Israel, don’t shut the door in the faces of asylum seekers like me

African migrants protesting in Tel Aviv, Jun 10, 2017. (photo: Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)

Only Israel can protect us now that we have lost every other hope. Please don’t shut the door in our faces.

By Monim Harun | Jewish Telegraphic Agency | Mar 27, 2018

A person who suffered force labor, violence, rape and torture in his own country — is he not a refugee?
Someone who was persecuted only because of her religion and ethnic background — is she not a refugee?
A person forced to flee his home only because of his skin color — is he not a refugee?
Someone whose village was burned and her family members killed in front of her eyes — is she not a refugee?
And he who survived a genocide — is he not a refugee?
If these people are not considered refugees in Israel, than who is?

My name is Monim Harun, an asylum seeker from Sudan. I was born in a small village nested between mountains and forests, where we lived together as one big family. At a young age I was separated from my family and the people I loved most in the world when the militia forces attacked our village. They went through the village killing every man and boy in sight, but by a miracle I survived. My mother wanted me to live in a safer place and have the opportunity to study, so in 2001, at the age of 12, she sent me to the other side of the country, to the Blue Nile region of the Republic of Sudan.

When I left the village it felt bittersweet — leaving behind my mother and sisters, and the people I loved. But I knew that in doing so, I would be able to acquire new skills that would help me rebuild my community on my return. In the Blue Nile region I completed elementary through high school, and was accepted to Blue Nile University. I spent three years there studying toward a degree in electrical engineering — five years are required for the program. During those years I joined a student organization that fights against the rule of radical Islam in Sudan, and calls for a democratic, secular and liberal system of government. My involvement in social and political advocacy wound up placing my life in great danger, all the more so because my Fur ethnicity is one against which the Sudanese government has been perpetrating genocide.

In 2011, the Sudanese dictatorship decided to attack the area in which I was studying. I was forced to flee the Blue Nile region when the security forces began searching for me in order to arrest me. After trying many times to return and finish my studies, I finally realized in 2012 that I would not be able to remain in the country. The security forces continued searching for me and arrested some of my friends, one of whom was held in captivity for three years and only released in 2014. I fled to Egypt but was unable to remain there because the Muslim Brotherhood, who were in power at that time, were sympathetic to Sudan’s Islamist government.

I made my way to Israel, arriving in June 2012. Upon arrival I was sent to prison for three years and later was told that I would be deported to the country from which I fled, despite my request for asylum and my statement that my life would be in danger if I were sent back. I was imprisoned for a year and a half in Saharonim prison and then was held in the Holot detention center until January 2015.

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