Subjects: school, holiday, tribal dance, cows, mongoose, gunshots
Subjects: Janjaweed militia, losing family, running, lack of water, rape, malnutrition, father shot
Keywords: "They say you're not a human being."
Subjects: Zalingei, rape, coercion, mother gets sick, United Nations
Keywords: "You just look like a dead man or a ghost."
Subjects: ICC International Criminal Court, refugee camps, United Nations, water, Somalia, Sudan, Congo
Hyperlink: ICC - International Criminal Court
Subjects: East Africa, trust
Keywords: "You just feel like a prisoner."
Subjects: lack of education, United States, lying
Hyperlink: Burkina Faso
SLOAN: This is Stephen Sloan, and the date is December 21, 2015. I'm with NasmaAbdulkhalik and we are in Houston, Texas. This is an interview with the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission's Survivors of Genocide Project. Thank you, Nasma, for sitting down with us today.
ABDULKHALIK: You're welcome.
SLOAN: I know that you shared earlier that you are from West Darfur. That'swhere you grew up.
SLOAN: I know you were very young at the beginning of this story, but I'd liketo start with some of your earliest memories of life in Darfur.
ABDULKHALIK: Before the war's start, I remember that was my first week ofschool. I started pre-K, so I started going to school. I go about a week and I remember we didn't have a classroom. We were under the tree, the class of the pre-K. Other classes have a room, so we just stay under the tree. We have a 1:00teacher. She's wearing a white dress with white shoes on. Then, we get out around ten-fifty to go get lunch at home, because we didn't have lunch at the school. You had to walk home maybe one mile, two miles. It depends how far your home is. Then, we've got to go back. If you're late, the school gives you some citation, or they have to hit you, where you have to put your hands out, so they can hit you in the hand with the rulers. If it's a girl, they hit with the rulers.
That life was so good and we have our holy day named Eid [Eid Al-Fitr]. We hadan Eid day, I think, before the war starts. I remember all the girls wear jewelry with their clothes and they put money on their hair. It's like the hairstyle where they have like three [braids] coming out, the long curled 2:00braids. They put money, like three [coins] over here and three [coins] over here with the pins. They were dancing our tribal dance. It's called kasalk(??). We're not allowed to go there because we're younger. They tell us, "Go out. You don't have to see us the way we dance." So, we had to sneak around, and we got to just stand far off watching them.
SLOAN: What tribal group are you from?
ABDULKHALIK: What tribe?
SLOAN: What tribe were you in?
SLOAN: The Fur, okay.
ABDULKHALIK: We would celebrate our Eid for seven days. Some people pay money,and we buy food particularly for Eid. We spend seven days out of the home. We're just enjoying our life. When the holiday is over, the war started. It was Thursday afternoon, because I remember coming back from school. I come home with 3:00my two brothers. One is Khalid. The other one's Abdulrazik. He was four years old, [and the] other was three years old. One is the youngest one. He wasn't even sitting up yet. My mom went with the cows, because we used to have cows. Nobody was at home. I come home. I tried to change my clothes. Then, my brother took our donkey, and he went to the farm. We had a farm that had mangoes and different types of fruit, so he went there to see.
Then, I heard the gunshots. I just get out. We have the house, it's not likethis house. It's kind of different. I just hear the gunshots, and I get out. I have my little brother, so I was just carrying him with my hands. I hear the guns from the west, and then I hear from my north, and then I hear it from the east again. I just said, "Well, maybe there's people playing with fireworks," 4:00because in Africa the people make fireworks with rocks, you know. It's still coming more and more, and then I saw people running, people just running everywhere. Some of them just woke up from a nap. Some kids are just running. I don't know where they're going. Somebody told me, "You have to run. The war has come." I said, "What do you mean the war has come?" He said, "Where's your mom?" I said, "I don't know where is my mom." He said, "You have to run." My brother, the one who's four years old, came back with the donkey. He packed some clothes. He just packed. He doesn't know if it's my mom's clothes or mine. He just packed them. But we didn't have time to pack. He just left everyone's things he was packing and he left them. They ride the donkey. I just grabbed my brother, because he couldn't ride the donkey. He was too young, so I have to carry him. We keep walking, and then I thought, Where are we going to go? Because [there] 5:00is nowhere we can [get] help. I have my aunt, we call her Tibitha. She [had] just [given] birth a week ago. She was in the home. She would tell us, "Let's walk." I mean, she was in pain, because she had just given birth. We just kept walking, but we separate from her. We pass a little mountain, and we keep walking, walking, and the people running. We just keep walking. We don't know where we're going. We're just heading anywhere we have to go. We keep walking like for two days. I just turned around, all I see was fire, nothing else. It was just fire. The houses, everything, was burning up. We just keep going, keep going, in the middle of nowhere--no mother, no father. We just keep going.
So, we went somewhere. There's not even water or food, just trees and sun.6:00There's nothing, and the donkey can't go up to the mountain. We just left the donkey down there. Then, we saw a helicopter. It was green and white stripes. This group of government militias, we call them Janjaweed, and sometimes they were not Janjaweed. They were some government people just killing people everywhere. They came with cars, and in the back, soldiers were with the cars, some of them with camels. Helicopters [were] shooting people from up to down. People kept running, hiding under the trees, hiding under the rocks. For the ones who don't have their mothers, or they already lost them, which they didn't know, they just keep hiding. Suddenly, we just find a little river when the 7:00water's gone. We just hide in there, but it's still not safe, because they're just coming. They don't want to stop. They would keep shooting and shooting everywhere.
We find somebody, my father's younger brother. His name was Esmond. He holds myhand, and he holds my little brother. He put him on his shoulder. He wrapped him with some scarves. We just keep walking. Then, he said, "Let's go this way." He was climbing up to the mountain. So, we were climbing. We thought we were going to be safe, but he was the oldest one. He was like twenty years old, so they shot him in his head right here, and he fell. I had no idea. He just fell. The blood's coming from his mouth, and he said, "Run! Take your brothers out of here and run." I didn't talk. I couldn't say anything. He's saying, "Just run." I 8:00keep running up to the mountain, and then I saw him. He dropped his head and was just gone. We kept running. We're just going anywhere. We didn't know what direction we are. We're just running. Forests--we went through forests on the mountain. Then, my shoes, I lost them. There was no way you can go back to grab something. The clothes we were wearing, they were the last ones. We kept running for the mountains. [There was] no clean water. We had water from the rivers, but not clean or healthy. So, we keep running, running for miles. After two months later--I don't know if [it was] two months, we had just been from one town where there was no food and no water. Again, [the Janjaweed] came back. They keep 9:00shooting people, killing men, slapping them in front of children. If they are boys, they have to kill them. If they're girls age of fourteen, they have to take them, or they have to rape them in front of their parents. If you are a man, they have to kill you. You don't have a say. If you have a wife, they have to rape her in front of you. If you talk, they keep saying that you're nobody. They're cursing people. I mean, I don't speak Arabic, but when I asked around about it, I knew.
We kept running, running. Suddenly, we just turned into a place and there was mymom, after a while. I don't know for how many days or months were we [running]. We met with her, and she was going in a different direction. We were coming in a different direction. We just crossed each other. She couldn't recognize us, because somebody told her we were already dead. I said, "Mom, is that you?" She said, "Who are you?" Her head was gone. She said, "My kids, they are dead," 10:00because she was with the cows. Then, I said, "This is us. This is your little baby Hamuti(??)." She said, "I have no kids." She lost her head completely. Her face turned white like--she couldn't--there was no food or everything, but she don't care about food, she just cared about her kids, which people tell her are already dead because there was nobody with them. Then, we just follow her. Little by little, she recognized us, and until today, her head is not back to the right normal.
Then, we kept going with my parents to the different kind of villages. We justkeep going forward, forward, until we went to the place that was surrounded by mountains. There's no other way out. All that you see is the snakes, different kinds of animals, or just trees. There's nothing else. So, we spend there 11:00like--I don't know how many days, because I cannot count them. We only worry if you can be safe. You cannot sleep. You keep walking. If you want to take a break, you only sit for a few minutes so that you can move forward. We kept running and running, and we went back to some village, which is not our home anymore. There's someone there, so we head in a different direction. We went to this place called Zare. It's before my--it's far away. I didn't even know. We went there. We met with my dad, which he had been already shot. He was lying down under the trees with some of his friends, who were people he met out there from the war. He was shot [in] his back. He wasn't allowed to walk or crawl. He was just lying there. He gets better little by little, so we went up to the 12:00mountain called--I don't really remember the name. It was just a dangerous mountain. People didn't go to it, because they said that there's a lot of different enemy hurting people. We went there. We spent there about four months with no good water or food. Some people eat the leaves of the tree. Some trees have fruit. Some people eat them, but you don't know if it's a poison or not poison. We spent there four months. The cows, you have to slaughter them and eat them, or just drink the water, which is not clean. We spent there about four months. We have a little sheep we just found on our way. She grow a little bit. After the end, we have to eat her, because there's no food to eat. It was so 13:00hard to eat an animal that you grow. We had no choice. We just ate it.
In the nighttime--I don't know what time was that--the war came again. This islike a mountain. The government, they were like here and here. They were surrounding the mountain. It was in the nighttime. All the clothes [they were wearing] were green. You couldn't see their faces. It was at night. Then, they start shooting, and the helicopter again is looking down [on people] and shooting. So, they shoot people. We have nowhere else to go. They catch us. Many people died that day. I don't even know what day was that. Many of them died. I saw my father with his brother named Isa. They were running. He had some 14:00tobacco. Then, he dropped it. My little brother picked it up. His name is Abdulrazik. He picked it up, and then [one of] the soldiers of the government shot a rock, and the rock hit my brother. He fall, and he hit his knee on the rock. He's not even walking well until now. Then, they shot my dad again in his back. His younger brother, they shot him here. His name is Isa. They shot him in his shoulder. They just keep running and running.
They saw some hiding space in between the rocks. They get in. They were hidingthere. Then, we put some leaves [over them], because they are men. We know if they catch them, they're going to die. They shot a lot of men, and they would keep asking people, "Where are the men? Where are the boys?" If you have a son, they have to kill him. If you have a husband, they're going to kill him. If you have a daughter, like a teenager, they're going to rape her, or they're going to 15:00just take her away. You can't talk. If you talk, you're dead. Some militia have swords. Not all of them are guns. They have swords. I remember the sword's kind of brown, and here it's kind of white with brown wood. One of them asked my mom, he said, "Go. Can you go from them to the other side?" My mom said, "I can't go. I have my baby." And he said, "If you're not going, I'm going to chop your head off." There was a little tree. He would show it on the little tree. He said, "You see this tree? I'm going to do that to you." Then, he grabbed another lady. She was a young girl. They grabbed her, and she went somewhere. The forces, they just raped her, and then they killed her. They took many girls, and whatever you're wearing, they're going to take it away from you.
What happened in that day, the people you knew, you just see them die in front16:00of you, and you can't do nothing to stop that. Or else, if you're trying to do something, it's going be you that is dead, and they're going to be dead [anyway], the same people. So you're always--what are you going to do is just try to save your life. Whatever you do is going to get you killed. You only have to just pick up your hands and stop. Some people escaped. [If] you try to escape, they're shooting you, or they just have to cut you with a sword. They don't care. All day long, we were just sitting there, and they were surrounding us. They whisper and they talk. They grabbed ladies--I don't know where they taking them. Some girls, they were taking them, and if you say, "I'm not going," they're going to kill you. You have no choice because they didn't even know what 17:00your language is. They just talk in Arabic. Some people, they just have languages. I don't know what they are.
We went up to the mountain again. We escaped with my mom. This mountain [wascovered] with rock on the top. We went there. We thought we were safe, but we weren't safe. They catch us again. The guys told my mom, "Can you go with me?" My mom said, "Where?" They didn't ask her in a polite way. They just said, "You have to go, or I'm going to kill you." My mom said, "Kill me." Someone hit her on her knee with a sword. They just hit her like with the tip, so that when her knee was locked it was not going straight. She pretend like she's dead, but she's not dead. She was sleeping there for a while, because--I don't know--maybe she was just in pain or something. I don't know, but when they hit her, she 18:00fell. She just went down, was hurt, and then she fell.
Other people we met from different villages were there. Some of them were dead.Some of them just left little babies. The babies without their mothers [were] crying. There's so many of them, you don't know which one you have to pick up. They're searching for little ones. I don't know what kind of people they are. If they're boys, they have to kill him. It's just so sad. You're just killing a little baby. If you're a girl, they're going to just leave her there. They're asking the pregnant women, "Is your baby a boy or a girl?" They said, "We don't know." They have to torture the lady. I had my two brothers. They were three. I have to like--I wasn't wearing my scarf, because I was very young. My mom, just wrapped them in this scarf on their bodies, so they cannot tell the difference if they're boys or girls. That's how they were safe. My dad and his brother was 19:00separated from there again for two years. They went to this place called Singa. We didn't go there because we had no way because they catch us already. They went to Singa, but we were in the mountains. We didn't eat for a week--no food, because the government people catch us. They didn't give us no food, no water, you can't even pee. There's no space for you. If you try to do something, they shoot at you. They're torturing people. Some of them are just picking like--a hand(??). They're shooting, like, they're going to throw it off the hand(??) and they shoot at it. If you look at them, they say, "Why you look at me?" They say, "That's disrespectful. You should respect me." They said, "You're nothing. This land's not yours." They're telling people that this land is not yours, that you're not chosen to have this land. Some of them are cutting down the trees. 20:00Some of them are climbing on the trees. They look down on all the people. If they run, they are shooting the people. This helicopter is shooting people down, but some of them climb up the trees, and they're shooting people down.
Then, it was the night. We just walk. We didn't know where we were going. Wewent--we walked. We just walked, and we didn't know what direction we're going, because we didn't have maps. We were just walking through many deserts. We do survive on the pitch of trees [ed. note: sap from acacia trees, also called gum arabic]. There are hard rocks. You have to walk through it. You have no choice. Sometimes, you have to crawl, because if you walk or stand they're going to see you. When they see you, you know that you're dead. You have to walk through the hard rocks. You have to crawl through it, and your feet are all swollen. They're 21:00bleeding, but you have no choice. You have to do it or else you're dead. You're thirsty. Your mouth was so dry. You can't even think it's like a human being's body. Everything just turned white. We just keep walking in the hard rocks, and you have to climb to the mountains. The clothes we had were just ripped off. Everything was just--no. We just like--you know, you can't even describe this as good clothes. We didn't take showers, no food, nothing. You just have to worry if you're going to be alive or not, or if we survive. We thought we were going to be saved, who were walking to the hard rocks until we went back to the villages. We're going village to village, walking. It's just a little road we keep walking through. Every time you see just people die. All the ways you look, 22:00there's somebody dead or just like animals lying down. Then, we went to drink water. At first we have some kind--I went to take the water, then I saw dead [bodies] inside the [water well]. But, we had no choice. We had to drink that water. If you didn't drink, that's the way you have to die. So we drink the water. I know, it smelled, and it's bloody, but we have to drink it. When we drink that water, we just sat a little bit, and they came. They took little boys. They just drop them inside the water. I don't know why they did that. Then, they said, "You have no land. We can do whatever we want to do." If you try to ask them or you're trying to be smart, or do anything, they just have to cut your head with a sword. They said, "It's too easy to die with a gun." 23:00
The men sometimes are wearing the scarves. They would have the long scarf,whatever you want to call it, the top--I don't know the name they were called. [The men] tried to be safe from [the militia]. It was not too long. It wasn't for too long. They discovered [the men wearing long scarves to disguise themselves as women], because they were searching. They find out they were men. They took them. I don't know where they took them.
From that place, we went somewhere. We went back to our village for a long, longdistance. I just look, and I say, "Mom, isn't that our home?" She said, "Keep it down." Why I didn't know whether that was our home [is] because there was a big tree standing by our home, but everything else was gone. It was only trees. The houses we built for many years for our ground, they were all burned up. I asked my mom, "Where'd the houses go? Where's the pieces of it?" Everything was gone now. I just run to the home, where it used to be, to my room. I saw a big hole. 24:00I just put my leg like this. All the walls of the bedroom went in. It was a big hole. When you stepped in, it's crushing in. So my mom pulled me out. She said, "Keep it down." We keep walking. In the nighttime, there was no trees. There's a big, like--they cut down the trees. You have to walk through them. We walked through them. We come to the rivers. You have to just go through the rivers, too. I mean, there's a snake, and there's the frogs. If you're scared of them, you have to go. There's no way to fear. You have to face your fears on that day.
We keep walking, and we was like close to Zalingei. There was a lot of people. Ithought they were female, but they wasn't female. There was just a male that looked like a female, trying to save themselves. We stayed there for the sun to 25:00rise. Sometimes, they run out there, and we saw the light come far away from the mountain. They just took all the men, all of them, even the young boys. They just took them. There's this white sun. It was hot on them. They roped their hair with a red kind of scarf. I don't know what the scarf [is called]. They took all their clothes, and they just left. All [of them] stand in lines like this. They have a fire. They put [in the fire] the [metal they used as branding irons], and they torture them. Some of [the Janjaweed militia say to the men], "Stand like this." They just shoot through them, one by one. You cannot cry. There's no tears coming. I never saw my tears come from that day, because when I see that, my eyes just kept on staring and staring. Then, a guy, I know this 26:00guy. He's married to my aunt. He has only one son. They capture him, and then they just cut his kidney out. This guy just picked it up, and he squeezed it. Some of them were just shooting them with the gun. They said, "If I shoot you with a gun, it's easier to die." They torture them.
Then, we went to this place called Zalingei. For some people, they made a newhome, like out of cane with the leaves. We thought we were safe there, and then we were just--no food. Yeah, we have water. Everyone was like, "In Darfur there's water." You just have to dig the hole, and the waters come, which is not clean but you have to drink it. You have no choice--no food. You have to go find fruit from the trees. You don't know if it's poison or not poison. We have to eat that to survive. There's no place to take a shower, because you don't think this is safe. We build our houses, not a house like here, [but a house made out 27:00of leaves], a leaf home. We spend there for a couple of months, and then the government militia came searching for people again. They took the girls. They raped them. They killed the females, the ones who tried to say, "You're not unless you kill us. We know you killed the last ones." You say that, they're killing you. They say you're not a human being. They're just saying anything. They said, "This is ours, not yours. It doesn't belong to you." When you said, "It belongs to me," you're dead, because they say, "You're nothing. You don't matter to me." They're searching people, and they took the men. They killed them. My father was left behind. He was still in the war. We didn't know if he was dead. We thought he was dead, because we already saw him shot twice. The militia know my father. They hear the name Abdulkhalik. They came searching for 28:00us, but they didn't know who we are. They paid people. They said if you find these people, we're going to give you this, which they lied to you. You bring them, they're going to kill you as well, and they take information to use it. My mom got very sick. She didn't wake up for weeks. She would just sleep, and I don't understand why she couldn't wake up. She was just sleeping sick in her body and was swelling--all over swelling. I thought maybe she was dead or something. After weeks later, she just wake up. Her face was so white, and I remember it was so dry. She opened her eyes, but you can't tell it was open, because her body was swelling.
Then, some people came. They gave us some food. I don't know if they're from theUN or somewhere. They gave them food. After a while, they cut out the food; the 29:00militia people stopped them. [Because] they stopped [the foot], some people want to go work outside because we came to a different city. Zalengei's a big city. They want to work. If you're going to work, they say, "Oh, these are people that are coming from the war." They're killing them because you went to work to their home, or they just have to do terrible things to you. They've never seen you alive.
So we get out of there. We went to the other city from Sudan called Kinanah. Wewent there, because my mom's father lived there. But, my mom didn't grow up with her father. She grew up with her father's brother. He was killed in the war. When we spent like a year, the Red Cross came. He came. I was just playing outside. He said, "Are you Nasma Abdulkhalik?" But, my grandfather warned me not 30:00to say to anybody my name. I didn't say nothing, because I didn't even speak Arabic. In Kinanah, everybody speaks Arabic. I wasn't. I would only speak my language. I didn't know what to say. He showed me my father's picture. I told him. I spoke in my language, and he was crying. I said he was dead. He said, "You're father's in Chad." I hear the name Chad, but I don't know what was that. When I was young, I never hear it. I didn't know where is any other country besides my hometown. He said, "Can you come with us?" With the white car--I didn't drive. My mom wasn't at home. I was only again with my two brothers and little one--he was sleeping. I said, "We don't know." So, he made a phone call 31:00in Chad, but my father was sick. I talked to him, and then I believed it. He said, "Guys, you have to get out of here."
A week later, the people came. I don't know. They look like Arabic. They havelong hair. They have marks here. They just start asking us questions. Then, they tried to kill my mom's brother, but he was a citizen of Sudan. They didn't ask him, because he doesn't live in Darfur, so that's a different state. Then, we left. My grandfather found a little local car. It's not even a good car. We just rode [in] the car. We went back. We went back to Darfur, where we come from. So, we went back to Darfur. We went to see Nyala. Before we go to Nyala, there's a very big distance. I got sick. I was bleeding. I don't know why I was sick or 32:00anything. I just got sick. My face turned purple. Now, it was just bleeding from my nose. I couldn't eat or anything, and the car stopped. The engine stopped in the middle of nowhere. There's no food. There's water everywhere, but dirty water. You have to drink it. There's no medication for me or for whoever was sick. Everybody told me they're going to leave me in the middle of nowhere, because they thought I was dead because I was bleeding. I was just bleeding, and there's no way to stop the bleeding. The engine still wouldn't work. There was tamarind trees, so people were eating tamarinds.
Then, there was people. I was sick, but I was awake. These people come. They hadthe big muscles, they had long hair, and they have guns. They're holding their guns like this. All the clothes they're wearing are green. They were just 33:00searching people. To the men they said, "Get up. Come here." They're just going to shoot them. They'd either shoot them from the head or just in your heart. They just shoot them. If you try to not let them, they say, "Come here." They're searching women everywhere. If you have good clothes or jewelry, they just take it away from you. We spent [a lot of time] there [working] on the car engine, nobody [could fix it] though. We spend there. The driver was Arabic, but he couldn't hurt us because he was working for the money. They killed many people, and some people that were from my town, we just met again. Some of them were killed. Some of them, I don't know where they'd gone. In Africa, we didn't have the roads like here. When there was water, the car would get inside the water. 34:00Some people, the women, have to fish their car to go out. They can't fish [the car out of the water] while they're pregnant. So, they took the car out of [the water] somehow.
We were going somewhere and get a little distance, and then the militia peoplecame. They captured the car. They took the ladies. Fourteen years old or ten, they just see you're a girl or a little girl, they take you. If they see you're a boy, they take you. They stab the car with the sword. They stop the car, and see who's looking at them. If you were very quiet, they just leave you. I was sick, lying down in the car, and somebody was sitting there. They just stab him. He died, right on me. Then, I was getting better little by little--even though still sick, but I was getting better and better. I wasn't able to sit down my 35:00head was so dizzy. Then, we get out of that terrible place. We went a distance again. Janjaweed came and surrounded the car. Whatever you're wearing, they take it away from you. If you have money, and you don't give them something, they kill you. I mean, you have no choice. You just have to give them whatever you have. It's not up to you. They're going to take it away from you. They're going to force you to do whatever they wish you to do.
From that time, we went back to Nyala, which is not like--the (unintelligible)went there. They put us [on] the rail, like, the train rail. They dropped us there. When the train comes, they don't stop. Some people just getting killed, the train just going through them, and they die [on the rail]. I don't know why, I just run and I jumped the train line, it's just two lines, you know. I passed that one, and in Nyala they have a new camp. Like the UN camp, they give them 36:00food, and they give them everything.
SLOAN: Refugee camp?
ABDULKHALIK: Refugee camp. Yes. We went there, but when we went there it was toolate. We met some [of] my mom's cousins. We went there. We spent like a week in front of their houses, then we went out. We learned my father was looking for us, [so] we had to go to Chad. It wasn't safe enough for us. We didn't have no money, nothing. People who also didn't have money, they're just like, "Everybody that give us like penny or twenty dollar." Or they have to sell their food that the UN give to them, so [that] they [can] get out over there. So, we were in another car. We're going back to Darfur. We went to this--I don't know the place's name, but we were going back. Then, the car stopped in the middle of the road. There was Janjaweed over here. They were cutting the trees down, mango 37:00trees, the apple trees. They are very strong, and they were cutting them down. They're killing people. You shouldn't. For me, the shooting became normal to me. The dead became normal to me. I wasn't scared anymore. I see people dead, it wasn't like anything at all. I used to like--I'd been there in the dead situation for a long time. I see somebody dead, I just say, "Oh." I don't say nothing. I'm just silent, but it was just not scary anymore. Then, I saw this little Arabic kid, he wasn't even eighteen. He just, like, had a gun. He's just walking and killing people, pointing his gun [at] people. I don't understand why he was so young and had a gun, killing people at that age.
Then, we went to Al Fashir, because you had to go to Al Fashir before you wentback home. When in Al Fashir, I saw the [monkey orange trees] far away. The leaf 38:00is green and the orange is yellow. You can see them far away. We come back home, but it wasn't my home. It was a different--Al Fashir is the big capital of Darfur. We went there. There's a space between. North of there was Al Fashir. The car stopped. There was two cars. One was the men, they said, "Come here. The war is coming." People went. They believed them, but they were the militia government. All the men that went--they said, "We're going to save you." When they go, they throw the bomb inside that car. They all gone. They believed in them. We just run to the forest again [the same direction] we were going just [by a different route]. We just walked to our--we were just walking and walking 39:00again. When we walk, we meet with Arab people. [To them,] we are just some ladies that don't have clothes anymore that [are] just [walking] through.
There's no food, you're sick, you're bleeding through, but you have to walk.There's nowhere to stop. So we went to [Al] Junaynah, the place called Deleig. We went to Deleig. We spent a couple of--like a day--it's not like a week. Somebody invited us to the restaurant because we were not city people. We just look like we came from--you know, from the people that live in the forests. [People from the city] give us food. We ate, but you have to get out of the restaurant, and there's nowhere to go. Yeah, and then lights everywhere. People's houses are good, but who do you know to go [to]? We keep walking. People who driving car don't even tell you, "I'm coming." They're just going 40:00through you. They don't respect you. We keep going. We're walking. From Deleig we went to Zalingei. Zalingei is close to us. We walked there. Zalingei, we went there. We find our relatives. The UN already give them food, and they have not good houses. You know, they build [their houses] with the tree's leaves. We spent a couple of months, but some relatives where we go were in different refugee camps. We went there, we spent like two weeks, we get out.
We rode [in] a car. African cars have leaves on the sides, so you have to ridethat one. They put everything. We went. Before Chad, there's a place called Murnei. We went there, and again, the militias came. They catch us in the car. 41:00There's people from different villages, and Darfur is a big country. If you're men, you die. If you're a girl looking good, they're taking you, or they rape you. Somebody stabbed the tire of the car. There's nobody paying. If you don't pay the price, you will not go anywhere. So, what happened--everybody was just getting off the ride, so we have to stand in line. We were the first people to get out of the line. They were too busy checking the cars. We came, and then we went to the forest and were running, running, running. My mom couldn't walk anymore. I told my mom, "You know, we can make it. You just come from long way. This is too close. It's almost over. You just have to." She started crawling. We had to crawl, because if you walk standing up, they would see you. They're going to shoot you. There's no doubt. You know, that's right. They're going to shoot you. We're crawling, crawling--there was rocks, everything, it was, no--you 42:00don't have to worry about that. You're just going, and we keep going. We keep going. Then, we went too far. It was desert and little rock. It's very hot during the daytime. We were thirsty, and we're starving. We just keep going. You just walk like a--if you watch the movie, the dead man walking. We just keep walking, and everyone was just pain in the sun. We slept there, until the next time we wake up and keep walking. We went to the road. We saw another car come. We saw the car, and my mom begged that guy to give us a ride. He gave us a ride, and he said, "Where's my prize?" He said, "Can I have your daughter if I give you this ride?" My mom said, "I cannot give you my daughter." He said, "All 43:00right, you have a choice. I'm not asking if you¬¬¬¬ want to. I can take her anyway." I just spoke, "If you can, you have to know that I'm happy to die here, but I'm not going anywhere with you." He said, "Who the hell are you?" I said, "I'm just me. I have no name. I'm just me." Then, he slapped me. I didn't do nothing. I just stand there and walked. I said, "Mom, let's go."
So, we went, and we saw someone else with a car. He has people. There was deadanimals in the car, so we ride in that car with dead animals. There was stink, but we had to ride it. There's two people in the car. One is the driver, and one is the passenger. We asked the passenger to gives us the water. He said, "Isn't that water put in front of you?" I said, "Which one?" He said, "The dead animal." I said, "Are you a human being, or are you just a hyena or something?" 44:00He stopped the car. He came. He said, "Who was talking?" I said, "I don't know who was talking." He tried to hit my mom, and I said, "You can hit me. I have no problem with that." He slapped me. He dragged me. He put me down in there. I didn't even cry. I didn't think that. Maybe he thought I can cry, but then he went like too distant. I mean, we're just walking. They took my mom to Chad. We already went to Chad. Then, what happened? I was down and some other guy came and took me to his car. He just put me back where my parents already were, with the dead animals and [where] my brothers [were].
Now, I went to Chad. Look, the border between Chad and Sudan, it's not reallygood. It's terrible because the militias are there. They're mostly just standing by there. They're by the border because they know people are going to come. They 45:00shoot people. The driver who accepts [passengers to take them across the border], they're going to capture them, or they're going to just say, "Give me your money." You're going to see them talking a lot. They spend all the day or two until the driver has to come back. If you have everything, they're going to bring big bags with them. Whatever you have, scarves, everything--put it in. If you don't put it in, they're going to slap you so hard with [the] back of the sword. They cut [some people's] ears [off]. If you cry, they say, "Why you crying? You're still alive." You're suffering. Death's not--that's life, but you're suffering still, but because you're brave, doesn't mean that's life.
Then, we were in another car. We were in a car with many people--differentladies with their kids. The kids were crying. Children cry because there's not 46:00enough of the water. Finally, we got to Chad. We found a little--little like--they built some kind of--it's like a room, but it's not a room. We call it racovert in my language, like, with the grass and everything. We went there, and we sat on it. We found a little, like, this color, and it has a little water. We drink water. We had to sip the water, because we don't know what was going to happen. If you drink a lot of water, you can't run, so we'd have to sip a little water. Then, we have to walk. This refugee camp's called Abdi Al Saba. We went there, but my father's not there. He's somewhere else. From Abdi Al Saba, there was Darfur people come from different villages. The UN give them food and everything, and they give them [tents]--like at earlier camp they give them 47:00their [tents]. They give them stuff to cook with the onions and some clothes.
Finally, our life was kind of good, better than where we come from. Then, we hadto go, because we had to go see our dad. My dad wasn't able to walk or everything. He was just lying, but he was asking for--everything doctor asked him he had to say, "I need my children. I need everything." But, he was there with my stepmother. Her name's Asha. Then, we have to walk from Abdi Al Saba to Goz Beida. Like a week, you have to just walk. The sun--the Chad is desert. There's no water in Chad. There's not even trees. All the trees is just dry trees standing up there. My little brother--I thought he was going to die, because he wasn't even sitting up, but he survived. We all survived somehow. We walk to Goz Beida. We went. All we see was the graves of people. I said, "My dad 48:00lives in the graves?" I asked my mom. She said no. Every time we go, we ask somebody, "Where's this refugee camp called Goz Beida? Where is it?" They said, "Just keep going. Maybe a week you can go, if you want to get there." So, we keep going, going--thirsty, starving. We keep going until like some--we just like--we take two days off. We wait under the trees. We slept there on the grass, and there's no blanket. You didn't have clothes, so we were there. We found somebody with a donkey. He gave my mom a ride when my mom wasn't able to walk. She like--her body was just real tired. For real, we just--I know my body was bleeding, and I was swelling and everything, but I was able to walk a little. I was better than her.
So, [the refugees] went to a little market. They have a new life, finally. But,49:00still they lost their loved ones--everything. We went there. They put us in the market. We asked, "You know Abdullah Abdulkhalik?" They said, "That guy?" People were saying, "Maybe he will die tomorrow or today. You're looking for him?" They said, "If you don't hurry, you will not find him alive." [We said,] "Okay." There's some [person]--we didn't know him. He has some restaurant, or I don't know what he has. He gives us water, he gives us food, and he gives us some fruit. We ate, and he took us to our dad. We have to walk. It was very hot. The sun was so hot. We had no shoes or anything. We're just walking. We went a little distance. We saw a camp. They were white [tents]. You could see them in a line. There was so many of them. We went there. What I saw--there was so many people--different kind of tribes. We went there. They have school, and they have 50:00food from the UN people. Then, we went there, and we saw their [tent] and my stepmother. They have two [tents]. They give us one, and they took one. I said, "Where's my dad?" She said, "Your dad? Doctor said maybe he's dead. We don't know." I said, "Can you take us to him?" She said, "Sure." Then, we went to the hospital that they called Coffee(??), and this is in French. I don't remember the exact name. So, we went to my dad. When we found him, he was so tiny, and his face was so white. He wasn't even able to open his eyes. They were just feeding him with a spoon. Only liquid--he cannot eat food. So, we went there. He smiled. We saw him and I hugged him. I said, "I thought you were dead." He said, 51:00"I thought you were all dead."
We [reunited] all together as a family. We went to UN people with just ournames. They give us a card. It's kind of green or green with blue. It had a foot or the fingerprint of all the family. They put all my father's names. You have to wait like a week's time [until] they can update your name. They start giving us food like sugar. They give us a [tent]. We just have a better life even though we know everything was gone, but it was better than where we come from during the war. We have clean water, but you have to fight for the water. It's this long line. You have to go at three in the morning to stand in line to get the water. Even though it's safe, people still keep on fighting for the water. 52:00The water is not all the time. It has a limited time. For all the people who come from different villages, that speak different kind of languages, one or two hours is not enough for them. Everybody needs to get water, so people had to fight. Some people get injured. Some people are getting [pushed out of line] from the fight. They're pushing them. I have to get inside the line to get water for my parents, because my dad is sick, my mom is sick, my little brothers--they can't. I have no choice. I have to get [the water]. I was pushed out. I fall and get up and fall, and still I have to get the water. Even if I get the water, I'm not able to carry it. I just have to pour it in the little tank, and I have to take it home and come back. If I left it there, somebody is going to take it. I just had to push and push until I go home, but it's too far. We spent a year and a half [there]. These people--international court (International Criminal Court, 53:00or ICC) people came. They talked to my mom and my dad. [For] a couple months, they just keep coming and talking to my mom and doing everything. So, they said, "We're going to move you to United States." They are called--it's ICC--like international court, right?
MELISSA SLOAN: ICC.
SLOAN: ICC, yeah.
ABDULKHALIK: ICC, yeah. They registered our names. My mom passed the interview,and we moved. They tell us they're going to take us to the United States. They give us clothes. They move us to different camps. [The camp is] inside of Chad, but it was a different camp. We were in Goz Beida, then we went to the Gaga. Gaga was hundred times better. We went. They give us a special little place. They make a big circle around it, and we have our [tents]. They had people come 54:00from Abdi Al Saba, and then came people from Goz Beida, with just us and different family. We sat in there. We thought they were going to take us somewhere safer or better than this, but they took us in the worst place again--it's desert. The water is not even clean. You had to fight for that dirty water. Even if you find the water you're lucky. In the morning, when you get up, from the dust, everything you're going to see is just the sun on your clothes. The only other thing you see [that is] clean is your teeth or your eyes. You look like a dead man or a ghost. You can't see nothing. Only your eyes is clean inside your body. We'd been there for a year and half again. Of course, they're 55:00giving us food. They give us oil and salt and sugar--everything. The UN [is] giving us all [those] items.
Then, they move us. They said, "We're going to take you to United States." [Wesay] okay. They come in, they take more information, and they move us to the city of Chad called N'Djamena. We went there, and they gave us a little house, beautiful. It has three bedrooms, and it has a big living room. There were too many people, not only us. There was many people from different tribes, different villages. They put us all together in three rooms. We had to share it. Nobody ever had a bed. We had to share the big pillowcase--like the big one--over the blanket. You have to share four people and one blanket. You just have to share, but for me it was better than where we came from. They give us free food. They 56:00give us lunch and breakfast and dinner--everything. But still, you have to share a bed or blanket with four people--five. Not even a sister or brother, just four different people. They separated us again, [after] we [had] become friends and tell stories from different sides of the Darfur villages. They separate us again. They took them to different parts of Chad. They have N'Djamena--they went there. They moved them to Norway. They moved them to Washington, DC, or Seattle. We're just left behind again. They took us from Chad. We went to Turkey, and we spent a week. We thought that it was new culture. They have a good restaurant. They give us free food and free clothes to change. 57:00
So what happened? We went to Kenya, again. Kenya's a horrible place. I willnever go there again in my life. We went to Kenya. First, we went for a week. They put us in a beautiful place. Free food, free clothes, you take showers. The shower is not like our homes. The water is [always] coming out. You take a shower [any] time you want. The water--you drink [any] time you want. You have your own bed, but [they stick] the beds together. Your mom is down, your dad is after, your brothers after that, then they keep going. My mom was pregnant with other brothers.
After a week, they took us to the refugees they call Kakuma. It's in the side ofKenya. We went to that place. There's too many refugees--from Somalia, from Sudan even. They came before, like twenty-five years ago they came. They're 58:00still there. From Congo--name any African refugees; they were there. All of the immigrants are going there. Every refugee, they were there. They have [tents], so they put us--we went there again. There's no way to use the restroom--everybody's there. If you want to pee, everyone's going to see you, so you have to wait till the night came to go pee. They put us there, and they said, "Oh gosh, you're going to be safe. We're going to come back after seven months." I'm going to waste. That six months we spent, I felt was like many years. We went to the camps. The area we live in they call four, four area [ed. note: Kakuma IV].
The people was just fighting different tribes--the water again, more waterissues. I had to make [mud] blocks [to build the walls of our shelter]. I had to get the water down to my father. My mother is pregnant. She can't do anything, 59:00so we made the blocks. We make a new home. We could make our home with different designs. It's not even [good], but we did it anyway so we can stay [inside]. Me, my dad, and my two brothers--I'm the only one who has to go get water, because my brothers, if they go to the line, they cannot survive. Somebody is going to push them into the hole. They're going to die. So, I'm the only one who has to go. My dad can't go to stand in line because his back. Because of the shooting, he can't stand for too long. So, I had to bring the water. We build my mom's home, then we build ours, mine and my brothers--three brothers. Actually, there were four brothers, but my mom was pregnant with number five. We built [my mom's], and then we built ours. We have to build my stepmother's home again [because the mud blocks were cracking]. We had to make the blocks. The sun is 60:00hot, but we have to just keep making the blocks more and more and more. We're making more, then. Still, we're making bigger on the bottom than ones we do for the top. It's just as much from the bottom. We have to do it again--keep doing it and keep doing it. After that, we finished with it.
Well, all the homes still looked horrible. After, [the mud blocks] just crackedbad. The cracks [are] big. I cried. I told my dad, "I'm not going to do it again. I'm tired. Who told you to marry two wives? I'm not going to help you anymore. I'm done." My body just--I had no clothes. My last clothes that I'm wearing, they're already ripped and so dirty. I have no shoes. I'm just walking, and my body is just tired. You can't even tell if I'm a human being. My body changed and everything. Then, I just make on the side, I bring my bed, so high was the rocks. I was just sleeping on it there for a couple of weeks, until we 61:00have to go to school, which is in Swahili. I don't understand nothing. We just have to be there. [When] you sleep, you don't feel like you're sleeping. As soon as you're asleep, you blink your eyes, the sun is just coming. You have to get up and go to school.
Before that, I have to go stand in line to get water, so I can leave some waterfor my mom and my little brothers, who's staying with her at home. To get the water, people fight. They're pulling people's hair, and I have to just go through. Sometimes you have to [fight]. [If] you're trying to defend somebody, or you try to get between [people that are fighting], you're the one who's going to get hit. We'd been there for five months. My aunt was pregnant with her daughter. Now, she's like five years old. Then, she was behind me in line, and she was pregnant. I don't know if she was pregnant. Some lady from Congo just hit her so hard and then she just throw her. She keep hitting her head on the 62:00ground. This was over the water. I couldn't stand looking at my aunt [getting] beaten up like that. I just told that lady, "You'll never [get water] without a container." I took the lady's [bucket] and I throw [it] away. I said, "Why are you hitting my aunt?" Then, she slapped me, and I slapped her so hard. I just push her, and she fell. The Kenyan Police came. They took us to the jail. They said, "Why you fight?" I said, "She pushed my aunt, and then there were two of them. They were hitting her. I see her bleeding. I cannot just stand [there and do nothing]. She survived from a long way to come, and then she getting hit like this. I couldn't stand it." I was the only witness. I messed up, so we went to the jail. They put us in jail for two days. They didn't give us no water or anything. This lady--I don't know what she did. She give them money to let her 63:00go, and then we were just waiting there for the UN people to come--I mean, the international people to come, but they wasn't there. Some of them was in Norway. Some of them were here, some of them--I don't know where they were. We had to pay to get out. We didn't have money to pay, so we just spent like a week. We're just out. We were out. They let us go.
Getting the water, you have to stand in line from three until in the morning atseven [for] the water to be open. They came on time. Some bugs get in the water, but you don't see the bugs. You don't care about that. You just need water to drink. To get water you have to fight to drink. If you want to go to get food, we have cards. It's kind of like food stamps, except that it's kind of green. The lines they give you by the name, but you have to stand in line. There's people pushing. They're [trying to get in front of] you. [If] you fall, get up 64:00or not get up, they step on you. They don't care. They're going. That place [where] they're giving you [food] looked like a jail place. The Kenyan people--they look like--I don't know. The country people--they call them Turkana. I don't know if you hear this name. They're like--if you look at them, they're hitting you. They're going to twist your head. Because they walk naked, you cannot look at them. That's their country, but they walk naked, and they eat donkeys. You cannot just look at them. If you look at them, they just twist your head. You cannot smile at them or anything. You just hush your mouth and look away. When the food time comes, like in a month it's once over there, [the Turkana] come, and you have to pay them. If you have no money to pay them, you just give them some of your food, so they can't get all the stuff that you had. What you can afford, you have to carry by yourself and go home. People steal 65:00from some people. They just hit you for no reason. Sometimes, they're just waiting for you to get in a fight with you. The market is too far. I have to go to market to shop, to take some of the food the UN had given us to switch or [sell]--get some money just like a penny or one dollar to get some food. The meat, you cannot afford the meat.
So what happens? The rain is coming. They have a very long river. When the rainis coming, the people just going, you cannot get out. Several times I escaped that place. I don't know why I was getting in the water. It's just coming through my nose. I'm just getting--I'm just trying to get it out. I used to go home and cook and clean and everything. How are you going to cook when the 66:00water's everywhere? No fire--you cannot catch the fire when the water's everywhere, so you have to wait for the water to go and everything to get dry. When you've put beans on the fire and you're trying [to cook them], all of the rocks got inside the food because of the wind. You have to eat it, because you have no choice. It's food. You get it, you have to eat it with the sand and everything--with the rocks and with the pieces of the wood. You just have to eat it. If you find a wood, you have to take it out of your food.
SLOAN: So how long were you in Kenya?
ABDULKHALIK: For six months and a half.
SLOAN: Six months? Yeah.
ABDULKHALIK: Yes. The international people came. They said, "Oh gosh. You go tothe United States." [We say,] "Okay, we'll go to the United States." Well, we went to France, and we spent like a week. France was cold, very cold. They gave us clothes. We changed and everything. We went to France, and we saw people 67:00wearing many clothes, but we just wore like we are refugees. Some people smiling at us. Some people, they give us food. I went to some guy from France. He called me. He buy me some candy with a big cake. He buy candy for us. We stayed there waiting for some people to come to get us to a hotel. We went there. We spent like a week, and we thought they were going to take us to United States or somewhere safer. We didn't know. France is safe, but they tell us we cannot stay in France. They tell us we're going to United States. They took us to East Africa. We went through Mali. When I was riding on the airplane, I saw down there, "This is not United States. This is desert." I just cried. I see all the graves again. I thought we were just going back home. Honestly, I just saw graves, and the place [was] all desert, all red. We cannot just go back here. 68:00That guy, he looked back. He said, "No, you're not going there." I said, "You know, I don't trust people who have second thoughts." I just spoke in my language when there's somebody who is speaking my language, so he has to translate. He asked me, "What'd she say?" He's like, "No, nothing. She didn't say anything."
They took us to Burkina Faso. We spent one year in Burkina Faso. I mean, lifewas good. They give us [two] bodyguards. One is outside and one is inside. We have to stay in a hotel. I think it's a house that looked like a hotel. It has like fifty rooms. We were only three families. [In] ours [was] another family and another family from a tribe called Maasai. We were there, but weren't able to go out--no education, nothing. We had water and food and everything. We spent 69:00there like a year. Life was very boring. There was no people to communicate with, and there was just people you met from different areas of Darfur. They are your relatives, but we'd been there. Even [when] the holidays came, we'd know it's a holiday, but you cannot celebrate it because there is not enough people. You cannot go out [by] yourself. You just have to stay inside there like a prisoner. Yeah, they give you money, they give you clothes, they give you food, but it just feels like a prison. You're not free. You can't go out. If you go out, the bodyguard has to go with you. What will people think? They going to start thinking, Who is she? Who [are they]? So we spent a year. It was pretty boring, so my dad started fighting back. He said, "I cannot live here. My kids are growing up, and there's no education." The guy said he's taking us to United 70:00States. In a few months, they came. They brought a book in Arabic, which my father or any of us, could not read, because we didn't go to school. They show us the flag of the United States. They show us the people of the United States, the houses, the apartments, everything--and the [Statue of Liberty]. They show us that one and how people are going to welcome us.
We thought they were going to take us to United States immediately, but theylied to us again. They are just coming to [our] home to give you like fresh money--like one thousand for a person. Everything what you want they give you, but you're just like a prisoner over there because they say you have to stay inside. It's not safe for you to go out, because the militia is still searching for us. That was true, but we like to go see outside what is in the new country. We need to know about it. They just say, "Okay, wait." They give us another six 71:00months. We spent another six months, and then the holy day came. We didn't know what to do. We didn't know where to go out to pray. We just sat there and just kept thinking. Some of them would say, "What if we were in the Gaga? We're going to be dancing. We're going to be doing this." And some of them just cried. I mean, the life is bearable it's just not happy life because you just feel like you're in jail.
They came, they took the other families, they brought them to United States, inWashington and Seattle, was this family. They gave us another week. We had to wait because some lady was pregnant. We had to wait six months. I mean, that's not our fault because she was pregnant. Why'd we have to wait? I mean, we were the first people who [were taken] there, but they just keep us. We had to wait 72:00until that lady gave birth. We waited for her. My dad said, "I'm not going to wait for them to go and stay here, because I'm the one who came first before them." They took us. We came to the United States--finally. It was Friday.
SLOAN: When was that? What year?
ABDULKHALIK: In 2010.
ABDULKHALIK: It was March 4, 2010. It was Friday night. We come to the UnitedStates. When we see it, everything was so beautiful. The light was just different where we come from. I feel like it was heaven to me. We went to the airport, and then we waited. The [YMCA International] people didn't come there. I didn't even know how to get our luggage. The thing was just going around. People were just waiting there. I don't know how they get them. Some people put it down, so we did get them. Then, we waited. There's some chairs. We waited 73:00there for long hours. We didn't know where to go. My dad said, "Go make a phone call." I said, "How am I going to make a phone call?" I didn't know anything about this country. I didn't know who to ask. I mean, am I going to go ask a stranger? He said, "Go try." I said, "What? Try what? I'm going to speak Fur to them?" He said, "I don't know. Go talk with your hands." I said, "Let me try." I was going around, and I was just scared of the [escalators]. I don't know how you call them--they go up and down. I was like so scared. I found somebody. They said, "Are you lost?" I don't understand, so I just talk with my hands like a body language. He said, "Where you come from?" I said, "I'm from Darfur." He said, "Oh, they're waiting for the YMCA?" I don't know what's the YMCA. I didn't really know what the YMCA or even what they were talking about. Right now I do, 74:00but back then I didn't know. We waited for a long time. It was nearly night. Then, the YMCA guy came. He put us inside the car, and he said, "I'm sorry." He spoke Arabic because my dad was speaking Arabic. He was saying sorry and everything. My dad said, "You said sorry for what? My kids were hungry, thirsty, and you just waited." He said, "Sorry, this country is so big." He was explaining everything, and my dad says, "Okay."
They took us to the Crescent Oak--Ashford Crescent Oak. That was the firstapartment we come from. It was Friday night. It was four o'clock--Friday. It was March fourth until the tenth. They give us the apartment. They give us a bed. Yeah, it's one bed, but it's better than where we come from. We slept there. They put turkey in a cooler. You can have fruit and everything. We ate it. It's 75:00not tasteful, but we ate it. It was better for us. We feel like we're in a restaurant in heaven. Then, we just sat.
They put them in the middle school--[Jane Long Middle School]. I went to middleschool. We come in March. The summer was in May. They put me in seventh grade. I don't know what to do, because that was the test time. They give me a test. I had no idea what, because I didn't even know what it is A, B, C. I didn't even know what is one, two, three. The teacher keep talking to me with her hands and everything. I don't know what she's talking about. I just have to be in the class. That's all I know. I go to cafeteria. I'm very shy. The way I wear my clothes. I wasn't wearing scarf. I just wear the clothes whatever I want to. I 76:00was just standing beside the cafeteria's table staring at people. I was very shy. I couldn't even eat, just me and my brothers, my two brothers. The other one, he was sixth grade, one was fifth grade. I was just very shy, couldn't go stand in line to get food. Everyone was just very cool and talking and everything. I didn't know what to say. There's just so much to pick it up.
So they brought a computer for the test--you know, TAKS. I didn't know what isTAKS. Somebody said, "This is a test." Somebody spoke to me in Arabic. I did not speak Arabic, but I learned it. I didn't speak it, though. They said, "It's tests they have for like A, B, C." You have to click [the right answer]. What is this? This is a test. I passed it. I did, but I don't know what was that. I 77:00didn't know how to read the sentence or the question, what it was saying. I passed it and I passed my classes. They said I was an A and B+ student. They welcomed me in the auditorium. They called my dad. They even took a picture of me. I said, "What is this?" I don't know.
It was April when I was in middle school. In May, they put me in high school, Ieven skipped a grade. It was summer. I went to summer high school. The bullies start. People talk to me, Hispanics--which I didn't know what's Hispanic. They talk English and I don't know [what they're saying]. Only what I had to do, hide behind the doors. I didn't even get a welcome. All the people go sit down. 78:00They're calling my name. I don't even know how to raise my hand and say yes or no, if you're here or were absent. I didn't know how to say it, because I was very shy to speak or may eye contact. I couldn't. I was scared of the other students. I don't know what to say to them, if they talked to me. All I know was about the war. I didn't know anything when I arrived. So, I spent freshman year. It was very hard for me. I didn't know how to write an essay. I didn't know how to read. I didn't want to do the math. It was just pretty hard. At the end of the semester, they give me a schedule that says I passed my classes. I didn't pass. My teacher was Mr. Ray. He's still there. He helped me with how to read, how to write an essay, and everything. I was at the top of the class. Every time I write an essay, every time I do the test, I was getting ninety-five, no less than ninety-five and a hundred. I don't know why I'm doing this, because still 79:00I'm not understanding. Some of them, the easy words, they come, but the big words they can't. I passed my class. I went to the summer school. I start [running] cross country when I was a freshman. First, the coach thought I would run, because I had just come from Africa. I run and I came in fifth place. They give me a reward. The coach was talking English, "Push your hands, pick your toes up the right way." I don't know what he was saying, but the coach had to point it out so I can see how to copy the way he's doing it.
My life was, I go home, I have to cook, I have to study, which I don't know howto read. It was very hard. In the morning, you have to go find a school bus. I 80:00was very scared to cross the street, because I do not know nothing about the lights--the green or yellow or red. I have just to wait. I didn't even wait to [cross at] the crosswalk. We're going to just cross you know, because in Sudan they don't care. They don't respect you usually. I make new friends. They helped me. We have to walk, until it comes junior year, if I saw the street is empty I have to run. Yeah, and I had to ride the school bus--go to school, go to sports, I come home. I'm still learning English, little by little. I started telling my story. It was my junior year when I wrote my essay. The HISD (Houston Independent School District) people came. They talk to me like they do, and there was a lot of things. I'm not sure what they did. I wrote my essay. I wrote 81:00what I told them for the video. They put it on their website, the HISD face news. Little by little, still senior year. Senior year you have to buy things. I could not afford it because nobody's working. My dad, he's not able to work because of his back. My mom, she cannot work because her feet swell up when she stands up still today. I just give up my senior year, like Prom is free, but whatever the thing. I just give it up, because I had family that I have to care about. I would go to school, have eight classes. Every [one of the] eight classes [has its] own homework and own tests to take. I didn't have time to study. When I come home, I had to cook, give a bath to my brothers, or just 82:00clean the home, or vacuum everything. In the morning, take the bus, go to school. You have to get up from six to go catch the bus. It was like time change, and we had to get up early.
Well, after that, I met my [husband, Khaled Handhal]. I fell in love, and theneverything changed. I accepted his wedding [proposal], was engaged when I'm a senior. I was engaged to him on March 15, 2013. Mom would say, "Oh, you have to go to your home now." We make the wedding on June 22, 2013. I moved to my home, and I would stay there and go to school. I was still doing cross country and track. I was pregnant with her for four months, but I had no idea. I was just going through cross country. I came number five, and I don't know why I didn't come number four, because I never come number four. That was too late for me. I 83:00had no idea that I'm pregnant or everything. I went to the track with him, and I came number six. They still give me a medal though. I said, "Why didn't I come number five? It was just two miles." My body just heavy, but I was just flat and everything. I didn't know if I was even pregnant. Then here I discovered. I went to the high school. They have a nurse. I said, "I want to take pregnancy test." It was positive. I became a mother, and everything changed. Still the war is hunting me down. Sometime I sleep, I just see myself in ashes. I can't forget about it. It stuck with me.
SLOAN: You talked about having the chance to tell your story. What has it beenlike to be able to tell your story?
ABDULKHALIK: Well, I feel much better. I just want to do something to help thepeople who were left behind in the war. I always wish. I know they're still 84:00suffering and they don't have a bed or home. I want to bring my home back--no matter what. Yes, that's the most important thing. I'm living here, eating healthy, and, living in heaven today, but I want to bring my home back. That's the most important thing to me, even though I'm a woman. I'm not that well educated, I mean, just high school, but I would do anything to bring my home back. It's important for people to go back where they were. Since war came, it's terrible. It's better now, but it's terrible.
SLOAN: Well, Nathan Roberts and Melissa Sloan are also in the room with us, andI know Nate generally has a question. Do you have a question you'd like to ask?
ROBERTS: I've got a couple of questions. First, thank you so much--
ABDULKHALIK: You're welcome.
ROBERTS: --for being here, and for agreeing to interview, and for sharing yourstory. It's so important, and thank you for being here. Next, I was wondering 85:00about friends you made in high school.
ABDULKHALIK: Friends--I made many friends. I met people from Milan, China, fromBurma, Nepal, and Mexico. I didn't even know those were countries. I met people from Bhutan, India, North America, and I even met the native people--the Cherokee(??) and everything, and from Jamaica, from Cuba, Venezuela, and people from Brazil. I made good friends, but then this other girl came. She was from Burma, and she didn't speak English. She just draw a heart picture, and then she 86:00give it to me. She write in her language. She gave it to me, and I have no idea. Everything she wants to do, she's telling me. She's talking with her hands. I was a new student, but she was brand new. She didn't talk to nobody, and she understands me. I don't understand how she's just a person who wants to talk to me. She moved to a different state. I have met and have many friends--and still today. I still have high school friends.
ROBERTS: Your story is unique. How do you see yourself as different from peopleyou went to high school with?
ABDULKHALIK: What I see from the difference between them? I come from war, andthey didn't come from the war. That's the big difference. They have everything that they want to have in this life, but I didn't have what they have. All my 87:00life, I was doing to save my life, but with their lives--just enjoy, so there's a big difference between their lives and my life.
ROBERTS: Can you talk a little bit more about those differences? I mean, how didyou see them?
ABDULKHALIK: Well, here's how I see them. They have anything they want, likeclothes, or computer, or cell phones, or they have cars. They can even dye their hair or style it the way they want it. But my life, it was you have to run to save your life, or you can't even find food to eat or drink water. You can't even have clothes. You can't even see your face. You can't see difference between boys and girls. I think there's a big difference.
ROBERTS: A big one--yes. Tell us about your daughter.
ABDULKHALIK: My daughter?
ABDULKHALIK: She's one year old.
ROBERTS: And what is her name?
ABDULKHALIK: Renad--Renad Handhal.88:00
ROBERTS: What do you want for your daughter?
ABDULKHALIK: What I want for my daughter? I want her to go to school to finishher education. Then, she's going to marry or just help people. I don't want her just to sit there and do what people do, like what people do in high school, to have fun and everything else. I want her to go to school, after high school, to go to college. She can [do] whatever she do to make her happy. She don't have to just take any of my advice. She has to follow her own mind. I want a home for her. I want her to be happy.
ROBERTS: That's good. That's very good. One more question. Hopefully, a lot ofpeople will see this, and see your story, and be affected by it like we've been. What do you want them to know?
ABDULKHALIK: What I want them to know--they have to know this world is hard.It's not easy. You have to be thankful for what you have, because you live in 89:00the United States. You're lucky to be one who lives in the United States. When you're out, you will see the horrible. You don't even know what is outside of this country, and you don't want to be out there. As long as you live in the United States, you have to be the luckiest one, go to school, and do the right thing, because this life is not easy. It's very difficult, and it's going to be hard. Today may be better, but tomorrow it won't be easier, because it's your life [what you make of it, is up to you]. It's not a choice. You cannot have whatever you want to have. We have a destiny to represent in this life. And the death? Death is everywhere--you can die when your time has come, whether you like to die or whether you don't have to die. It's just when the time came, you have no choice. I have learned that, because I taught myself. Maybe I could be dead, but look at me, where I'm standing, today. I'm here, alive, and healthy. 90:00It's because my time didn't come yet. But, when my time comes, I won't be able to stop or do anything, because that's the destiny of my life. It was close.
ROBERTS: Thank you. You're very young, but your words--they are very, very wise.
ABDULKHALIK: The war make me that way.
ROBERTS: Much older. Thank you.
ABDULKHALIK: You're welcome.
SLOAN: Thank you so much Nasma for sharing your story with us.
ABDULKHALIK: You're welcome.
end of interview