Eritrean women Refugees in Sudan under attack

Monitor’s report November 2016, translated from Tigrigna. Names are not actual names for protection.

Violations and torture against Eritrean women are still ongoing in Khartoum, Sudan. On the 12th of October, an Eritrean refugee by the name of Hana Berhane was abducted at 10:30 pm when she was returning home from work and disappeared for two days before she was brought back to the same spot where she was taken. The perpetrators raped Hana for 2 days. So far there is no lead on the identity of the kidnappers and rapists of Hana. When Hana was returning from work, her kidnappers were waiting on a secluded area and covered her mouth, syringed her with a sleeping dose and drove her to an unknown area. At that hour there was no one around and this provided conducive opportunity for the criminals to do their dirty work without unrestrained.

The victim’s friends in collaboration with Eritreans who resided in Sudan for long reported the crime to the police and the police is in search of the perpetrators. Hana is a refugee in her mid-twenties and crossed illegally to Sudan before three years. This is one of the many cases of violations committed against Eritrean women by Sudanese criminals.

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A roundup that targets Eritrean women refugees who work as waitresses and open tearoom kiosks to support themselves is still proceeding. This roundup is being carried out by the members of the security forces in extensive form and forced these women to quit their jobs and stay indoors. When these women enter to Sudan, beside the refugee ID card, they are obliged to carry another illegal ID card that costs them 80 Sudanese pounds. So far we have no information whether the Sudanese government has knowledge of this new requirement. But it is understood that this new Requirement that oblige refugees to carry new ID cards is to collect huge money from the refugees.  The silence of the humanitarian organizations in Sudan is making the Eritrean women cases of violations and torture worse by the day.

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The number of underage Eritrea girls who are crossing illegally to Sudan and further proceeding towards Khartoum through the Hajir is ever in the rise by the day and their situation is worsening. These girls work in various precarious and tiresome jobs. After completing the perilous journey to reach Khartoum, they are tangled in dangerous jobs and engage into conjugal relationship with older me just to earn a living and survive. One of these young women is Selam.

I met Selam in a health center. She was dressed in hijab and long dress. She was rubbing her head and breathing nervously. I didn’t give her much attention at first. After a moment, she came closer to me and asked me if I was Habesha. I said, “Yes, I am Eritrean. How can I help you?” Both Eritreans and Ethiopians are identified as Habesha that is why I told her that I was Eritrean so as to make her feel easy. “Thank you. Do the doctors here get in late?” she asked again. “No, they will start at seven,” I told the teenager who looks barely seventeen. After breathing heavily one more time she asked me where the bathroom was and I enquired from the nurse in front of us at the desk. When she stood up to go to the bathroom my eyes were directed at her belly and saw her protruding stomach. I felt sorry for her to be pregnant at young age in in exile and so many questions came into my mind.

Selam with worrying eyes sat next to me. “My name is Neema,” to break the silence I introduced myself.  “I am Selam,” she said. “How is life in exile?” I continued with an open question. Her face started to change when I asked her this question. “Life in exile has taken everything from us and is about to throw us into a pit,” she answered with anger. Understanding what she meant, I made probing comments, “When I left Asmara I didn’t expect this but found what life provided not what I wanted.” I wished the doctors delay so as to finish the conversation we were having. “Neema, I am the kind of person who squandered the opportunities life gives one, I am a bad person,” she said with teary eyes. I told her that there is a bad merchandize but not a bad person, in order to soothe her.

“How long have you been here?” Selam asked me. “I have lived here for five years but I was born in Kassala hence I am not a stranger here in this country.” I told her. “I have been here for almost two years and squandered my chance of a better life,” she kept saying. I wanted to know what she meant and asked what she meant by squandered her chance.

After breathing heavily:

“Here while I am a child myself I am carrying a foetus from a worthless person which I was forced to do when life became unbearable here. At first when I came here, since I had no remittance, I was working in cleaning profession. The work was hard and working hours lasted from eight in the morning to six in the evening. As the result my health was deteriorating to the extent my menstrual cycle was disturbed.” She said.

She continued:

“After this I decided to quit the job but I had no money. During this time my neighbor by the name Tesfit, who is twice my age, told me I could stay with him. He told me that he doesn’t stay home much of the time and I could look after his house. His place was beautiful and well-furnished and I liked it. Even though he told me he doesn’t stay home a lot, that wasn’t the case and this bothered me. But I assumed he cared and is worried about me. He doesn’t have a job I know of but he is always talking on his phone. From all the telephone calls I guessed his work to be related with human traffickers or their associates. From that day on I started to live under his roof, my life was better and he gave me everything I needed. I started to fall in love with him and after six months of living with him I became pregnant with this foetus. It wasn’t in my plan to get pregnant and this made me panic and worry. One night when Tesfit was not present, members of the Sudanese security forces came to my residence and asked me on the whereabouts of Tesfit. I told them that I didn’t know where he was and they left. After this Tesfit called me with a number I didn’t know and told me he was being searched by the Sudanese security because of his association with human trafficking. Because of the misery and to solve my problem I fell in this situation and I am carrying a foetus of someone I barely know and for this I hate myself. I have not heard from him from that day he called me.”

Right after she finished her regretful life story the doctors started to call on the patients to bring our conversation to an end.

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