I joined the Eritrean national service in 1996. But as a Pentecostal I was jailed from 1997 to 1999, with 24 others of my faith. I saw some of them taken out of their cells and executed. I myself was tortured in three commonplace ways, each of them involving my elbows being painfully pressed together behind my back: the “almaz,” in which I was tied to a tree in that position; the “helicopter,” in which I was placed on the ground torso-down; and the “number 8,” in which I was beaten on the chest. I was tortured in a fourth commonplace way as well – being hung in the air from a bar.
After my release I defected from the army but was jailed again. Again I was eventually released, and I was assigned to the navy, but then the army took me back and punished me for having joined the navy: I was jailed for another two years. A group of us attempted to escape to Saudi Arabia by sea, but our engine stalled, and after 20 days we drifted to Sudan. There some fishermen sold us to traffickers, who sold us to another set of traffickers. They cut off one man’s thumb to intimidate us all. The traffickers drove us for several days and put us with a larger group of Eritrean refugees. Ransom was demanded of us. A young girl and two little children who couldn’t pay the ransom were taken outside of our enclosure and had their kidneys removed – they returned bleeding at the incisions, which were not even sewn up, and then they died.
The six remaining hostages, including myself, then tried to escape, but the traffickers shot two of our group, and one of those two died. I did escape, and was saved by some Sudanese whom I knew. I went to the Shagharab refugee camp in Sudan. But I wanted to get to Israel. So a friend and I walked on foot for five days through Egypt and Sinai (this was still in 2011). But then I was taken hostage by a group of traffickers and was joined with 30 other Eritreans, with whom I stayed in captivity for five days. We were placed in a house in Sinai, where a severed and stinking human head hung on the wall as a warning to those who might try to escape.
Ransom was demanded, and torture administered. I obtained $3,000 from my half-brother in England. Then those who seemed to have the potential to pay were separated from those who did not. I was in the first group, all of whom were injected with a serum that drained us of energy so that we couldn’t escape. My half-brother in England sent me an additional $500, at which point seven of us were taken to the Egyptian-Israeli border. Egyptian soldiers started shooting at us, and two of the seven died. The five others were taken to an Egyptian prison in Ismailia. Dr. Alganesh [the humanitarian] appeared there and procured my release to Ethiopia.
Here in the camp I write articles and dramas to tell my story. I have 725 pages of manuscript. I would like it to be read.