(as told to Denise Bell)
My name is Garelnabi Abusikin, and I am 22 years old. I come from the Zaghawa tribe. Our dar (homeland) is North Darfur, near the border with Chad. My father was the chief of our village, Karnoi.
My village was attacked early one morning in September 2003. The adults were still home, not in the field or at work, and the children had not left for school. I saw Janjawid ("evil horsemen") and Sudanese soldiers enter our village. They killed about 60 people. My brother, my younger sister, my grandmother and my uncle were killed. I escaped with my mother and my other sister to El Fasher, but my father stayed behind because he was the leader of our village. He was killed in another Janjawid attack in 2005.
In El Fasher, I continued to study so that I could attend college in Khartoum. This was my dream, and my family’s dream, for a long time before this war. In 2003, I went to the Al Neelain University in Khartoum, but I left that year. My uncle advised me to escape to Egypt because he thought I would be killed in Khartoum. He was thinking of my very close childhood friend, Sharif, who was also at college in Khartoum in 2003. When he spoke out against the atrocities in Darfur, he was shot and killed by the government.
I went to Cairo and applied for refugee status with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). A lot of Darfuris who escape go to the UNHCR in Cairo, so the office there is overwhelmed by all the Sudanese refugees, and it can take a long time—usually two years—for them to process your application.
When I came to the United States, I began to speak out about what was happening in Darfur. The Sudanese government found out about testimony I gave in November 2006 about what happened to my village and my family and friends. I testified in the Judgment on Genocide mock court held at the United Nations Church Center in New York.
The government arrested my mother and sister, and beat my mother and shaved my sister’s head bald. They told my mother I should stop talking. But my mother told me to keep talking. She said if I stopped talking, how would people learn about what was going on in Darfur? More people would die.
My mother and sister fled to Iridimi refugee camp in eastern Chad. Now, my mother, two sisters, and a brother are living in Iridimi camp. They are just existing, as opposed to living, in an environment that has eroded the human spirit and compromised values. The camp fosters the ongoing deprivation of human rights, disease and hunger. The camp is very large, and it is very difficult to communicate with them. I have not spoken with them in a long time.
Thousands of people I knew, grew up with and went to school with are dead. I vow to be the voice for those who never had a chance to tell what happened.
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