There are an estimated 465,000 people living in modern slavery in Sudan (GSI 2018). Between 1983 and 2005, the central government of Sudan enslaved tens of thousands of black South Sudanese Christian and traditionalist people. It was part of a genocidal war against South Sudan, with a simple aim: to force South Sudan to become Arab and Muslim.
Ayak Piol Mabior was abducted from South Sudan with her mother and siblings and taken to the North. Her two brother died on the journey and Ayak was separated from the rest of her family upon arrival. Ayak was subjected to physical abuse and sexual violence on a regular basis. Ayak met a free worker named Rau and secretly became his wife, running away to Rau’s house when she became pregnant.
People tell me I am from Nyamlell in South Sudan, but I don’t remember it. I lived in Joushier, in Darfur. My baby is named Achuil.
When I was abducted, my father was killed in front of me. They slit his throat with a knife. Then the attackers took me, my mother and my siblings to the North. I had three older sisters and two brothers. Both my brothers died. One of them was beaten to death on the way to the North. I don’t know why the other one died, but he was very small – still nursing. Once we arrived, we were separated from each other.
I was taken to Mammud’s house. He mistreated me. Even though I was small, he beat me on my chest and back. I still can’t lift heavy things because of it. He raped me, even though I was a small girl. I tried to resist, but he sliced my left breast with a knife, and then did it anyway.
I had to collect water and firewood for Mammud’s household. He had a wife named Asha and two children, Mamus and Yaya. They were not my friends. They wouldn’t let me eat with them, and gave me bad food to eat. I slept in an outdoor hut with the goats. I was all alone. I thought of my brothers and sisters often. When I was sick and no one was there to care for me, I thought about them, because they would have taken care of me. But I had no way to reach them.
Mammud changed my name to Fatima, but it’s not my real name. The Arabs told me they were planning to circumcise me. One of Mammud’s children said, “It will make you our sister.” I felt bad, because this is not for the Dinka. Dinka girls cannot be circumcised. So every time they told me they were going to circumcise me the next day, I would run away in the morning and hide in the bush all day. It became a problem for them. They were angry, but they were worried I would get lost. So they gave up.
They tried to make me pray like a Muslim. I even fasted for three days during Ramadan, but I felt terrible and was suffering. They didn’t want me to die, so they let me drink during the day and gave me some leftovers.
Mammud tried to make me his wife, but I refused. The father of my baby is a Dinka man named Rau. He was a free worker who I met in the marketplace. I decided to be his wife. We kept it secret.
After I became pregnant, I ran away. I told my master I was going to the market for him, and when I got there, I disappeared. I went to Matari, to Rau’s house, where the baby was born. When I heard that there was an Arab man taking Dinka people back to South Sudan, I took my baby and went to meet the Arab man. I wanted to see my family again.
The slave retriever is a good person, because he brought us back to our land. I will try to find my family, and if they are still in the North, I will keep waiting for them to come back. If God is there, they will come.
Narrative provided by Christian Solidarity International