Sudanese refugees in South Tel Aviv celebrate fall of Omar al-Bashir

Faiz who grew up in Darfur said he remembers clearly the day that the militants loyal to Bashir, known as the Janjaweed, arrived in his village in Darfur.

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April 12, 2019 08:48
Sudanese refugees in South Tel Aviv celebrate fall of Omar al-Bashir

An illustrative image from 2017 South Sudanese refugees arriving at Al-Radoom in South Darfur. (photo credit: REUTERS)

As a five-year-old, Ali walked with his parents and siblings to Israel to escape the genocide in Darfur. It took him and his family two months to get to Israel

Thirteen years later, he is celebrating the fall of the man who is responsible for murdering hundreds of thousands of people in his homeland, all the way in the streets of South Tel-Aviv.

On Thursday morning, long-time Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, nicknamed the Butcher of Darfur, was removed from power in a military coup that has led to major protests as locals demand that the country be handed over to the people, and not remain in the hands of the military.

Over 300,000 people were believed to have been killed in his anti-Muslim scourges in South Sudan.

Asked how he felt about the news, Ali told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he is "celebrating."

"We have waited many many long years for this news. We are very excited. We have suffered, we have suffered so much at his hands," he said. "We are dancing in the streets, we are drinking beers, we are singing!"

Adding to this, his close friend Faiz told the Post that this news "avenges the blood of my brother who was taken as a child soldier by the militants. The last we heard of him was that he was killed in the fighting. My mother never recovered from this."

Asked if they were worried the military coup would lead to a civil war, Ali said he hoped not. "It's all dependant on what the army do. If they allow for a democratic vote, then there will be peace, but if it is another dictatorship, the people will

He said that he had family in Khartoum who had fled war in Darfur and for now they are safe. "I hope my family will be okay and I hope it won't get bad. Sudan cannot have another civil war. It will be the end of the country. I hope there will be democracy, I hope there will be peace."

Ali added that "Bashir has a lot of blood on his hands. He tore so many families a part."

Leaving Darfur for Israel at age five, Ali said he would not be able to go back and live there. "If they find out I fled to Israel and lived there, I will be killed by people there. My accent is Israeli and I speak Hebrew much much better than I speak Arabic. I can get killed for that."

Now 18-years-old, Ali said that he may try and visit his family once things become calmer there, but he said he is not sure.

Faiz who grew up in Darfur said he remembers clearly the day that the militants loyal to Bashir, known as the Janjaweed, arrived in his village in Darfur.

"My brother was taken - anyone who was young, they took and trained. He was just nine-years-old. I was 12, I hid in cupboard. They would just come to houses and take children. They never found me," he recalled. "They also raped my neighbor. That's when my family decided to walk to Israel with a few other families. We left to find peace."

Asked what he was doing to celebrate, "I'm drinking a beer with my friends. We are having a party. But I am worried there will be more dead if there is a civil war. I hope there isn't."

He said that he would like to go back to Sudan to see his family and spend time with cousins and uncles who were not able to get out during the civil war. "Some are in Khartoum, some are in Darfur. I want to see them all - I haven't seen them for many years, but until the economy is stable, I won't go back to live. But I do want to go home, just not yet."

He said there are still Janjaweed operating in Darfur and surrounding areas, "And I am afraid that they will use the fall of Bashir to murder and rape like they have done before - I am afraid that they will cause instability in Darfur again using the fall of Bashir as an excuse."

Asim, who defected from the Janjaweed and was branded by them, said he has never been able to go back to see his family. "My father was killed when they tried to take me. He tried to stop them and they killed him in front of me."

He said just days after being taken, "I ran, I ran very far and came to a group of people who were walking to the desert to Israel. I joined them and that's how I got to Israel."

"Because I was branded, it was unsafe for me to go back to Darfur to my family. If I would be caught by Janjaweed, they would kill me for defecting - and defecting to Israel," he added.

According to Asim, he doesn't think the fall of Bashir will stop people from leaving. "I think right now, there will be more people who will want to leave because they are afraid there will be more violece."

Asked if he wants to go home, he said yes. "I want to go back to my family. Although I have been here for 14 years, I miss them so much. I wish I could be with them and see them. It's time for me to go back to my family, but for now I'm going to wait and see what happens there and if things become stable."

Asim added that once it's announced there will be democratic elections, "I will be on the next plane home. I want to be there to take part and to usher in a new era of freedom for Sudan. It's time to put the violence behind us, the army must give the government back to us, the people and there must be a peaceful transition."

"We, the Sudanese, have seen too much blood, too much violence in our time. It must end," he concluded, saying "lechaim, we will drink all night."


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