AFRICANGLOBE – In a desperate race against time, the Eritrean community living in the diaspora has managed to raise $41,000 demanded by Arab Bedouin traffickers to buy the freedom of a girl and her family.
Ahlam, who is just eight, has already seen her father beaten and tortured in front of her.
It was when the Eritrean community heard that their kidnappers would force 19 men, all captives themselves, to rape her mother in front of the little girl, that they decided they had no option but to act.
So the community has scraped the money together.
“It will be sent to Cairo,” says Meron Estefanos, who has interviewed Ahlam and her family several times since they were captured at the beginning of January.
The interviews were carried by the Eritrean radio station Erena.
The radio operates from Paris, one of the few sources of accurate information for Eritreans, who are subjected to some of the harshest censorship in the world, according to Reporters without Borders.
The tragedy begins…
The story of this family begins when they hear that a close relative is dying in Sudan.
They crossed into Sudan legally, since Ahlam’s father is a fighter, who was wounded in Eritrea’s long war of independence, that ended in 1991.
Near the Sudanese town of Kassala they were seized by Arab Rashaida tribesmen, who have specialised in these kind of abductions and kidnappings of Africans for slavery and sex trafficking.
They were sold to Bedouin from the Sinai, which is part of Egypt.
The Bedouin took the family to an illegal detention centre in the desert, where they were held with other captives and there their nightmare really began.
Meron says she has spoken to the leader of the gang that is holding the family.
“In September last year I discussed the fate of four siblings being held by the Bedouin with their leader,” she says.
“He told me ‘I bought the four for $10,000 each. I cannot lose money on them.’”
The families of these four finally paid a ransom, and the four are now in Cairo.
A Pattern of Torture
The BBC has carried reports of the plight of the Eritreans being held in the Sinai desert.
Father Mussie Zerai, who leads a Rome-based refugee charity, says 400 people, mainly Eritreans, are being held for ransom by human traffickers in the Sinai, and regularly tortured to extract a ransom, some even have their organs removed.
By Martin Plaut
Please share this article.