By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Sr Azezet began volunteering for Physicians for Human Rights in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2010. Three years into her new mission, Sr Azezet received a request that would prove to be life-changing. “The head of Physicians for Human Rights asked me, ‘Sister, the doctors are seeing things that they do not understand. There is no explanation of what is happening to them on the road’. If I could interview the people who said that ‘I was trafficked and tortured in Sinai’.”
Telling the story
Sr Azezet began to hear their stories: Eritreans, Ethiopians, Sudanese. Interview after interview. Volunteering once a day soon became twice a day because “it was not enough”. She began interviewing early in the morning, sometimes finishing late at night.
The interviews were not political in nature. Rather, she wanted to understand what had been done to the bodies and minds of these immigrants. “Horrific” is the word Sr Azezet uses to describe what she heard.
Some who wanted to migrate had made contracts with an agent, only to discover they had fallen into a trap. As soon as they were in Sinai, contracts were broken and they were sold “again and again”. Many others were kidnapped along the borders of Eritrea and Sudan.
She heard about their traveling conditions. Water was mixed with diesel, so they would stop asking for water. They were given little food. Many suffocated en route, hidden in water trucks or beneath heavy loads of vegetables or animals.
Hell in Sinai
Once in Sinai their plight worsened. Tortured until their ransom was paid. Suspended from wrists or ankles. Electric shocks. Melted plastic poured on their skin. Sight lost after being blindfolded too long. Sexually abused. Death threats if they didn’t pay their ransom immediately because the sale of their organs was more profitable to the traffickers.
What one person can do to another
Reflecting on the situation of these migrants, Sr Azezet says, “I couldn’t believe [what] a human person can do to another human person—the feeling of humanity—where does it get lost?” This helped her understand that without a sense of humanity, we too can become like the traffickers, and that only through that sense of humanity can we really understand the pain of another person.
To be continued.