It is more than a year since we first met Faisal and Yassin, two Sudanese refugees living in constant fear of deportation and execution in Amman, Jordan. They are now ready to tell their story, which is meticulously backed up with documents, letters and refugee records. It is a story which follows their journey across Africa, continued harassment from Sudanese authorities and their involvement in the filming of a movie - Attack on Darfur.
Filmed in South Africa, Attack on Dafur, is a disturbingly powerful movie detailing an attack by Government backed Janjaweed militia fighters on an ethnic Sudanese village.
It features scenes of rape, killing and dismemberment which make the better known Hotel Rwanda feel like a Disney production. Faisal had escaped the horrors of Sudan and as a refugee in South Africa was directly involved in the movie which was made powerful with the help of a group of Sudanese refugees who were dubbed the Dafur 14, by the film’s German producer Uwe Boll.
These refugees, having lived through genocide in Sudan, and brutal treatment and xenophobia attacks in South Africa, acted as advisors and extras in the film – giving it the reality and authenticity that made it a ground-breaking production. What is not known is the effect of the aftermath of the movie on these refugee’s lives. Rather than being celebrated for their roles in the success of the film they dispersed throughout the world, fleeing Sudanese authorities whose reach extended into South Africa.
Faisal Malam is a confident well-spoken and educated Sudanese man. Before working as one of the Dafur 14 he had fled Sudan and made a harrowing journey through the African continent to South Africa. He had been in Khartoum studying when his village, Omalkhirat, was attacked by Janjaweed militia in 2004. His father and two brothers were killed in the attack. Another brother is missing.
His mother and sister fled to Kalama Refugee Camp and Faisal followed. He was later beaten and tortured by Sudanese security forces for his aid work in the refugee camp and asked to become informer as a condition of his release. On his release from custody Faisal fled Sudan and made a perilous journey down through Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, then onto South Africa. He describes these as “all bad places” for him and “all refugees.”
While in Harare he was arrested and robbed of the little he had by police. In 2008 Faisal arrived in South Africa and opened a shop in Khalisha. Then in a cruel twist he was caught up in the infamous May 2008 Xenophobia attacks. These were attacks by South African locals on refugees from other parts of Africa, which left homes and shops destroyed, many injured and more people dead.
His shop was burnt in the attacks and he was given refuge by aid agencies. In 2009 Faisal met the film’s producers and he became an advisor and an extra in the production. He and the other 13 were able to give accurate accounts and descriptions of the Janajweed and life in Sudan under the threat of attack.
Following the release of the film men from the Sudanese embassy began harassing and intimidating Faisal. They asked him for documentation he had on the film, which included the identities of the other members of the Dafur 14, and he refused. Scared that he could be kidnapped or killed he asked Uwe Boll for help, who suggested he seek assistance from the UN, who in turn referred him to the South African police.
There was no help other than documentation of the complaint and the opening of an intimidation case. Fearing that he would be killed Faisal and his cousin, Yassin Ibrahim, who had keenly promoted the, fled South Africa. “Most of the others involved in the movie had already gone. They were scared they would be killed.
I do not know where any of them went.” He and Yassin are now in Jordan. Yassin’s story is similar to Faisal’s. He too was tortured by Sudanese security forces, electric shocks and beatings, after being arrested for his aid work in the Kass Refugee Camp and on release was assisted by a friend in the UN to escape Sudan.
“We could be deported to North Sudan at any time. It would be death sentence for us both.” He had become involved in anti-Sudanese genocide protests outside the premier of attack on Darfur and also became a focus for harassment. In Jordan they have asylum but can’t work and a year on feel desperate about their situation.
Yassin has begun arranging protests against the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Amman siting racism against Sudanese refugees by locally employed staff.
I ask if he fears about the attention this will bring. He says he is not and that it is time to stand up and tell their story.
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