The risky journey of Rahwa

Part Two

Escaping from the hands of the Kidnappers

Anyway, I came convinced that I had no choice but to run away, before they sold me to anther gang. Because Friday is considered as a holy day for the Rashaida tribe, women prepare for that day by washing their clothes every Thursday. I stealthily took a dress [hijab/veil] and a head scarf from the clothes that had been washed by the kidnappers’ women and hid them with me in the house made up of wood, where I used to be imprisoned. At 2:00 pm, after they had all slept, I ran away from the prison with bare feet and covered my face with the dress [hijab/veil], the same way as their women do. After a long journey, I lost my direction and it became morning while I was wandering the whole night in a vicious circle. The area was barren and cramped so I could not find a place to hide in. I also felt hungry and thirsty, and I felt very scared and exhausted.

After walking for so long, I found a shrub and I slept under it. Then after long hours of sleep, I was woke up by the sun heat. Though there were vehicles moving far away from the place where I was resting, but I was too exhausted to be able to reach the road. I was so exhausted and felt very thirsty. After that, I asked myself about the best thing I could do to save and to secure myself. Then, I made myself convinced that if I want to find help, I have to get out along the main road through which cars pass. I was determined and began to move in that direction, and after a long walk, I stopped because of thirst. I had no choice so, I drank my urine, but the urine was also not enough for me and I felt very week and I began to lose hope in life. But, God saved me and at about 5:00 pm, a man wearing a turban found me while driving back home from his farm. I thought he was from the Rashaida tribe and panicked, but he called me by saying, “ya bet” means in Arabic, “you girl”. He also asked, “Are you going to kassala?” I replied to him with fear, “yes, I am going there”.  He said “get in the car.” Then, we continued with fast driving to Kassala and the man presumed that I was a Sudanese Rashaida girl because of my dress. Sudanese people have respect on women. After that when we arrived in Kassala, he said to me, “where is your house? I want to get you there.” But I could not reply because instantly I found myself weeping. Then, he said to me” do not worry” and tried to console me. But, since I did not know where to go and had no any other option I had to tell him the truth. With a voice of fear I said to him, “Haji, I want to talk to you please.” “No problem”, he replied to me.

I said to him, “I am an Eritrean girl and I was abducted by the Rashaida tribe. My friends are also abducted and are suffering there, please help them. They are in a very difficult situation, if you inform the concerned authorities, it will be very helpful.” And when he heard that, he was shocked.

Then he said to me “I thought you were a Rashaida girl”, and he continued to say, “No problem.” And he took me to his house. The man’s name was Hamed Edriss, and he helped me so much. [At his home] They gave me food, water, shelter and hosted me well. His wife was not happy when she first saw me getting into their house with her husband because she thought I was a Rashaida girl. But he explained to her by saying “sorry” and when he told her everything, she showed great sympathy for me. They also gave me clothes and shoes and I took rest for three days there.

 

Sahgarab refugee camp, where minor girls are raped

In the fourth day, they took me to the refugee reception center in Kassala. On 11 November 2011, I approached the refugee center and they received me well. Then, after four days, on 8 November 2011 at 10:00 am we moved to the Shagarab refugee camp. After a long travel in the desert, we arrived at the camp at 5:30 PM. When we finished registration at the UNHCR office there, they took me to the minor’s special refuge and care center in the camp. But, when I came there, I was very shocked to find the sad situation inside the center. Most of the young men at the centre were armed with knives and when I saw them to harass and abuse the minor girls, I hated myself and got frustrated.

One night I had bad memory of such experience. We kept watching one rape victim girl who was crying the whole night and I felt very scared without sleeping the whole night. After that I realized life in the Shagarab refugee camp was very hard and after one week, I began to familiarize myself with the place.

One day I approached the male care taker (about 35 years of age) of the minor’s center at the cafeteria and after greeting him we exchanged some conversations. Then, I said to him, “can I ask you one question?”? And he replied, “No problem, you can ask.”

Then, I asked, “Is this place a care center for refugees or a hot spot for prostitution”? He panicked when he heard my question and replied “it is a refugee care center of course.” I said to him, “I came here since a week and I see girl are subjected to harassment and rape in this center. I cannot sleep because of the terrifying situation here. In the hall, where I sleep right now, four minor girls are pregnant. Is there no solution for these violations?” I asked him my broken voice and tears flowing down my face. He was very upset when he heard my complaints. “What are you talking about?” he asked while staring at me. He added, “Anyway, please do not tell with anyone about the issue.”

“Why”? I asked him!

He replied, “Until we discuss and agree about it.” After that, the staff of the centre to discuss the matter and organized a meeting with all the young men. They put the harassment and rape of the minor girls at the top agenda of the meeting. The camp’s officials told them “some of the young men are abusing and raping the minor girls and are armed with knives. They concluded the meeting by warning them that, if anyone found to harass a minor girl or also found at the girl’s rooms, he would face consequences. But very sadly, the issue of the pregnant minor refugee girls was not raised.

After three days, a young man came and threatened me with a knife by saying, “I will teach you hard lesson, do not feel secure and relax.” Though I tried to report threats to the officials, I was very scared and could not find a chance to report. I did not feel safe and secure after that and could not sleep, and I was only sleeping after breakfast time. The situation became bitter to me, but I did not have an option. After that, I heard the young people who had been harassing and raping the minor girls had even threatened the official in charge of the minor’s center.

A week later, the criminals again began to threaten and harass the minor girls. It was very hard when I heard the girls crying and I felt very sad for them. I was deeply worried about a potential threat of harassment and rape, which I could be subjected to one day at the hands of those criminals. The conditions in the camp make people hate their life. After that, I tried to leave the camp, but I did not have money or any supporter. I was very upset and did not know what to do, and thus the only option I had was just praying.

After that, a minor girl, 14, who was my roommate fell very ill. She was vomiting and her condition worsened, and then I took her to the hospital. A doctor gave her glucose injection drip and when he asked her permission to do blood examination, she told him that she was pregnant. The doctor who was very shocked and asked her, “Who impregnated you?”

The girl replied while crying, “I do not know them; I was raped by three men.” Then, the doctor felt very sympathetic with her. He said to her, “No problem, do not worry”, in attempt to console her. He added, “Now, we must do blood examination for you”, and she agreed do the test. Then, blood was taken from her for the test. After that, we were waiting for the blood test with impatience and anxiety, and we waited for long time. Doctors were also worried and did know how to inform her, considering her difficult conditions. After her health condition improved, a psychiatrist came and told her that she is an HIV carrier. She was shocked and felt very sad, and I had also the same feeling. Her infection with HIV made me feel deep sadness, not even to mention the raped and pregnancy.

 

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