The past few months, we here in Israel have lived through some horrendous tales of violence and sexual abuse and misconduct. Our former President was convicted of rape, a highly-important rabbi indicted for sex crimes and stories of murder and sexual assault of young men and women, often at the hands of their peers, abound.
Despite that, or perhaps because of that, this is a story I think we all need to hear: The story of one woman’s outstanding heroism in the midst of the horrible conditions being endured by Eritrean refugees.
While the world looks to Egypt for new hope, hundreds are being killed and tortured for financial gain on her Southern border.
A hopeless situation? Perhaps. But not according to Zeid and the 50 people she who owe her their lives.
A Heroine Seeking Shelter: Despite Being Raped, She Freed Her Colleagues
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Zeid, a 30-year-old asylum-seeker who had been raped by Bedouin smugglers in the Sinai, managed to steal the keys to the prisoners’ cells and release her comrades. This according to the testimonies of prisoners who fled to Israel
About 50 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea were able to escape two weeks ago from Bedouin smugglers who held them in the Sinai and reached the Israeli border. About 30 of them managed to cross the border, while the others were apparently sold by Egyptian soldiers back to the smugglers. This is according to the testimonies of four refugees who entered Israel and told their version of the story to the Hotline for Migrant Workers.
The prisoners who escaped owed their lives to Zeid, a 30 year old prisoner, who through ingenuity and courage, managed to release them from the camp. They said that about ten days ago she was brutally raped by one of the guards at the smugglers’ detention camp. The refugees explain that when the smugglers returned Zeid to the camp grounds, she stole the key to to the prisoners’ cell and hid it in her hair.
The group that was released from their cells took captors’ Kalashnikov rifles, threatened them, and fled, armed to the Israeli border. Before crossing the border into Israel, they threw down their weapons and, thereby, secured their entry into Israel, directly into the hands of IDF forces who took them from there to Ketziot Prison.
Zeid, the heroic prisoner, currently remains at Ketziot Prison. Abraham Asmelsh, age 25 from Sudan, who was able to escape thanks to her efforts asked to say one sentence to her : “Thank you Zeid. Thanks to you, we are still alive.” Abraham promises to keep the key Zeid brought to him for the rest of his life.
Rape, Starvation and Violence
The place where the refugee group was held for the past six months was like a pigsty. Conditions were appalling and difficult – without regular food, toilets, showers or proper places to sleep. “We got a half-liter bottle of water per day. When it was very hot, we were given two bottles per person,” says Mussa Naim, one of the asylum seekers who had been imprisoned by the Bedouin. “When I came to the desert I weighed 85 kilo. Within six months I lost 30 kilo.”
“They were taking the women every day. When I tried to prevent them from taking them, they beat me with sticks. I still have signs,” Musa said, “They argued that the women were not my sisters, so it was not my business what they did with them. The women were crying and shouting. I could not sleep. After several months, it became clear that none of them got their monthly menstrual cycle. Some of them did not realize that they were pregnant. ”
Dozens of concentration camps of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea are operating in the northern Sinai Desert, half an hour from the border of Israel – Egypt. A report that was prepared by the “Hotline for Migrant Workers” presents accumulated testimony of experiences of severe abuse from asylum seekers who managed to reach Israel. According to the report, ownership and control of the camps is divided between the Sinai Bedouin smugglers, and Egyptian military personnel, who maintain an extensive business relationship with them.