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Egypt: ‘In Sinai, I saw hell’; refugees are easy prey for brutal human traffickers
Question of the Day
Egypt’s lawless Sinai Peninsula is a living hell for thousands of refugees from sub-Saharan Africa who are being kidnapped and tortured by a network of rapacious human traffickers.
Most of the refugees are Eritrean Christians; others are from Ethiopia and Sudan.
The traffickers chain together groups of men and women; pour molten plastic on their bodies; deprive them of food, water and sleep; subject them to vicious beatings and electric shocks; and force them to smoke hashish and rape one another, according to survivors interviewed by The Washington Times.
“They forced us to behave like animals,” Mr. Habte said in a phone interview from Cairo, where he was released in May after his sister in Australia paid a $40,000 ransom.
In Eritrea, Mr. Habte was persecuted because of his religion.
“Our church was locked. We couldn’t even pray to our own God,” he said.
In December, he fled to Sudan in search of a better life but became trapped in a vicious network of extortionists.
Sudanese soldiers arrested him and sold him to members of the Rashaida, an Arab tribe, which in turn drove him to the Sinai, where they sold him to Bedouin traffickers.
Once in the Sinai, the kidnappers give their captives mobile phones and demand that they call their families to beg for large ransoms.
“These people are tortured while their families are listening on the other end,” said Stockholm-based Meron Estefanos, co-founder of the International Commission on Eritrean Refugees.
Security in the Sinai has worsened since Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military July 3, after four days of massive protests against the Islamist leader. Bedouins have attacked Egyptian military personnel. Christians, too, have been assaulted.
A 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty limits the number of Egyptian forces that can be deployed in the Sinai. This month, in an acknowledgment of the grave situation there, Israel permitted the Egyptian army to deploy two more infantry battalions to the peninsula.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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