It is exactly midnight (January 01, 2014) right now in Cairo, Egypt. As I write this reflection, I am also enjoying the New Year celebration with flatmates and a guest. We are celebrating a coffee ceremony while watching Eri-TV. All of us here managed to talk to our families in Eritrea. One of my flatmates (a girl, 23) burst into tears after talking to her mother. All of us gave her a hug… and the coffee is there to distract her. She is taking care of the coffee.
After a tumultuous year, everyone here seems to enjoy the moment. 2013 had been a challenging year in terms of safety; with the chaotic upheavals and violent protests on the streets, living in Egypt had been and, to some extent, continues to be very uncomfortable. In fact, it has been very scary.
The trafficking survivors (myself included) are already disempowered by the violent power of the traffickers and the inability of the hosting state to address the issue. Ironically, the powerlessness of the UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations to deal with the protection needs of refugees also further disempowers the vulnerable trafficking survivors.
The protection issues aside, the last year was very busy for me. I had to work day and night for the entire year to support victims of the Sinai trafficking. On the one hand, it was an honour of my life to have worked with the survivors and, on the other, listening to the harrowing stories of the survivors almost every day was deeply disempowering and traumatising. It was disempowering because I could not do anything about it. The trafficking survivors (myself included) are already disempowered by the violent power of the traffickers and the inability of the hosting state to address the issue. Ironically, the powerlessness of the UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations to deal with the protection needs of refugees also further disempowers the vulnerable trafficking survivors.
For me, it is impossible to bear witness the mutilated, burnt and bruised bodies of the survivors and not do anything about it. My personal commitment this year is to advocate for the release of survivors of the Sinai trafficking who got stuck in prisons in various parts of Cairo. I understand doing so is so risky, but the cause is bigger than myself. I can be cautious about it, but cannot ignore it or not do anything about it. Luckily, I have my best friend and colleague, Tesfu Kebede, who is as committed as I am, and the entire refugee community supporting us. No matter how risky, we will keep insisting for the basic rights of our friends, our fellow refugees. It is all about integrity and committment.
Happy New Year!