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Uprooted: Life and Loss One Year Into Sudan’s War 

TIMEP spoke with Sudanese activists, lawyers, writers, human rights defenders, and advocates on their experiences surviving the war in Sudan, their feelings of loss, displacement, and what “home” has come to mean for them. Millions of Sudanese stories remain untold.


Over one year has passed since war broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Military victory has so far eluded both sides, and various peace processes are yet to bear fruit, failing to address the root causes behind the conflict, including the involvement of former regime Islamists and military leaders, ethnic tensions, and questions of identity

About 8.2 million people have been displaced since the war started, adding to the 3.8 million who already lost their homes in past conflicts, creating the “the largest internal displacement crisis in the world,” with over 3 million children displaced inside and outside the country, according to the United Nations. The war started in Khartoum, the capital, and was quick to spread to numerous parts of Sudan. In particular, the state of West Darfur saw ethnic-based targeting of the Masalit tribe, with thousands robbed, killed, and raped, driving nearly 700,000 people to neighboring Chad, and leading the the International Criminal court to open a new investigation into the atrocities committed.

Tens of thousands have already been killed, and thousands more are at risk while regional and global policy makers hold summits, draft statements, and design processes to no avail. Meanwhile, fighting continues to rage in several parts of the country, with thousands still crossing the border daily “as if the emergency started yesterday.”

TIMEP spoke with Sudanese activists, lawyers, writers, human rights defenders, and advocates on their experiences surviving the war in Sudan, their feelings of loss, displacement, and what “home” has come to mean for them; these few offer but a quick glimpse of their reality.

Hamid Khalafallah, former Nonresident Fellow at TIMEP

It has been over one year since the war erupted in Sudan, and I am yet to fully process the experience of fleeing my hometown and leaving everything behind. My family and I forcibly left our home one month after the fighting broke out. We were all living in one big family house. Now we are scattered across three countries. 

Ever since leaving Sudan, I have been feeling like I was split into two selves. There is one self that is trying to establish and navigate a new life in a new place; the other is still trapped in the conflict. The clash and confusion between the two selves is a draining daily battle. What this year has taught is that being forcibly displaced is a profound and particular experience that you never fully grasp until you live it.

One year on, I continue to feel uprooted, struggling to establish a new life, while I continue dreaming about returning home. But I wonder what ‘home’ I will be returning to. The Khartoum that I know and love will never exist again.

One year on, I continue to feel uprooted, struggling to establish a new life, while I continue dreaming about returning home. But I wonder what ‘home’ I will be returning to. The Khartoum that I know and love will never exist again. The places and items that hold my lifetime memories will not be there. As I was packing to flee, I only filled a backpack with essentials, thinking that I would return soon and find everything intact. I left behind my favorite watch, a gift from my late grandfather. I left behind photographs, gifts, souvenirs from loved ones. I left behind my paintings. I left behind my books. Sentimental belongings that I accumulated over 34 years. An entire life. And now I have to build a new one, while clinging onto the memories of what I left.

Millions of displaced Sudanese—internally and externally—share my story. Behind every number, every statistic, there’s a story of a devastated man, woman, child; of broken families and a shattered nation. I hope this one year mark becomes a reminder of the heavy toll this war has exacted on every single individual experiencing it.

I pray for the war in Sudan to end very soon. I wish that we can all renew our hopes that we will return, and that we will rebuild. It is high time for the global attention to return to ending the war in Sudan and to properly respond to the humanitarian catastrophe before it consumes more lives than it already has. May it be a strong reminder that Sudan and its people are worth saving.

Mohaned Elnour, human rights lawyer

After working for 20 years as a civil servant, my mother was finally able to buy a piece of land in an unpopulated area, almost a desert. It was an excellent achievement for a single mother who had moved, with her five children, from one rented house to another several times over the years. We—siblings and friends—built the house brick by brick, and as soon as the living room and the first room were finished, we moved in. It was in 2000. More houses were built in the area, and the neighborhood became very well established and valuable. My siblings and I grew up to get decent jobs, and together we rebuilt the house to include six apartments where we all lived together.

“I am relieved that I will leave you a house; I can rest in peace now,” my mother would always say, joyfully, to her grandchildren. 

Two weeks after the war broke out, everything my mother had worked so hard for fell apart. She found herself in the crossfire, and had no choice but to leave the home she had spent her life building with just a small bag; the first thing she packed was the house ownership certificate. She hoped the move would be temporary, and that we would soon return, so she didn’t go far away. Just the closest state to ours. The first apartment we managed to rent lacked water, electricity and was too crowded and my mother couldn’t handle it and decided to move to a small village. The village lacked basic medical facilities, and my mother suffers from chronic diseases, so she had to move again to a different state. Internally displaced people, like our family, flooded that state and it wasn’t easy to get food, water, or treatment there. So, leaving the country was her only other option which meant she had to go even further away from home.

Fleeing to a neighboring country and staying there for two months then moving to another one caused my mother indescribable pain; but leaving her home was, by far, the most heartbreaking part. 

Her home was looted and then seized by RSF militia in June 2023. Like all the emptied houses in our neighborhood, RSF soldiers now live in our home alongside their families. My mother still holds on to the hope of returning home one day. Every morning she reaches out to her neighbors to check if they are doing well; they in turn check on her house. Those who decided to stay and not flee were forced to adapt to their new RSF neighbors, and spend their days dreading a potential strike by the Sudanese army that would take more lives, and erase, in just a few moments, everything that people like my mother built over decades. My mother remains strong, but with every airstrike, every attack, and every day that passes, her hope to return home flickers, becoming weaker and dimmer and, eventually, vanishes. 

S*, human rights defender

I am a Sudanese women’s human rights defender. I was born and raised in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state and the nation’s second most populous city after Khartoum. I am the director of a local organization working on rural development and for the last two years, I have been working on violence against women. 

My work allowed me to support dozens of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and document their stories. And for this work, I paid a hefty price.

Soon after the war erupted in Khartoum in April 2023, it spread to Nyala. I was targeted by the RSF who put me under surveillance. After seeing their vehicles parked near my house for two days, I fled to my parents’ house. Despite this, I continued to be under surveillance, so I had to flee the state with my husband and children. 

Just one day after fleeing the family house to a safer town, RSF soldiers raided our house searching for me. I was nowhere to be found, but my elderly parents and others who were staying with them were held at gunpoint for six days

Just one day after fleeing the family house to a safer town, RSF soldiers raided our house searching for me. I was nowhere to be found, but my elderly parents and others who were staying with them were held at gunpoint for six days. My father was beaten and my mother was threatened and has suffered from health issues since then.

I am now in a safer country. All my savings were spent on leaving Sudan and I have so little resources left that it was difficult to put our eldest son in school. 

My only goal right now is to keep my family safe, find a way to evacuate the rest of my relatives from Nyala to a safer place, and continue advocating for women in South Darfur and beyond.

A.K*, writer and mother

I was born in a village in Al-Jazeera State, a few hours south of Khartoum, and lived there for a few years before moving to Wad Medani, the state’s capital. I fell in love with Wad Medani and continued to live there through my adulthood. It is where I became part of the city’s artistic movement; reading, writing, and participating in cultural happenings. It is where I took part in the 2019 revolution and where I continued to advocate for our rights. It is where I fell in love, got married, and had my child. 

My small family lived in one part of a house we shared with my in-laws. Before the war started, we were planning to move to our own place. Our plans fell apart, but we had no idea that we would have to leave the city we loved so much in December 2023. The home I shared with my in-laws was located at the tip of the city, close to the bridge that the RSF used to cross over into Wad Medani. We left amidst the fighting. I had to pack our bags while keeping my head down. We took the bare minimum, expecting to come back a few days later. We first moved to another town south of Wad Medani, but when the RSF began spreading across all of the Al-Jazeera state, we panicked and in a frenzy, decided to take the hard route and get smuggled into Egypt.

We reached Cairo, heartbroken and helpless. We lived in hiding until we secured our refugee status and since then, we are barely getting by. I found work in a business nearby, but our meager income barely covers rent and basic food, leaving us with nothing else—not enough to buy some furniture, not even a fridge. When I have a second to myself, all I can think of is Wad Medani and my mother and sister who decided to stay behind. Most days, I can’t even call them due to the blackout. I miss my life.

A*, lawyer 

I fled from Al-Geneina in West Darfur following the horrific events that unfolded there. There are no words to describe the scale of the mass killings and destruction that I have witnessed; civilians were targeted everywhere, and 10,000 to 15,000 people from the Masalit ethnic community were killed by RSF soldiers. During all these attacks, the SAF did not intervene to protect us. We were left to fend for ourselves. 

After two months of experiencing daily horrors, I finally managed to flee and left everything behind. We had to bribe some soldiers from the RSF and Arab militias to be able to get out. I paid nearly $500, a month-worth of family expenses, which put me in a car to Adre, a town in Chad hundreds of meters away from the Sudanese border, joining the nearly 150,000 refugees there.

I just prepared myself: I was convinced that the RSF and other militias would find me and kill me. Everyday I woke up was a new day, an additional day

I lost track of time during that trip. We had to make three or four stops and it took days for us to get there. I just prepared myself: I was convinced that the RSF and other militias would find me and kill me. Everyday I woke up was a new day, an additional day. 

When we reached Adre, I couldn’t believe it. Life as a refugee here is horrific. We lack all kinds of supplies, and living like this, while being so far from home and knowing we may never go back, is indescribable. And even if we could return, I can hardly imagine anything left back in Al-Geneina; our home is gone, everything is gone.

*⁠ The names of some contributors were omitted to ensure their safety.

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