Sudan-native Abubakar was forced to lie in a pit of bodies – some dead, some alive.
The extensive physical torture he had undergone left the innocent civilian as close to death as the bodies he lay beside. The idea of death no longer feared him but comforted him.
“It was the only way to protect myself, to end the situation and torture,” he said. “I felt happy because it was the real death coming to me.”
Abubakar’s captors were members of his own government. His crime was bred only from suspicion.
Although he said he felt death settle into his weary body, Abubakar miraculously survived and was able to tell his story to a group of nearly 100 people at MCCC on April 14.
“I hate my story,” Abubakar said with his thick accent and soft but determined voice. “I don’t want to do it again and I don’t want anyone else to be there.”
Abubakar, who goes by his first name only, is just one of the many innocent civilians who has suffered in Sudan.
The Darfur issue has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives and left 2.5 million people displaced. Millions have died in the recent Sudanese civil war, fueled by the Arab Muslim north against the black Christian south.
Many more innocent people still suffer today.
The genocide is led by the primarily-Arab Sudanese government with assistance from a brutal militia group called the Janjaweed. Killing, burning, and ritual rape (the Janjaweed tools of trade) are systematically used against all blacks in the Darfur region.
Abubakar’s perilous journey began while he was leading a regular life as a college student and taxi driver in Al Fashir, the capital city of North Darfur.
One day a group of men located him in Al Fashir and informed him, from a distance, with a hand gesture that someone from his family had died. Not just anyone, but his older brother.
“I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t tolerate it,” he said. “My older brother is my dad. He is my friend. Everything was gibberish.”
It was only a few minutes after receiving the news that government security surrounded him, guns aimed.
“I screamed ‘sorry, what have I done?’ They answered me by hitting me with their weapons,” he said.
On suspicion of involvement with the Darfur rebels, Abubakar was taken to a large building and put through extensive torture. Near the end of his torture, he said he lost feeling and could only hear the vicious things being done to him.
He said he knew he would die there. One of his biggest fears was for his family though, he said. He knew they would spend the rest of their lives worrying about him.
As a scare tactic, his captors showed Abubakar a pit full of bodies that he himself was later thrown into.
“In this hole there are people lying everywhere – moaning, bleeding, in pain, dying slowly,” he said, looking into the eyes of the audience members. “When I saw those people I forgot myself. I felt very sorry because I can’t do anything; no one can help them.”
It was in that hole, surrounded by bodies of other victims, that Abubakar felt death. He said that his sight, hearing, the men still beating him, all began to fade away; he felt happy.
However, when he opened his eyes again he was not in heaven, but in a hospital room. And the men standing by the door were police who had raided the interrogation building.
Fearing a recurring fate, Abubakar told his story to a nurse and planned an escape. After three days he left the hospital from where he traveled seven days on beaten legs to his mother’s village.
He eventually fled Sudan for the neighboring country Ghana where he stayed in refugee camps for four years.
Abubakar was brought to the U.S. in March 2009 through the process of resettlement done by the U.N. He said he felt immediately impelled to share his story, to raise awareness.
“I felt like the only thing I could do to help is to share my story,” he said. “There are millions people facing the same situation, same death. People still live in camps. They need to go back to their lives, to their families.”
When you look at Abubakar you see a strong and gentle man with a strong opinion on peace and gratitude for the world’s future. He said Sudan’s crisis will not be won by an uproarious democracy effort or the recent Sudan referendum, but by education and love.
“We need to build social fabric, just by knowledge,” he said. “People need to ask, ‘why do you hate me? Why do I hate you?'”
One MCCC student that attended the presentation, Tyler McCormick, was the first to shake Abubakar’s hand at the end of the presentation.
“It was crazy,” he said of the presentation and the Darfur issue. “I didn’t think stuff like that happened. I couldn’t even imagine waking up to my town being destroyed.”
Abubakar was invited to MCCC by the Newman Club, a Catholic group on campus that promotes the justice and charity of Jesus Christ.
“He was a soft spoken gentleman but you could tell that he felt it,” said Mark Bergmooser, one of the club’s co-advisors. “I thought it was an inspirational message to remember.”
Abubakar said the first step in helping the issue is to raise awareness in yourself and in others.
In terms of aid, Sudan refugee camps are desperate for assistance including with firewood, which Abubakar pointed out. The women must travel so far to collect wood that they often fall victim to the Janjaweed’s rape tactics.
Abubakar said he additionally wants people in the United States to be appreciative of their lives. To him, life in America is perfect.
“Americans don’t feel what they have – peace, freedom, justice, love,” he said. “Start from now. If you are taking it for granted, you don’t feel what you have. When you don’t feel it, you don’t enjoy it.”
For more information on the Darfur issue, visit www.savedarfur.org.
“I want to see this Earth to be a peaceful place,” Abubakar said. “We don’t need police to make speed limits. We know what’s wrong, what’s right.”