Karim was born in Darfur in 1972 and grew up in the countryside near El Geneina.  He comes from the Zaghawa tribe.  Karim has two sisters and four brothers.  His father was a farmer.  Before the world came to know about the genocide in Darfur, Karim’s village was attacked.

When I finished school, I helped my family look after our cattle and tend our crops.  Our life was peaceful and happy.  The village was like one big family.

One morning in 2000, we woke up to gunfire.  This was their tactic – they would come whilst the village was still asleep.  That morning, Sudanese soldiers had come into my village in land cruisers and lorries and were firing their guns everywhere.  Many people were killed and those that could escape, ran into the bush.  After the soldiers, the Janjaweed came – Arab tribes armed by the government.  They burnt the huts and stole the cattle and anything of value.  The attackers did terrible things.  After they had gone, everything was burnt.

I managed to escape with two of my friends.  I didn’t know where my family were.  After two days of walking, we came to the town of Nyala where we were able to buy transportation to Port Sudan.  There we were able to come by ship to the UK and claim asylum.

Some of my family survived and some were killed.  My brother was shot that day and I have lost many uncles and cousins.  Most of my family have fled to Chad but some are still missing and to this day, we do not know if they are alive or dead.  Those who survived have been living in camps in Chad for 13 years now.  A few family members are left in Darfur, but not many. 

My village is finished now.  It’s gone.  It’s been burnt and none of my family or the people I grew up with are allowed to return there.  The government does not permit the African tribes to live in the countryside and it would not be safe for them as they would be attacked again.  For most people, their land has now been seized by the government – some of it is given to Arab tribes. 

It is difficult to stay in touch with my family in Chad.  I would like to go back to live in Darfur if it was safe.  If you grow up somewhere it’s hard to leave, but we had no option.  At least here we are safe.

Thank you to Karim and Waging Peace for providing this testimony.