Book – Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir


Title: Tears of the Desert – A Memoir of Survival in Darfur

Author: Halima Bashir

Published: 2008

Pages: 363 pages (paperback)

Brief Summary – Tears of the Desert is an autobiography about a little girl growing up in a rural village in Sudan. The story includes descriptions of many everyday life activities, but also many horrific events and challenges that she has endured.  Halima wasn’t just an ordinary girl, but was actually a star pupil in school, and went on to become the first doctor in her village.  Her story shines light on many traditional cultural practices, as well as some of the atrocities that still go on today.

Key Points – Of course the parts that are most memorable are the upsetting parts. They stick it your brain the longest.  A couple of them are described below:

  • The most upsetting part of the book for me was when she talked about her experience of female genital mutilation (FGM). For those of you who don’t know who that is, it’s basically a practice of cutting off all of the external pieces of a womans genitalia, often at puberty. This is meant to reduce the pleasure of sexual relations in order to prevent promiscuity.  However, many medical issues occur, such as infections, difficulty with intercourse and complications during pregnancy.
  • Rape. I mean of course rape is incredibly upsetting to hear about. She herself was kidnapped and raped for days, and thankfully managed to survive. But even worse than that was the young girls.  A whole class of young school girls and their teachers were raped. Unfortunately, due to the FGM performed on many of the girls, this made everything a million times worse medically. In addition, there is such a stigma around premarital sex, that often families don’t want to seek medical attention attention, for fear of what others will think badly of the family, leading to further complications.  It’s incomprehensible to me that adult men would ever do such a thing to small children.

However there were also some very inspiring moments…

  • As a young girl, all of her friends were being promised to future husbands. It was seen as unnecessary for a girl to go to school if she was going to shortly be married and start having babies. However, Halima’s family allowed her to go to school where she thrived. She came in top of her class and was able to go all the way up to medical school.
  • With a great deal of courage, the author escaped the bombing of her home village and fled.  She managed to make friends who she could pay to transport her out of the country.  She managed to seek asylum in the UK and meet her husband, and start a family.  She has a great deal of courage to do all that by herself, and it is obvious that she will be an inspiration to many.

Final Thoughts – I think that a it’s really important that people tell their own stories. Obviously everyone has a different life, but Halima’s life is a good example of the things that are happening in that area of the world.  Many things are changing for the better (such as her being able to go to school), but many things are still very difficult in this day and age.  That girl is now living in Europe with her husband, but the story ends as she struggles with the authorities to remain safe in England, instead of being forced back to her home country.  It’s sad to know that she may never know what happened to her family.


About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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