Adam, 30 years old, from Darfur, Sudan
Adam Ahmed grew up in Disa, a village in the Darfur region, where agriculture and farming are still the primary means of sustenance. “What is still on my mind is the way of life… As a child I worked at the farm with the family and also I worked with the animals outside… We didn’t have tap [water] so we dug wells and also took water sometimes from lakes. The life was very simple. Everybody was happy with that life,” Adam said.
Looking back, Adam admits his life may seem difficult by Western standards. But he believes that there was a genuine sense of contentment among his people. There was also a sense of belonging, a sentiment slowly eroding among those exiled.
Adam’s family was wealthy by local standards. His family grew tomatoes, watermelon, okra, and other vegetables, and had roughly 100 camels and 500 sheep. Having a large herd allowed Adam’s family to hire outsiders to help with the work, which gave him and his siblings more freedom.
Adam’s mother was adamant about Adam and his brother going to school. When Adam was six, she persuaded Adam’s father to let them move to Fashir, Darfur’s capital, where the boys could study. In 2003, the Fashir airport was attacked by Darfuri rebels. This marked the beginning of the ethnic conflict.
“I remember when I was young our relations were normal with the Arab tribes. They would come near our house, they were nomads, and moved with the animals every four to six months.” However, once the conflict started, the government armed the Arab tribes and actively fostered ethnic tensions. The Arab militia quickly gained notoriety and became known as “Janjaweed”, meaning in Arabic “Devils on Horseback”.
Fearing for his life, Adam’s parents sent him to Khartoum where he spent most of his time steering clear of police raids and hiding in his cousin’s house. With more people being arrested daily, Adam’s cousin advised him to leave Sudan. "I didn’t say goodbye to anyone, just a friend, because if I [went] home they would arrest me.”
He arrived to a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, where new Sudanese arrivals temporarily stayed. On the second day, he found roommates from his region in Darfur and moved out. Far away from home, and very young, Adam relied on the support of his new community to guide him.
With his mother’s wishes at heart, Adam pursued every opportunity for education. “I took different courses at different places, seminars at the American University from professors who spoke on different topics and lecturers coming from different places from the globe [giving] lectures on different things, topic of refugees, conflicts in different places, refugees who live outside and their difficulties.”
“I never expected to be in Israel, never,” Adam said. It took him one year to save enough money to pay a smuggler from Cairo to take him to Israel. “He [the smuggler] came to pick me up in his old Mercedes… It was dangerous for him for us to sit in the car. He opened the back [trunk] and put us over there and locked us. When I came out even my neck I could not move… They brought us before the first road and said this was Egyptian, then the next one was international, and the third one was Israeli… When we came to the border everyone was afraid so they started to run to cross quickly because then the Egyptians started to shoot. I’m not sure what happened to the people behind me. When we crossed, we saw the Israeli army.”
After spending two days at the army base, all were transported by buses and dropped off in Be’er Sheva. Adam then found his way to Tel Aviv and stayed with a friend he met in Cairo.
In 2008, when the State imposed geographic restrictions on the community, Adam moved to Eilat where he volunteered in the field of childhood education. “We created Youngster’s Dreams… an education project for 30 children. We would work 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm with children and then 7:00 pm to 10 pm with adults. The adults would pay and we would cover rent [for the center].”
After the restrictions were lifted, Adam went back to Tel Aviv and established another branch of Youngster’s Dreams, which is still active to date. Recently, in December 2016, he also created and founded The Refugee Dream Project (http://www.rdreamproject.org/) to support education for a Darfuri refugee camp is east Chad.
Despite his accomplishments, Adam is still at threat of being imprisoned and his life is constantly hampered by the lack of legal status. “I cannot open a bank account. I cannot send money to my family back home. I go to the hospital and it is a problem. Registering for school is a problem. Renting a place is sometimes impossible because they assume that I will leave. Even education [abroad], they see my visa and know that I cannot leave [Israel].”
In spite of severe obstacles, Adam Ahmed recently published his first book, "The Nightmare of the Exile". Its sequel, "The Voyage of Destiny", was also recently published.
“The book is intended to create a better understanding for my community… Even if I can help one or two people, I will be very happy. This is my big dream. I hope that what I am doing will be a big project one day and other people will benefit from it. I will be more proud of it if my work inspires others to do the same.”
Photos: Shayanne Gal / Story: Untold Stories of Success
*30% of the profits from both of Adam's books go towards enriching educational opportunities for Darfuri refugees in East Chad through his organization, The Refugee Dream Project. You can purchase his books and learn more about them here:
The Nightmare of the Exile (https://www.amazon.com/Nightmare-Exile-Refugee-Darfur-Suffering/dp/1503587495)
The Voyage of Destiny (https://www.amazon.com/Voyage-Destiny-7-masterpieces-ebook/dp/B01B36DIV2)