There are an estimated 518,000 people living in modern slavery in Egypt, 465,000 in Sudan and an estimated 451,000 in Eritrea (GSI 2018). Since 2006 tens of thousands of Eritreans fleeing widespread human rights abuses and destitution have ended up in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Until 2010, they passed through Sinai voluntarily and generally without any problems and crossed in to Israel. However, since then, Sudanese traffickers have kidnapped Eritreans in eastern Sudan and sold them to Egyptian traffickers in Sinai who have subjected at least hundreds to violence in order to extort large sums of money from their relatives.
Awate* was kidnapped on the way to Israel from Eritrea. She was kept for two weeks in Sudan and then transferred to Sinai where she was subjected to physical and sexual abuse. She was finally released after her family paid the smuggler’s ransom.
I am a citizen of Eritrea. I came to Israel to work and live with my husband who is already in Israel. We have a son, 4-years-old, who stayed with my mother in Eritrea. I left Eritrea to Sudan and first wanted to arrive to the Shagareb refugee camp, but on the way, I was kidnapped by Bedouin smugglers who kept us for two weeks in the desert in Sudan. After that they transferred me and three other people to Sinai. I stayed in Sinai for five months. I underwent physical and sexual abuse. The smugglers chained both of my legs with a metal chain. They also blindfolded me with a piece of fabric so I did not see any light for five months. Also, during that time I received beatings with a water hose, with a stick, with rubber. I received the beatings on my arms, legs, around me ears and on my back. [The detainee shows injuries and cuts on her body – Tribunal note]. To this day my ears hurt from the beatings. Also, the smugglers burned me with cigarettes [the detainee shows burns – Tribunal note]. I suffered from hunger, and received food only once every two days, they only gave us pita bread.
I would also like to tell that in Sinai, one Bedouin guard named Haitham wanted to rape me, but I did not agree. So he beat me and burned my chest with cigarettes, and then raped me while I was chained with another girl. I did not see him because I was blindfolded. At first, this guard placed his genitals into my mouth, and then he inserted his genitals into my genitals. He raped me for four days straight. After that, they replaced him and the rape stopped. This rapist did not use contraceptives. They examined me at the clinic and told me I am not pregnant. I feel pain in my ears and legs. I would like to see a doctor.
Eventually, I paid them $40,000 to release me and smuggle me to Israel. My husband and his friends transferred all this money to the smugglers. I know that my stay in Israel is illegal and that I entered it illegally. I am not willing to return to Eritrea now.
Narrative as featured in the report ‘Tortured in Sinai, Jailed in Israel: Detention of Slavery and Torture Survivors under the Anti-Infiltration Law’ made possible by The PME Foundation