Keywords: "I was born where hunger is everywhere."
Subjects: Kutum, 1973, desert, boarding schools, no public service, no policemen or government or hospital or electricity
Subjects: grouping in tribe, fighting for rights, rebel movements, injustice
Hyperlink: Darfur Wars
Subjects: government, Geneina, Al-Fashir, lack of political representation, haphazard fighting groups
Subjects: 2003, celebration of a newborn, Janjaweed Militias, Sudan, Nigeria, Cameroon, stealing
Hyperlink: Janjaweed Militias
Subjects: business school, working in the pension department, applying for a job in Nyala, government searching for educated people, capital Khartoum, Libya
Subjects: Khartoum, people fighting the government in Jebel Marrah, cassette tapes, Libya, Kia car company
Hyperlink: Jebel Marrah
Subjects: Janjaweed militia, Amu district, Musa Hilal, Kassab, Kutum, Khartoum, father handling a shop
Hyperlink: Musa Hilal
Partial Transcript: "I’m just helpless. Those people there, there’s nothing showing up or—over there, there wasn’t no waiting for any kind of solution. That’s what I’m trying to say. They will continue to suffer, you know. And the killers are free. They are selecting everyone today. Until today, they can select anyone to kill. They can select anyone to kill."
Subjects: injustice, continuous suffering
SLOAN: This is Stephen Sloan. The date is May 7, 2016. We are with Mr. KhaledHandhal, at Houston Baptist University, and this is an interview with the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission Survivor of Genocide Oral History Project. Thank you, Khaled, for sitting down with us again. It's nice to be back with you. We were with you and your family in December, and so, we're enjoying coming back and getting your story. Every story is unique, and I know yours is unique as well. I know you were born, as you just said, you were born in Kutum in 1973. For those who would not be familiar with your hometown or your country, can you tell us a little bit about your early life there, and what you did, what your parents did, and that sort of thing?
HANDHAL: Yeah, thank you very much for giving me the chance. My mom told me that1:00I was born when hunger is everywhere. It was 1973. When I asked my mom why I am the tiniest at home, she said, "Because hunger was everywhere." It was a tiny village in a rural area in, you can say just a spot in a desert. We lived in a desert part of Africa. It is not all green, but it is not savannah, not Sahara--in the middle. I went to school when I don't like it, and I don't know 2:00why people go to school. I spent six years in boarding schools, leaving it twice or three times a month to see my mom.
SLOAN: Where was the boarding school?
HANDHAL: It is a neighboring district to my village. My village is so small thatyou cannot have a school, so I need to walk like two hours, when I was seven, to go to the boarding [school]. I walk it once a week or twice, three times a month to see my family and go back to boarding school, to study. I don't know why people study, nobody told me why. My uncle told me, "It is good to go to school." He would say it is good, because nobody is educated around there. So 3:00after that, after six years has passed, I went to the middle school, which is in the Kutum town, which is our town. Our birth certificates are issued in that town. We lived three hours away from that town, but everything is getting from there. We don't know government. We don't know police. We don't know hospital. We don't know public service. We just live in our village, and if you need anything, it's in that town. I've never seen a policeman until I was seven--no, thirteen, I think. Real policeman, to see policeman, and talk to policeman, I was thirteen.
SLOAN: Until you went to Kutum, you hadn't seen a policeman?
HANDHAL: No. I went to Kutum when I was in high school and middle school, andthen I saw policemen. Until that time, I didn't see a TV. I saw a TV when I was sixteen, when I went to high school. Imagine what kind of economical or social 4:00situation we're living in. You are isolated back there. This is the reason why people are fighting now, because people knew that, "Oh, this is government's responsibilities to build everything, to build roads. We don't have electricity." I was using rubbers, the remaining of care tires? You cut them into strips, pull them up or dip them in any container, and just lit it with the matches, and it burns. It was a lot of smoke, it's pollution. You just sit there, open your book or exercise book, and read it. There's no books, exercise 5:00books. You copy everything from the blackboard, put it here, and read it. You go through exams where there are no multiple choices. Give a full answer, or you fail. We keep everything in mind. We memorize everything, yeah, no multiple choices. In high school, when people like me born in the seventies and eighties, went to the school and graduated universities, they knew that while we were back there, we had no electricity, no paved roads, no health care, nothing. Why is this? Because government don't want to do that for us. Oh, so that's a problem. When I was in the university, in the early nineties, at that time is when the 6:00people from my state, which is Darfur, started protesting and writing petitions to the government to have a look back there. Everything was rejected. During five, six years people lead protests, held meetings, sent calls, messages, letters to the National Assembly, to the president, to everybody. Nobody listens. We are educated now. In the nineties, we are educated. We know what our people deserve to live in. So, no answer.
SLOAN: You knew what it was like in the rest of the world.
SLOAN: You knew what it was like in other areas.
HANDHAL: Yes, yes. So, what happened? Some who are older than me, graduated inthe eighties, after--we gave up. I, myself, and many people had no idea what to 7:00do. Fighting wasn't in my brain at all, but some people decided to fight, because there is an example in the Southern Sudan. They were fighting for twenty years earlier, before Darfur wars had broken out. Some people decided to fight. They grouped in tribes. Every tribe collects some young people. "We have the idea to fight, here. We have the idea to bring your rights, here." They formed a rebel movement.
SLOAN: All these little rebel movements.
HANDHAL: Yes, little ones, too many of them. There's still too many of them sofar, in 2006 from 2003. So those groups, they become bigger and bigger and bigger. They started fighting haphazardly, with no clear plan. The only thing 8:00led them to fight is because there is injustice, complete injustice, in all aspects of life. So that's the main reason.
SLOAN: Often times, when there's reform movements organizing like that, a lot ofit happens on college campuses.
SLOAN: So was that true when you were in college? There was a lot of activity?
SLOAN: What did that look like?
HANDHAL: Suddenly, they said, "Okay, we want to send a call for an elder meetingor discussion meeting." It's really, actually a hot seat meeting, where two or three people, very angry ones, the young people, I mean, the young students, will stand in the middle of a circle, and they keep mentioning every bad thing about the situation in the country in general and Darfur in specific. What 9:00government has done, symbolic government, never built a single airstrip, or road, or hospital in 70 percent of Darfur land. I know there are some cities, Lyala, Fasher, Geneina--these are biggest cities. Out of this--and these three biggest cities are not even 20 percent of the region which is the size of France--only three major cities. Others, call them villages or nothing. No roads--paved roads. Yeah, there's lots of roads, but no paved roads. Don't say "highway" at all, don't say "freeway." We never heard about that. Because of all 10:00this kind of inequality, economically and socially and politically nobody is representing us. Nobody is representing Dafurians. You can name two. In my town, I can name one person. I know he's part of the political party. He's not representing us. One person in Kutum town, he passed away five, six years ago--no, I think ten years ago--he's the only one who was representing our party, only our party which is not a ruling party, too. So, no government representatives.
SLOAN: Yeah, not representing the people.
HANDHAL: Yeah, not representing the people. So, it was a big mess over there.That's why people are forming all these fighting groups. They were haphazard. 11:00They are not planned very well. I say, they failed, so far. Up to today, they failed, and it's really sad, really sad. The humanitarian part of the tragedy is the worst that we get from this rebel fighting. The central government does not listen, at all. Can you believe that? More than three million out of nine or ten million--three million of them are out of the country in the last sixteen years, three million. And half of the nine million, which is four-fifty, is displaced. Nobody's in his village.
When my mom left the home, I wasn't there. I was in Libya. My mom said, "There12:00was karama in Abdullah's home." So, karama is like, when you have a new baby, after seven days, you make, let us say, like a barbeque, so everyone has to come and eat. At that day, a neighbor was having a celebration of a newborn. Let us say that. They killed a bull, a cow. The meat is everywhere. They're eating, dancing, singing. This was in 2003, so in 2003, this guy, he was holding this and everybody was there, my mom told me. And then what came? Militias on horses and cars and camels. 13:00
These militias are a long story. As you heard, these are Janjaweed militias,formed by the government. They're mainly Arab heritage, Arab origins, but they're Africans. They are all always nomads. They are not settlers like us. We, the African tribes, we farm, we herd, we do everything. We settle. We have villages, bigger towns. We are the majority. These people, they are moving from place to place, even from country to country. They're moving from neighboring countries like Chad to Sudan, which is--Chad is neighbor to Darfur--from Nigeria, from Cameroon, from Central Africa, they're moving. Because Sudan doesn't have professional army to fight whoever is outlaw, what the government 14:00did is to hire the nomads and promise them with the land. [The government told the nomads,] "The land over there is virgin. It's fresh. It's almost free. So, you fight for me. I don't know if you know what I've had--I've had militias, I have some policemen, but if you fight for the government, the government will give you the land. You will have towns like we have there in Central Sudan."
These people, they came past that newborn celebration in my village. They ruinedeverything. They didn't kill anybody that day, but they took everything. They took the meat, the belongings, and they ordered the villagers to leave this town 15:00today, because there's another group coming. If they come, you will be dead. You know why they did that? Because they were living around there but they got orders and promises from the government to start killing. These militia members, they know some of the villagers, but now they are another part of the plan. They have to kill. They didn't kill. They took everything, and they ordered families to leave this village. My mama left. Everybody left, because they're serious, because other villages are gone, burned. Luckily, because these hired killers are known to them, to the families in the village, so they give them forgiveness time. [They tell the villagers,] "Move." 16:00
SLOAN: Now, you were at the university in the nineties, and you were talkingabout what happens in 2003. How did it develop over that period, up to the point at which you leave in 2003?
HANDHAL: Yeah, in 2005--1995, '96, '97, '98, '99, I--they handed me mytranscript in 2000. September 2000 they handed me my transcript, because I cannot get that one. I was supposed to be graduating in '99, but because you have to do compulsory military service, I was lucky. They sent me to a department called financial affairs, because I was a graduate of business school, financial accounting. They sent me there. It is in Khartoum, in the capital. I spent fifteen months over there. I got released. 17:00
SLOAN: What were you doing there in that assignment?
HANDHAL: I was, actually, in pensions department. Nothing is computerized, youjust fill forms when someone is discharged from the army, or he get wounded, or just released. You got some things to do to. It's like Social Security, actually.
HANDHAL: Yeah. So, we fill in the forms. They collect information about theveteran--always veterans and the wounded warriors. Yeah, those people, we helped them with their payments. That's all what we do. It was interesting. It was good. After that, I got jobless. That's why I left. I went to Darfur, again. After that, in 2002, I went to Nyala. I was looking for a job over there with my 18:00friend who is selling crops in--not a store, but it is just a market. I want to join him. We sell some peanuts, anything like that. You know, nothing. No TVs, no iPhones, okay? (laughs) But because the situation is boiling, as I said. In those kind of situations, people speak and rumors come that government is looking for educated people from the region, roaming the region. Why? Are you forming something? You will be arrested. You're not even living here. Why you come here? So, you have a plan. So, my friend told me the situation is bad. Okay? They're collecting people from the streets. You'd better move to Khartoum. 19:00Everybody there--Khartoum is the capital, so they don't care that much. They know you cannot fight in Khartoum. So, I went back to Khartoum, and then back to Darfur, but on my way to Libya.
SLOAN: So what were the circumstances where you left in January 2003?
HANDHAL: In 2003?
SLOAN: Was there any--
SLOAN: --easy for you to get out or how did you get out of Darfur?
HANDHAL: The news came to me, when I was in Khartoum, to move through Darfur.When they came in the middle, the mainstream of the news is that there are people fighting the government in Jebel Marrah [Mountains]. What? Yeah, they don't say what tribe is that. People fighting the government in Jebel Marrah. When we're moving we are on cars, on pickup trucks. The only thing that wasn't 20:00normal is checkpoints, all the checkpoints. I was lucky to go through. I remember I have cassette--some cassettes like--
HANDHAL: Tape, yeah. Those are containing songs about, freedoms, how governmentsare bad, how a man with the beard can impossibly rule the country the true way, and how someone in the name of God, can't do anything better than this. Stuff like that. He's degrading the Islamists who are ruling the country. I got a lot 21:00of stuff like that. I dumped them before any checkpoints, because I want to go to Libya. I want to leave. I want to leave. I cannot show up with anything against the government at this checkpoint, so I drop everything. I left. I spent four years. Worked with the Kia Company, car dealership.
SLOAN: Oh yes.
HANDHAL: With Siemens as a security guard, but to the Kia Company I worked as anaccountant, in the accounting department. Suddenly, I came back to Sudan to find that everybody's displaced. My village is not there. I came to the town--
SLOAN: And when is this that you came back? You left in January 2003.
SLOAN: When did you come back for the first time?
HANDHAL: In May 2007.
HANDHAL: I came back. I came to Al Fasher. I came to Darfur. I didn't go toKhartoum. I spent like a month. I got a job, office secretary and tracing. Tracing secretary is where you look for lost people, missing kids, families, reunion. We do that. I got that job from Al Fasher, which is a bigger town, which is the capital of the state, to a smaller town, which is Kutum, and then to the field, up to the borders with Chad. There, in that office, I was in the front office. We have expatriates, people from Netherlands, from Germany, Switzerland mainly, from Germany, from France. Not from America. You are not--what did they say? Neutral. Yeah, they cannot hire Americans in Sudan. They can hire you somewhere [else], but in Sudan you cannot be part of international 23:00community [as a] direct part of staff as an American. Yeah.
SLOAN: Now when you came back in 2007, did you go to your village?
HANDHAL: That's the story over there.
SLOAN: Yeah, tell me about that trip back to your village.
HANDHAL: After leaving the job at four o'clock, going home, I live with mysister. She's a teacher in elementary school. I lived with her. In the weekends, I planned to go to my village, which is three hours away. Actually, you can use a donkey, and you can walk. Two boys--two boys from my village, attempt to go to my village. They never came back--never came back. Nobody knows what happened to them. Just because, three miles out of the town, either you meet rebels or the 24:00Janjaweed militias, which are hired by government. So three miles diameter of the town--
SLOAN: Of Khartoum?
HANDHAL: No, Kutum. Kutum, yeah, Kutum.
SLOAN: Out of Khartoum--so once you get out of the city, you are in danger.
HANDHAL: You are in danger.
HANDHAL: Women got raped. There's no gas. We don't use gas to cook orelectricity. We do the fire with the wood. We go collect some straw, wood, and cook. Ladies go there. They need two, three miles to do this. They got raped. They got killed. They got kidnapped. They never come back. In my eighteen months in Kutum, two boys from my village attempt to go there because in our village we 25:00have some palm trees, mango trees, sawafa(??), lemon trees. They said, "Why don't we go and see this. This is the season. Let us go collect some mango and come back." They know it is dangerous, but they're just bored in this tiny town. They made an attempt and they never came back. I'm talking about people I lost from my village, and I was there.
Hassan is the only one who has a tiny convenience store in our village. Sellingwhat? Just sugar, tea, salt, peanuts. You can count seven, eight items. That's it. He has been displaced from my village, and he came to Kutum with us, which is a town, the only town now you can see some sixteen policemen. Yeah, that's it. That's where we live, and some eight organizations like ICRC [International 26:00Committee of the Red Cross]; the Red Cross; IRC Rescue Committee, International Rescue Committee, they're doing a great job; some French, the other one; the UN; (unintelligible); UNICEF, and the Sans Frontier--what do you call it--Doctors--
SLOAN: Doctors Without Borders?
HANDHAL: --Without Borders, yeah. Just organizations, displaced people, this ishow it looks like. In town, they have twenty thousand. Attached to the town, there is a refugee camp or displaced people--internally displaced people camp. They call it Kassab. Twenty-eight thousand come back to camp, served by the 27:00organizations. From that camp, Hassan is the convenient store owner in my village--used to be. He left the camp, just half a mile. He got hit, killed, and put in parts. Hassan. At that day, I decided to leave Kutum. My sister said, "You're leaving me." Because my mom and dad and everybody is in Khartoum. I got two brothers, all of them in Khartoum. That's a safe place, actually, because 28:00the dictator himself is sleeping there, so nobody can harm that place. "Everything you say is you're leaving me, even if you want to take a day off," she says, "You are leaving me." [I say,] "I'm not leaving you. You have a husband, you have a child." She was just using that maternity thing, you know. [But she said,] "You are leaving me." I said, "You have a job here." [She said,] "Your living here is helping me. I'm a teacher." [I said,] "Okay." So, I postponed my leaving.
Someone with my name, Khaled, he lives with his younger brothers. He got a smallconvenient store. It's not a convenient store, there's seven items. Lived there. He's just two streets--two alleys actually, from where my sister lives and me. His mom is in another town called Nyala seeking healthcare. He, his grandma, and 29:00the little kids, he's running that store. He's good. One morning, we see people gathering around there. What happened? I just went there. They say Khaled got killed, and his--no, his grandma got killed. What happened? The grandma got killed--the grandma, not the young man. Why? Okay, three gunmen came. You know, in Kutum, in that town, the time I was, when you heard the knock on your door, you have to be ready to fight, or to get killed, or to get raped if you have a lady, or a wife, or a daughter, or a man even. That thing will happen to you. 30:00Nobody knocks [on] doors after sunset. Nobody walks. His grandmother got killed. What? Why? Three gunmen came, and called him in name, "Come and open the tiny store to give us what you have." He opened the door of his room and he just took a stance by the wall, and he was handling, just like, a ball--baseball--what do you call it? It's not a baseball. Just a big stick.
SLOAN: Bat? Like a baseball bat?
HANDHAL: Yeah, yeah, a big bat, yeah, just like that. What he's trying to do islet him step in, and I can knock him off. That's his idea. They have guns, but one inch, I can hit faster than gun. His grandmother heard people shouting on 31:00her son, and calling him, and asking him to come out and open the store. Grandma, she was in white dress, and she doesn't know. She just came out, "Who's doing this with my son?" The first thing they did, they shot the lady, and they're gone. They left. Simple.
SLOAN: Is this Sudanese army or Janjaweed?
HANDHAL: Janjaweed militias.
SLOAN: Janjaweed militia.
HANDHAL: Janjaweed militias. These kinds of incidents, shot and killed, is likeon every day basis until today, in this town, Kutum. I left--I left a friend of mine. His name is Salaa. He works for the Swedish children's organization, they 32:00have, Save the Children--Swedish--Save the Children--Swedish. This is a year ago. He was riding a motorbike, and he got looted, killed, and--this ISIS style that's there now--they beheaded him. He's a friend of mine, I know him. I know him. (cries) 33:00
SLOAN: I'm sorry Khaled. We'll take a break.
(pause in recording)
SLOAN: So Khaled, I'd like to pick up and talk a little bit about your work withthe Red Cross, where you were going to the refugee camps. First tell me, how did you get into that position, how did that happen, and then some of the work you were doing?
HANDHAL: In 2007, when I came back to Darfur, I settled for a month. It took mea month to get this job in Al Fasher, which is the capital of Darfur at that--at all times, actually. You walk from--you don't stay inside, but you walk from 34:00office to office. Organizations are everywhere, UN organizations, all of them. At the top is the UNICEF and the World Food Program and the United High Commission of Refugees, and all the organizations--
SLOAN: All these NGOs [Non-governmental Organizations].
HANDHAL: --in one town, NGOs. So, you go to an office, and you see what theyhave on the board, the announcements, if they have vacancies, openings, you pick. They needed an office and tracing secretary, someone to handle the front desk, answer the phones, and take care of the mail. They have very special mail, they call it tracing. I got selected. They took me with the--they have their own plane, from Fasher to--that's the second time I take a plane in my life. 35:00
SLOAN: When was the first time?
HANDHAL: Two thousand seven. First time was 2006--was 2007, first time,actually, but from Libya to Sudan. This man took the plane, first time ever, in 2007, just nine years ago. That was the second time to take a plane, owned and operated by the Red Cross, from Fasher to my job location. Everything is set good, but it is the field. The next day, we set up a convoy with big trucks, big trucks made especially for these kind of duties. So, I answer the phones. I set 36:00the paperwork for leaving the town, because you need--at that time, we're over there, the government and the army were there, so you needed permission to leave the town. You need permission to hit the--what do you call it--the field. Because in the field, there are too many parties--rebel parties, Janjaweed, government army--so you pick [up] a phone, you inform all these parties: "This is a neutral organization, the Red Cross, leaving the town. Destination is this. My operation is this. We need everything to be normal."
Basically, we go visit displaced people moved from their village to a compact37:00community. You live there, you receive food, any basic medical attention by NGOs only, no government. One of the NGOs is the Red Cross. We go there, and the distinguished job we do is that, people get separated in the attacks. Children were somewhere when mom and dad were taking care of the goats and camels, the young man was there in the school, and the girl was--so when the militias, when they hit and attack the village, they take captives, they take belongings, they burn the village, and they rape. They take the young girls, they take even some men, to use them as slaves. They have a big prison in a place close called 38:00Mastariha. It's close to Kabkabiya. They have a big prison there. When this happens, people get separated. Families get scattered. If you're lucky, you could be in another camp, where your family's ten miles, or twenty miles away, or in another country like Chad, the neighboring country to Darfur, or in Kenya, or in Central Africa. So, what Red Cross does, we collect letters. You can make your own letter, but there is a form to fill. We deliver--we're switching letters between families in Sudan, in Chad. Like, my wife was in Sudan, and then 39:00her father was in Chad. Then a letter from her father, through the Red Cross, to her in another camp inside Sudan. So like that, people know where is each other. Yeah.
SLOAN: That's how Nasma figured out where her father was.
HANDHAL: Yeah. That's a tracing job, they call it--trace to find your familymember. Eventually, they do the family reunion, and they give you every possible means to get to your family. They can give you airfare ticket, they can give you a ride, anything. That family has to be together. Another thing they do is that they take care, they give medical care to wounded warriors, no matter who you are, what party you are. You are wounded--usually those who are in the field, 40:00they cannot come to the town, especially rebels. They have to get that service. They're humans and wounded, so they (unintelligible). They help them. The war prisoners, the captives--usually on the rebel sides, they don't keep them. They don't want to do the administrative part of the job--keep them, feed them, you need a prison. They set them free. The one who will collect them and take them to government, is the Red Cross, neutral party. It was a really interesting job.
SLOAN: When you were out in the field, you talked about phoning ahead to let youknow. Were you able to move unmolested, or did you get attacked when you were with the Red Cross? 41:00
HANDHAL: No. You will not get molested, you will not be attacked, because youpick up the phone and call as an expatriate. I am a translator. My job in the field is translating, but in the office I do the office work. In the field I translate. There are other translators, too. Usually, a translator could be someone, not Sudanese, but I do that job sometimes, because a translator was Arabic-English. Some people in the field don't really speak even Arabic, so I intervene at that time. An expatriate--a field officer--should be someone non-Sudanese, could be from Switzerland, France--call the government side. "You government, your army, your militia is everywhere. This is my way. The Red Cross 42:00is going this direction, and my operation is this, and this, and this. These are the details. Takes me two, three days, and I'm coming this way." Everybody has to know that. The same message will be sent to the rebels. So we are neutral, nobody will attack us.
SLOAN: Now, when you were out talking to people, did you learn new things aboutthe conflict, or about what was going on in the region?
HANDHAL: Yes, yes. Just what I knew, that this prison thing--the captives--likewhen they attacked a village. I never knew that these could take people, poor people, take them and keep them prisoners, and take their girls and ladies. I know they burned, but that they take people captives, keep them in a prison, and use men as slaves? I learned that from villagers when we visited them in a 43:00displacement camp. That's one thing. The other thing is that a villager can come and ask you when they knew that you are reuniting people, family members. He will ask you, "That day there was a war in Derjeila." It's just a place down there, Derjeila. "My two kids were following the herds, and they never came back. Have you seen them?" An old lady can ask you this question. "Have you seen them?" Because you are looking for--you are collecting people, the lost ones, the missing ones. "Have you seen them?" I remember that. They don't have even water to drink. They just in a place called Sandikoro. Sandikoro is just--the 44:00soil is a mix of rock and sand and a water well is like ten, twelve meters--
SLOAN: Meters deep?
HANDHAL: Yeah, meters deep and sometime it is dry. They're just living there,and they got hurt by militias, by war, by government which owns everything. Why these people have to suffer? They don't know even what is government. Simply, the reason is that, because they mention a name and then, "Oh, that rebel leader is from our tribe." That's why the government is attacking us. Simple. They never hurt the government. They never read a newspaper or saw a TV, and they got killed and raped and burned down.
SLOAN: Yeah, the vast majority are not political, at all.45:00
HANDHAL: No, no, no.
SLOAN: Now you mentioned your sister was in town with you. What went on with therest of your family?
HANDHAL: Okay. When my mom left the village, after the attack of the newborncelebration in my village, my mom collected her things, peacefully. She lost nothing. She left, but my sister was a teacher in a school and was studying--elementary school, Amu. So, Amu is the place that went under official, biggest, brutal march of Janjaweed. They had too many people killed. Amu is a group of villages, like a district. Let me call it a district--villages--small, 46:00small district. They have two schools, two elementary schools --three, one for girls and two for boys. The march came this way. It is in 2004, I was in Libya. And the leader of the march was Musa Hilal, himself. He is one of the well-known militia leaders. He's one of the well-known Arab minority citizens of Darfur, but as I told you, he got hired by the government to kill. He marched on his own district. They send you to your own district to kill, and capture, and conquer. They sent him. It is--actually, you can't imagine--like what is happening in the 47:00movies; destroy, kill, and take. He was by the rear of his army, and the same thing happened. Collect the herds, animals, camels, cows, sheep, goats, ladies, kids. He killed the men. He killed men. He didn't kill the ladies and talked to them, "If I were not one of you, I would kill you all." He didn't kill the ladies. He took--he sent them--he sent the ladies and the kids to the camps--to the displaced people camps, internal displacement camps, which is Kassab, Kutum. "Go to Kutum. There is a camp for you. No man is coming out." He killed them all. 48:00
There is a man that has a restaurant. His name is Shabel. There is a smallmarket. It's not a shopping center, just a small market. When I was in the elementary school, I leave on Tuesdays. They give you permission to go and shop with simple needs, Vaseline or whatever you want, and come back to the boarding school. That man, Shabel, he has a restaurant. In his menu, he's got only three things. When I go there, to eat a different food--I don't have a lot of money but just to eat a different food. He kept mentioning my father. "Oh, your 49:00father's a good guy. I know him. I have been with him in Saudi Arabia. He's a good guy." I was not paying attention while he's handing me a plate of soup. It's just meat in a tomato sauce. I was [holding] it tightly. He already gave it to me, but I was still holding it, because I'm not paying attention. So he mistakenly thought that I was paying attention, that's why I was [holding] it so tight, I don't want to drop it, but I wasn't paying attention. I didn't know that he already handed it to me, I was like--and he didn't know that I was looking somewhere else. He said, "Oh, you are so like--you are detailed like your father." He just wanted to say good things about me and my family. His son got killed. He's part--he's my distant family but his son--his son--his son got 50:00killed. He's a man, he's a big man. He's married. I know him. He is an example for a young man you need to follow. Yeah, he is educated. He did everything you wished to do. They are my distant family. He told me, he was running away, I know. He was running away, but he was shot from behind, got killed. He don't want to die. He loves life.
SLOAN: Your father left as well out of the village?
HANDHAL: My father wasn't there.
SLOAN: He wasn't there.
HANDHAL: The good thing, my father wasn't in the village.
SLOAN: Yeah, where was your father?
HANDHAL: My father was in Khartoum. Luckily, he was in Khartoum, and he nevercame back during the war. It's not a place you can come back. He's handling a 51:00shop, selling garments. He is doing good. He has a house--small one of course, not in a high-scale place. He is in a poor place. That's how my mom is kept there. She don't want to go there, but she decided, "Okay, it's time to move to Khartoum, right? Yeah, let's go." My sister, she is already married there in Khartoum, my brother.
SLOAN: So how long did you work for the Red Cross?
HANDHAL: Eighteen months.
SLOAN: Eighteen months.
HANDHAL: Yeah, from May 2007 to the end of 2009. I left the Red Cross to comehere only. But after me, less than a year, Red Cross had been kicked out of the 52:00state itself. It's not there in Darfur no more.
HANDHAL: Yeah. They shut off the office. They sent the expatriates away.
SLOAN: Can you tell me a little bit about the decision or the opportunity toleave and how that came about?
HANDHAL: Everybody leaves that country as a refugee. You leave to--like my wife,she went to Chad--to different countries. That's a long story, and she got picked to the US. Any other people, a person can go to Ghana, any African country, to Kenya, stay two, three, four, five, years, in Egypt, six, seven years, and get picked by the UN, and then to the United States or Canada or Australia or England. But I was just lucky. That's why, when I think about anything not going right in my life, I thought on that, because I'm just lucky. I went online. I applied for something called Diversity Visa. There is a 53:00lottery. They select you randomly. They put names in the computer, but those names should be from poor countries like mine. You should be one of those who have at least twelve years education, or a job that's well-known, or you can't do it. So you got selected randomly. This program is run by the Department of State. They give this chance to fifty-five thousand persons every year from poor countries. China and India are not included; far too many people here from China and India. Not rich countries, like Canada. So I've been selected. I applied [for] this when I was in Libya, because I will not have an access to the 54:00computer in Sudan. Libya was a good country. I had an easy life.
I applied in 2006, and in 2007 they sent me the letter. See, I will not receivethat letter in Sudan, letter being--letter through the mail, to me, from America, will not come to Sudan. So what happened? I put my mailing address Ireland, Dublin, in Europe. A friend received my mail, and from Dublin, he sent it through a diplomatic package to the embassy of England in Sudan. A friend, who is in New York now, received that. He was an admin officer, and then he sent it by an airplane of the Red Cross to me in Khartoum. I filled it out, and sent 55:00it back. Everything is going secretly. Anything related to America is a danger to you. You cannot practice Americanization over there. I left the office in September 2008. I went to Cairo, no visa in Sudan. I got the visa. I got the interview. It took me two minutes to get the interview. I'm just thankful of all that. I don't care that much. I got my chance to come to America. From Egypt I took ten days, I got the visa stamp in my passport, I came back to my office in Red Cross until December. I left the office. Everybody was praying for me. They 56:00showed me the videos, how to live your life. You may be getting a job in MacDonald's. You just take care of it, and you will be all right after many, many years. I hope that's true. (laughs)
SLOAN: (laughs) Well, a lot of folks we've talked to have talked about how hardthat transition is.
SLOAN: So, can you tell me a little bit about--did you come to Houston first?
HANDHAL: I was lucky again. A friend and a classmate of nine years, elementaryand middle school, he has a grocery store on Rookin and Bellaire, here. I came. I left all the money to my family. I was paid $800 every month. "Okay, you need 57:00this money. I'm going to America, I think I can--I will have enough money there." I came with [$]200, $300 in my pocket. I came to the airport, this Bush airport, and got picked [up] by a Sudanese driver. I got dropped to the store. My friend paid my taxi fare. He hosted me for a long time. I worked in his store. A year later, I got free, yeah. I wasn't paying any bills the first six months. Yeah, so I'm just lucky.
SLOAN: So you had friends here that really helped--
HANDHAL: Yeah, two of them actually.
HANDHAL: One is--like I say, he's a nephew of this Salaa, the one--
SLOAN: I see, yes. How did you meet Nasma?
HANDHAL: I was the--what do you call it--director's assistant? No, I was the58:00director at that time, the Dafurian Association of Greater Houston, doing all necessary work for new families coming. She came a year after me.
SLOAN: I see.
HANDHAL: Yeah, doing all the necessary jobs for families coming to here, noEnglish, nothing, no job, no possible job. I have to do everything. You got to relate the family to the sources that they can get their bills paid, their kids go to school. They have a sponsor organization, like YMCA or Lions but they just do the basic. They have a budget. They give you the money. "Oh, thank you, bye." They give you the money if you want. Bye, that's it. They need to--how to keep 59:00your Medicaid, your food stamps, how to pay the bills. That money, they hand it to you, and they will go. You need translation. You need kids to go to school. You need papers to be filled. You need mail to be read. So, me and other three--let me say volunteers, from the Dafurian Association of Greater Houston, helping families. At 2010, most of them they came here. Now, they're good. So that way, I knew Nasma, and it was like, what? She wanted to marry anyway, and then I said, "Yeah, marriage is better." (laughs) Because as a conservative, double-conservative community, we had not too many options. Just to marry.
HANDHAL: Yeah, and it's still good. Yeah.60:00
SLOAN: Well you've done--I really appreciate you taking the time to tell us yourstory. I want to make sure I haven't missed anything, if there's something that you wanted, to make sure you get to share.
HANDHAL: That's okay, man. That's okay. It's all right. She just told me whatI--supposed to express myself. I'm just helpless. I'm just helpless. Those people there, there's nothing showing up. Over there, there wasn't no waiting for any kind of solution. That's what I'm trying to say. They will continue to suffer, you know, and the killers are free. They are selecting everyone today. 61:00Until today, they can select anyone to kill. They can select anyone to kill.
SLOAN: There's no justice.
HANDHAL: That's it. They can select anyone to kill. Nobody will prevent them.Nobody will stop them. That's where my misery comes from. That's it. If I can get the power to get revenge, I will not cry. I will not cry. I will double their punishment. I will double their punishment. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.
SLOAN: Khaled, thank you again for talking with us.
HANDHAL: Thank you. Thank you very much.
end of interview