Adam (right) and Daher at IDC
Photo: Rafi Barbiro
Darfuri refugee camp
Photo: AFP
Empty streets of Mogadishu
Photo: MCT

'Trying to prevent next genocide'

Adam Bashar and Daher Said have come long way from genocide in homelands, through torturous journey to Israel, to becoming full-fledged students at prestigious college. All along the way, they haven't lost sight of their true goal – to bring about social change

Adam Bashar's life took a sharp turn when he was only 15-year-old. In the early hours of the evening, while Adam was playing outside with his friends, rebels stormed his village in Sudan's Darfur region and burned it down.


Adam and his friends escaped to the forest and then began their journey from village to village, in an effort to flee the rebels who were torching every village in their path.


Adam, 23, left behind his parents and three brothers. After passing through two villages, he reached the capital city of Khartoum, where he stayed eight months with a woman who fled from Darfur as well.


From Khartoum, Adam escaped to Egypt where he lived for a year and a half. During the day, Adam would sit at the United Nations office in Egypt, until one day local police officers expelled him and his friends, telling them to go work in the Sinai Peninsula.


Adam and his friends began working in a henhouse in al-Arish, but after two months they realized their employer was withholding their wages, and so they decided to take a chance and escape to Israel.


Plans went wrong when Adam and his friends lost their way in the desert, and were eventually spotted by Border Guard officers who took them to their base and from there to prison.


Adam spent six months in a juvenile prison. After his release, he was sent to work in Kibbutz Zeelim in the northern Negev, where he stayed for three months.


In the Kibbutz, Adam learned Hebrew, and when he turned 17 he decided he wanted to study – and so he did. Despite the hardships, Adam attended Yamin Orde religious youth village at Hof HaCarmel Regional Council near Haifa.


Reunited with family after 10 years

In 2007, Adam contacted a Darfuri journalist who reported extensively on the refugee camps in Sudan's bloody region. After three months, the reporter managed to locate Adam's family – who was staying in one of the camps– and arranged for them to speak with Adam on the phone.


Adam's dream is to visit his family, whom he has not seen in 10 years.


"After I finished high school in 2008 I decided to volunteer with organizations that help Darfuri refugees. Together with some friends we founded the B'nai Darfur organization, which helps refugees who escaped to Israel get identification cards, find jobs, register for school and more."


According to Adam, the organization strives to connect between the refugee community and Israeli society, and tries to familiarize Israelis with the refugees and their history. Today, Adam works as a supervisor in the organization.


In 2009, he signed up for a computer course in the Open University, but quickly withdrew after learning that he could earn a degree in English at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya.


Adam chose the government track due to his activities in the refugee community, and his current position at the Tel Aviv Municipality as a mediator between African children and the municipality and Tel Aviv schools.


Today Adam is a second year student in the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, and is receiving a scholarship from the IDC.


"The most important and significant thing to me is to be a good person and follow your values," Adam explains his world view.


'Better risk your life than live in humiliation' 

Twenty four-years-old Daher Said's life story is similar to that of Adam's on many accounts. Daher was born in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu and left the city when he was 16, with the outbreak of the civil war.


The disproportional distribution of tribes in Somalia led the bigger tribes to control the smaller ones and infringe on the rights of other tribe members.


Daher's family comes from the Midgaan tribe – a relatively small and powerless tribe in the country. His tribe members suffered from discrimination, humiliation and eventually also extermination.


Two years after the murder of their parents and sister, Daher and his older brother Duad realized they must leave Somalia in order to save their lives.


They received an offer to sell their parents' house and buy flight tickets to Egypt, or alternatively travel to a refugee camp in Kenya.


Daher and his brother moved to Egypt with student visas and stayed there for five years, in which they mostly lived in refugee shelters, where they studied English and computers.


Daher says Egyptian people are not particularly easy to handle, and recalls that some treated them in a racist and cruel manner.


In Egypt, like in Somalia, it was unsafe for them to wander out in the street, and Daher dreamt of moving to a place where he could live in peace and safety.


Daher decided to try realizing his dream in Israel, Libya or Sudan. He did some research on Israel and concluded that it was the prefect destination.


"I argued with my brother on the issue of escaping into Israel. He claimed that it would be a life-endangering act, and said I would be killed if I were to get caught by the Egyptian police.


"But I decided to take the chance rather than continue living in humiliation," says Daher.


After a few months, Daher and his brother decided to escape to Israel with a group of refugees. The journey in the desert was not easy – the Egyptian police chased them and killed a few of the group members.


"My brother and I were lucky, and managed to cross the border safely," confesses Daher. After competing their journey, Border Guard officers took them to their base, and from there to the Beersheba police station.


From Cafeteria worker to full time student  

The immigration system, which is not equipped to handle Somali refugees, did not know what to do with Daher and his brother, and so they faced a long and agonizing bureaucratic battle.


From Beersheba, the two were transferred to a shelter in Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station. Later on, Daher got his documentations and began working in a cafeteria at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya.


"The period when I worked at the IDC was the best time of my life. During my work I met students who became my friends and explained to me how I can register and become a student myself," Daher recalls.


After much contemplation, Daher decided to enroll to the IDC and was accepted – but now he had to find financing.


He applied for scholarships, and after receiving half a scholarship, he was informed that the school found a donor to finance the second half of his scholarship for the first year.


Daher recently began his second year at the IDC, and is currently looking for donors to sponsor him through the remainder of his studies.


Daher says he finds it difficult to deal with the academic study materials in English, and describes his daily struggle to provide for the funds he needs in order to survive.


However, despite the many hardships, Daher says he feels as though the IDC and its staff "are my family and my home," adding that he attends class with students from all over the world who have become his friends and "treat him differently."


There are nine refugees from different African countries attending the IDC, including Adam and Daher.


"My dream these days is to be an educated person with the ability to give back to my community," Daher says and notes that he would like to be the spokesperson for people that have experienced his situation.


One day, Daher would like to return to Somalia and bring about a social change in the country. But for now, he is starting with a "domestic" change – Daher is currently volunteering with Beit Hillel, in an effort to establish a program to help refugees.



פרסום ראשון: 11.07.10, 08:30
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