We have recently been told about an inspirational man named Ali, who fled the terror of Sudan and has found himself in Israel.
Trapped and neglected in the Holot detention centre, with the only hope for his future, the offer of a place to study Human Rights Law in Germany, taken away because Israel will not grant him refugee status.
This is his story.
“I am Ali.
I am from Darfur, Sudan, and I fled to Israel because of the genocide that everyone knows about today. But I want to tell my personal story because of what I have witnessed in Israel for four years. The international community has no idea how we are suffering.
When I first entered Israel in 2011, there was not one person there to care about my future. We arrived and were told to go to Tel Aviv, without knowing anything about the country. We came from Darfur: we didn’t know Hebrew, we didn’t know the way the society worked, we didn’t know anything. Imagine yourself, suddenly dropped in Darfur and someone says go. Where can you go? What would you do?
It is a horrible situation that we live in. When a member of parliament says frankly to the media: ‘the Sudanese people are a cancer in our body’, can you imagine how individual citizens act towards me. They can treat me as a cancer. But in the end, there is nowhere else to go. We have to accept it. But it is shameful for the government to say such things. I will remember that for my entire life.
This opportunity to continue my interrupted studies was a dream for me. In particular, to study human rights law is important to me, because where I lived, there are no human rights. If so, I wouldn’t see genocide in Darfur, and people being persecuted because of the colour of their skin or the ethnic group they belong to. They said as long as you are in Israel and you are not recognised as a refugee we cannot give you a visa to travel to Germany.
I don’t know how I can personally change my status, if Israel as a country has not given any Sudanese person refugee status for 10 years. I didn’t choose to be in this situation. The government of Israel put me in this situation. And the government of Sudan put me in that crisis.
I have been given a hard time by this life. But I am aware about this and the situation. I have lived worse than this in Darfur. To see innocent civilians brutally murdered in front of your eyes, women raped in front of your eyes, villages burned with your eyes, is harder than to be denied a visa. I lived all of it, so I know. But still, it is hard if you have the dream to study and to pursue a normal, fulfilling life.
I know the situation is tough in Holot, but I accept it. I didn’t choose to go there, and no single Israeli resident chose me to go. But the government established the detention centre and they summoned me there. So I will go.
But I retain the right to talk. To show that I too am a human being with dreams for a normal life. I want to speak out to show that the system that put me in this crisis is not a reflection of a functioning society.
I will very happily answer any questions, no matter from whom. Whatever you ask. Talk to me, Ali, asylum seeker from Darfur, currently living in Holot.
Ask me about my life, my journey, my hopes and dreams, and the reality I now face. I did not choose to leave my home. Nobody chooses to be a refugee.”
Ali, like many others from Sudan and Eritrea, is isolated in the Holot detention centre in the middle of the Negev Desert, 6 hours walk from the nearest town. Located in a military training area, the tanks and bullet fire often provoke severe trauma in those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, having fled horrific violence in Sudan and Eritrea. The lack of medical assessment obscures the true impact of this, but visible symptoms include men wetting the bed during the inhumanely hot nights.
What Ali bravely doesn’t tell us is the further dehumanisation found in what would seem the smallest details, calculated to apply with the law while assaulting human dignity. We are informed that detainees are given a piece of soap the size of a ping pong ball to last ten days; they are not allowed to supplement this inadequate amount with soap or shampoo or deodorant purchased with their own money. The men are denied the ability to upkeep basic levels of hygiene.
The once strong, healthy men are fed such inedible food, undercooked rice, egg that is still raw and bad meat in meagre portions that they are also warned not to exercise for fear of collapsing due to insufficient nutrients.
This is the place that Ali, and around 2,500 others, now find themselves.
Ali was denied the opportunity to pursue his studies in Germany; he was denied the chance to engage in a conversation about human rights with fellow students from around the world.
Now, we want to open this dialogue: to share with you the circumstances in which people live because they are asylum seekers in Israel. Through Ali’s voice we aim to reclaim what the walls of Holot, both visible and invisible, try to take away.
If you would like to write to Ali, ask him questions or share with him your solidarity, please email email@example.com.