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Rape victims tell horrifying stories from the Sinai

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Refugees trekking across sub-Saharan Africa have begun to come forward with stories, of rape, torture and abuse at the hands of human traffickers. One such victim, Tegisti Tekla from Eritrea, now safely in a refugee center in Tel Aviv, told of her harrowing ordeal of her journey through Sudan and the Sinai.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Tegisti says that she was raped by people traffickers repeatedly during her journey. She told me she wanted to talk about her suffering to help prevent others from going through the same.

"They are cruel people," she says. "They are criminal people and they don't have the human sense like us. I screamed that I am virgin but they just don't care at all about you."

She was first raped after the traffickers selected her and another female refugee from a larger group. Spirited away, they were told that they would have to "make coffee" for the smugglers.

Finally reaching Israel, Tegisti found out she was pregnant and decided to have an abortion. "I would suffer all my life," she said. "I would have a son or a daughter without a father. That's why I decided not to have the baby."

People trafficking are rife throughout the Sinai desert. Many of the refugees from sub-Saharan Africa who get smuggled through here get tortured and blackmailed in the process. Bedouin gangs often hold them captive, torture them and force relatives into paying ransoms for their release.

Women refugees have an especially arduous ordeal placed before them. Many of them are raped by the traffickers and some become pregnant.

The African Refugee Development Center, an aid group that provides food and shelter, says many women who make it to Israel are pregnant from rape and many ask for an abortion. Very few women carry their babies to term who have babies fathered by people traffickers.

"Women say they will not get any support from their community if they are victims of rape so they will keep completely silent about it so that they are not ostracized. Even more so if they are pregnant," Diddy Mymin Kahn, an aid worker told CNN.

Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean-born Swedish activist and journalist says she frequently hears stories of rape and other sexual abuse.

"In some cases babies are even born in the torture camps," Meron says. "Then the people smugglers sometimes tell the women that they have to pay double the ransom because there are two people now."

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