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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 5)

‘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.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.