Ahmed, a 28-year-old Eritrean, was born in Sudan to Eritrean parents who moved to Sudan to escape the war.
Having lived all his life as a refugee, Ahmed has never felt that he belonged in Sudan. “I was not accepted by the community, being a foreigner… Wherever I went, they called me ‘habshī’ in a derogatory manner [term used to refer to someone coming from Eritrea or Ethiopia]. I have no official documents. Even papers from the UNHCR do not provide you with any protection here [in Sudan]. Any soldier can arrest you, ask you to pay money and take you to the police station.”
He wanted to leave Sudan but, without documents and unable to return to Eritrea for fear of enforced military conscription and an oppressive dictatorial regime, he decided to travel to Libya and cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. “The reason I will not go back to my country is the conscription and the presence of a regime that oppresses the people – a dictatorship.”
Ahmed is from a Christian family. When he decided to convert to Islam, Ahmed’s mother was the only family member to stand by him. “[Converting to Islam] affected me and affected my friendships… In the beginning, I kept it a secret… When my family found out, the harassment started. But my mother accepted me. She told me: ‘Do whatever makes you comfortable.’”
For Ahmed, his mother is his source of inspiration and one of the reasons for making the journey from Sudan through Egypt and into Libya. “She plays a really big role in my life. She has always supported me and motivated me – she wishes the best for me. She is my inspiration… I hope to see her again.”
She plays a really big role in my life. She has always supported me and motivated me – she wishes the best for me. She is my inspiration… I hope to see her again
During his three years in Libya, Ahmed was in almost constant contact with his mother. His last contact with her was four days before he boarded the small rubber boat with 73 other men in the hope of making it to Italy. He misses her enormously and speaks about the warmth she brings to his life. “I love hearing her voice and seeing her face on video call. When I am talking to her, it is like going back to her. It is true that I cannot hug her and kiss her hands, but it makes being in a strange place feel more tolerable.”
For Ahmed, the treacherous sea journey meant not only the chance to finally “live as a decent human being” but also to provide for his mother and make her proud of him. One day, he hopes he will be able to fetch her from Sudan. “When you are born and look at the situation you are in and see how much your mother suffers for you and does everything possible for you, you must help her and make her proud of you.”