author of Night
“A harrowing and beautifully written tale of a rich life, untold suffering, and impossible hope told from the heart of a fellow African sister. Read this as the tragedy that has overcome our long-suffering country, Sudan.”
-Mende Nazer, author of Slave
Halima Bashir was born in the remote desert of Darfur, Sudan, and was raised in a loving family that was part of the black African Zaghawa tribe. In a rare privilege for a girl of her village, she attended junior and secondary school in a nearby town. Bashir proved herself academically gifted and went on to study medicine, becoming her tribe’s first qualified doctor, much to the pride of her father.
But war had already broken out in Darfur when Dr. Bashir began her practice, and the violence perpetrated by Janjaweed Arab militias was spreading. In January 2004, the militia attacked a remote school and gang-raped 42 schoolgirls. Dr. Bashir was the only source of help in her nearby one-room medical clinic. When she dared to speak out about this atrocity to officials from the international community, she was arrested by the secret police, interrogated, tortured and herself raped. She escaped to her home village, but the violence followed her there, and her beloved father and many of her relatives were killed in reprisal. Desperate, Dr. Bashir was forced to flee Sudan in 2005 to seek a tenuous asylum in Britain. Once there, the hardship and loss caught up with her, leading to despair that only her new husband, also in exile, and her own strength of will could cure.
Tears of the Desert is Halima’s tale, told in her own words and framed by her love for her new son. It is a wrenching portrait of a young girl’s innocence lost, of a family and a people destroyed, of the endemic discrimination against black African Sudanese by their Arab compatriots, and of the senseless violence that erupted and continues unabated today. It is Dr. Bashir’s belief that these words should be shared with readers so that the world will know about the conflict in Darfur and about the horrific violence that is occurring between fellow Muslims. This is Halima Bashir’s story, but it is also the story of a nation that is ripping itself to pieces.
“This is a brave book. And a valuable one. Halima’s story of the atrocities and immeasurable losses she has endured must be told. The world continues to turn a deaf ear to the cries from the Darfur region, and our failure to protect this tortured population is a measure of who we are as a global ‘community’. Still, Halima leaves us with hope and awe in the face of her courage.”
“Stories of Janjaweed attacks on villages in Darfur, of rapes and massacres, have become painfully familiar. But seldom have these stories been written by Darfurians, and never, until now, by a woman. Halima Bashir brings to her memoir not just her own horrific tale, but her experience of trying to teach the victims of a war which continues apparently unchecked. A brave and haunting book.”
-Globe 100 Best Book
“Halima Bashir has bared her soul to help stop the bleeding of her people in Darfur. Attention must be paid.”
-John Prendergast, co-chair of the ENOUGH Project and co-author of Not on Our
“Halima’s story is fantastic and exhausting, perhaps all the more so because I can see and hear and feel the people and places she describes. People need to be drawn into Darfur through stories like this, to cut through the statistics and the horror and to come back to the humanity–to families, love, hope, and courage and the normality of life in such abnormal circumstances.”
-Lisa French Blaker, author of Heart of Darfur
“Bashir, a physician and refugee living in London, offers a vivid personal portrait of life in the Darfur region of Sudan before the catastrophe . . . This is a vehement cri de coeur, but in showing what she suffered, and lost, Bashir makes it resonate.”
Globe 100 Best Book, 2008