Was that the last time I would hear my mum’s voice?
It was January 22 when I last spoke to my family in Darfur.
“Adil, things are getting worse here, we are running away again to save our lives,” mum said. She told me the government was deploying troops supported by the janjaweed militia, and that rapid forces were heading toward them to invade Golo, the western Darfur area where I was born and lived until 2003.
A heavy war between the government militia and the Sudan Liberation Movement is taking place in Golo, forcing all its citizens to flee for survival in the middle of winter. Dozens of people have been killed, including two girls who resisted rape. Many have been injured, and property has been taken by the government militia as spoils.
This is not the first time Golo has been attacked. It happened in 2003 when the war first broke out in Darfur, and that is one of the reasons I am in Israel today. And it happened in 2006, in 2010, in 2012 and in 2013. It has never calmed down. Whenever people return, it is attacked again.
Talking to the family gave me a great feeling. It is like fuel, filling you with happiness, excitement and liveliness. But things were not as one might have wished.
Knowing your family’s life is at risk is the worst ever. Hearing their tone of voice tells you that fear and helplessness are their ever-present enemies, that they know their lives are on the line. This has led me ask myself over and over if that was the last time I would hear from them, and if not, when and where are we going to meet again?
The way we ended our conversation seemed like we were saying goodbye. Of course I wished them good luck and safety, and I promised I would pray for them. That was a simple thing I could offer, but I know praying isn’t enough because God already knows the suffering of the people of Darfur. Tears aren’t enough because I have no tears left to cry anymore.
That is just a small description of Darfur’s long-term suffering. Dictatorship and persecution have torn the entire region. Genocide has reduced its population by exterminating over 3 million. Rape and the resettlement of tribes of Arab descent have changed its identity and stripped away the dignity and freedom of its own citizens.
In the meantime, Darfuris either live in fear of dying in displaced persons camps or are caught up in a marathon of attempts to escape from danger and find shelter somewhere else on this small planet. But most, like myself and my fellow refugees in Holot detention center, have not found a safe place where they can empower themselves and be the change for the sake of Darfur.
I believe imprisonment lessens the chance of peace in our countries. I always seek to be part of the inevitable change in my country, and the same goes for the rest of the refugees, who oppose wrong policies in their countries.
In contrast, the wrong policies of the Israeli government jeopardize each detained refugee — by forestalling our activity and our moral commitment to bringing peace and stability to our homes.
All I have left is hope! I hope this predicament, and the suffering of human beings all over the world, is reduced to zero. Everyone deserves to live equally and enjoy life as a human being.
As for my family, I hope that wasn’t our last talk. I hope you are safe, and hope God reunites us soon in a safe and better environment. Despite the tragic situation of my family and other innocent people, I will never lose hope for a new Sudan. Losing hope increases the chance of failure.
To the Israeli government: Criminalizing refugees from Africa for racial and religious reasons and keeping them in prison is just strengthening the dictatorships in Africa and the incremental suffering of its people.
Instead of treating us as criminals, empower us to be good leaders for the future generations in our country. Be what you have to be — a model example for human rights — and stand tall. In honor of survivors of the Holocaust, persecution and apartheid: Never again to genocide.
The writer is an asylum seeker held in Israel’s Holot detention center. This is an edited version of a Facebook post he wrote on January 27.