A Shocking Tragedy Behind Human Trafficking in Ethiopia: One Woman’s Horrific Story

By Betre Yacob.

Metema-Galabat, a ‘desert rout’ of human trafficking from Ethiopia to Sudan, is a place of suffering for many Ethiopian girls. Physical and emotional abuse, including rape, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, beatings, and even death are just some of the horrors the majority of trafficked girls face while passing through this rout. This is why many compare the rout to that of the North Africa’s ‘deadly tunnel’—Sinai desert.

Workie Endalkachew is one of many Ethiopian girls who have experienced such serious human right violations and suffering during a journey through this dodgy root to  Khartoum, the capital of Sudan— the oil producing country. She was found unconscious on 25 September, 2013 by the Sudan border guards in the desert located in eastern part of the country, and fortunately escaped from the teeth of death.

As it is known victims of human trafficking, particularly those who are raped and sexually assaulted are often unwilling to tell their horrific experience because of the shame. However, motivated by a courageous desire to expose the horrific feature of human trafficking, Workie told to me her experience one by one.

Dreaming a Better Future

Workie was a student when she was recruited and prepared for the journey. She was convinced by a local broker who promised her an employment and a better life in Sudan. She was trafficked together with her school friends by well organized traffickers who have a connection with Ethiopian local authorities.

“When I left my village, I was confident I would reach Khartoum safe and find a very good job”, Workie narrates her story. “I was thinking just how hard I would work and help my poor parents who were in problem to cover their basic expenses. I was dreaming about the successful and joyful life I expected in my new country.”

Workie says that her parents too were very happy when she left her village. She says that they were sure that she would reach Sudan, find a good job, and change their hand to mouth life. “No one expected something bad might happen”, she noted.

“Odd and Tail Come After”

Workie says the trip was as peaceful as she had expected until they reached the Ethio-Sudan border. “When we arrived at the border— it was midnight”, Workie says. “There, we were taken by 5 Sudanese to an underground house far away from the main road. We walked for more than 30 minutes to reach there.”

There, at the middle of the night, Workie was violently raped by 2 traffickers. “They said ‘take off your coloth!”, she says as tears ran down her cheeks.  “I said ‘No  – so they beat me up severely and forced me to have sex with them.”

By the next evening, the deadly journey, which crosses the burning Metema-Galabat desert, began on foot-using the moon light. “I was not ready for the trip” she says. “I was feeling pain all over my body. But, I had no choice but to accompany them.”  Workie says that the desert was more than challenging. “It was a hell: besides its testing heat, it was covered with small shrubs which have nasty thorns. Except dangerous snacks- no life was there”, she explains.

On the second day of the trip, Workie took her second brutal beating for refusing to have sex. “Although I begged him not to do that—he didn’t accept me”, she says. “I tried to run away, but he easily cached me and beat me up and…”, she explains.

On the same day, 4 other girls were raped, and one girl [she was the very youngest in the group] was also brutally killed to have been stabbed with a knife for refusing what the traffickers asked her to do. “It is really dis-speakable”, Workie explains. “They didn’t have the human sense like us”, she noted.  Workie says that the girl was killed after being raped.

Desperate and frightened, Workie now decided to come back home. But, when she later thought how far away she came across the desert, she regretted and began to pray. “I was so late to take any action except to pray”, she says.

On the following day, all the girls were sick and weak; and their feet were seriously scratched and wounded. Despite the hunger, they were extremely dehydrated. It had been more than 24 hours since they saw water. But, even in this life threatening condition, they experienced the same problem they had experienced the day before. 3 girls were brutally raped.

The next day was the worst of the worst. Three girls [Two of them were those who had been brutally raped a day before] left behind in the heart of the burning desert to have been unable to keep the journey. “I didn’t try to help them”, Workie says. “I was almost the same to them. I was very weak; I was walking wildly and desperately”, she explains.

Workie says that some of the girls, who had relatively better physical strength, were as to help the girls, but the traffickers prevented them from doing so claiming that such acts would slow the journey.

In this way, after 5 day’s deadly journey, the girls arrived at a place where one of the traffickers received a phone call. “I don’t know what the caller was telling to him, but he was so scared”,  Workie explains.

After the conversation done in Arabic, the traffickers threatened the girls and begun to collect their pocket money, mobile phone, and other properties. “When he asked me: give me the money in your pocket? I said no.” workie says. “So he beat me on my face with iron pipe and dragged me away. I don’t know what then happened. When I opened my eyes I found myself in a hospital taking a medical treatment. And the doctor told me that I was even stapped with knife”, she explains.

Workie says that the traffickers had food and water. “In every stop, they would eat and drink, and then rap us”, Workie says. “Noon of them was voluntarily to give us water or food, even to those raped and seriously injured”, she explains.

According to Workie each night they travelled around 35 Km. She says that they had sometimes to run. According to her they used to travel only by night, using the moonlight, not to be seen by Sudan border guards. “We used to spend the day hiding in selected places-usually under caves and shrubs”, she says.

Human Trafficking in Ethiopia

Human trafficking is an immense problem in Ethiopia. As a result of rampant poverty, large numbers of Ethiopian girls are voluntarily trafficked to Sudan, through illegal ‘desert routes. They are mainly trafficked for household labor purposes including cleaning rooms and compounds, washing, cooking, disposing waste, and looking after children and elders.

The challenge the girls face during the journey is not the end but the beginning of the trauma. Even in the case they succeed to reach Sudan and get a job, they are subjected to abuses such as long working hours, unbearable workload, restricted movement and isolation, inability to change employers, lack of leisure, denial of wages, and irregular payment of wages.

Who are the Traffickers ?

Trafficking in persons is extremely lucrative in Ethiopia. As indicated by Africa Plus News (2011), traffickers who prey on girls in Ethiopia expect to earn around seven thousand Ethiopian Birr (More than US $800) for each person they send.

Many think that these traffickers are ordinary people or that they are doing the business because of poverty. The truth is, however, that these people are economically rich and are those who are not commonly expected to be trafficker. According to a research conducted by Bahir Dar University, most of them are known in the community positively, and do have their own legal business in big cities of the country. In addition, the study shows that most of them run the trafficking business together with border police, border guards, and other responsible government officials.

Source: http://www.assaman.info/

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