African Asylum Seeker Stays Positive in Israeli Detention Facility

Hassan Shakur Hopes To Go Home to Darfur

Down But Not Out: Hassan Shakur.
Daniel Bar-On/Haaretz
Down But Not Out: Hassan Shakur.

By Eetta Prince-Gibson

Published March 03, 2014.
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‘Covered in wounds’

Shakur’s earliest memories are of hunger. His desperately poor, illiterate parents separated when he was young, and he was frequently sent off to farms or schools, to study, work, and be taken care of. He was often beaten and abused, by employers, teachers, terrorist rebels or soldiers. Each time he returned to his mother, he recalls, “She made me strong and respectable. Each time I was in misery, her loving taught me to love again.”

His tone of voice is even, almost dull – except when talking about his family. That’s when he tears up. “When I was 10, I ran away to the city. One day, a relative recognized me. I was so surprised to see that someone still loved me. He took me to his house and washed me. My body was covered in wounds and my hair was white from lice eggs. He helped me get better and gave me a small wheelbarrow so I could work in the market helping shoppers with their groceries.”

When he was able to attend school, Shakur did well. By the time he was 19, he had received scholarships and was studying on a regular basis, with hopes of going to university: “But then the misery came back. Our village in Darfur was burnt down and my family was in a displacement camp. An uncle was killed. I lost my mind. I was devastated.

“I was supposed to serve in the military before going to university. Instead, I wanted to join the resistance. But my mother sold her rations from the camp so that I would have money to study. One day a group of terrorists attacked, and the people beat them off and they were all killed. Kids, as young as 4 years old, were stabbing the dead bodies over and over again, screaming, ‘Revenge! Revenge!’ At that moment I understood why my family wanted me to study instead of fighting, so I could be a true human being.”

His voice cracks again. “No one has been as beloved as I. Every time there has been misery, love has saved me.”

When he was on the run, Shakur learned that soldiers had murdered his mother and family, and that Sudanese officials were searching for him. He was in danger – and was a danger to his remaining family members. His father gave him the little money he had.

Israel wasn’t his first choice. He first fled to Cairo, where the Egyptian authorities robbed him and then detained him, starving and cold, in a room full of rancid water and mosquitoes.

Shakur then found traffickers who agreed to take a group of Darfuris to Israel. On the Egyptian side of the border, they were chained and beaten; the women in the group were raped in front of them. Then, as the Egyptians fired at them, Shakur and his friends somehow scrambled, barefoot and weak, across the border.

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