Semret, sold and raped

Semret, 25 years old, is Eritrean. When 20 members of the religious congregation she was part of were arrested and imprisoned, Semret realized that she was in great danger and decided to turn to a smuggler to cross the few kilometers that separated her from the western frontier of Eritrea and get to Sudan. What Semret could not imagine was that her journey would turn out to be a long and terrible nightmare.

Semret fled at night, on foot, in the company of four fellow-nationals who like her were seeking a safe place to live. After walking all night, they reached Sudan and stopped to rest in a vast desert area next to the frontier. It was then that the woman was assailed by a terrible doubt, noticing that their smuggler was making telephone calls and making sure not to be heard. When the small group saw a jeep arriving with three men aboard, it was immediately clear what was happening: they had been betrayed and sold and the traffickers had come to pick up the goods they had just bought.

“We scattered in all directions,” she says , “I was the first to be caught. I tried to get away but they got hold of me again. At which point they beat me and dragged me to their vehicle.” Semret was taken to a small isolated village made up of a brick house and some huts made from straw and mud. She didn’t have anyone to pay her ransom so she remained there for months, at the mercy of her jailers, sinking deeper and deeper into a nightmare from which there was no awakening, in which sexual violence and beatings were the daily norm.

“They came to me any time they felt like it, sometimes they brought me a Cola and a piece of cake and that was how it went on for seven months. When I became pregnant they stopped locking the house and that was when I planned my escape.” Semret covered 40 kilometers on foot before reaching the town of Kassala where finally, thanks to the help of UNHCR she was given a dignified place to stay and above all a psychological support scheme to help her through the dramatic trauma she had undergone.

Today Semret lives in the Kassala refugee camp. Her daughter, who was born in January, she has called Heyabel, which means “Gift of God”.