Portrait: Yaser Abdallh


Most stories about human trafficking in the Sinai come from Eritreans. The majority of the victims affected is from Eritrea. However, many Sinai survivors in Israel are Sudanese. One of them is Yaser Abdallh, he is willing to tell us his story. We met him on the evening of the 11th April 2016 in the Levinsky-Park in South Tel Aviv.

We got in contact with Yaser through another young Sudanese who we have met on our ride to Holot, only a few days earlier. He also came to our meeting with Yaser. However, he only stayed until we had introduced each other and – as it at least seems – until he had enough trust in us that he can leave Yaser alone.

The park seems inappropriate for our interview. You can hardly talk without the feeling that somebody is watching and moreover, dusk has fallen, what appears to make Yaser uncertain. What we do not know at this point: the 31-year old man is almost blind in one eye. He suggests that we do the interview in a small Sudanese community center in Tel Aviv.

Memories determine Yaser’s life

On our way to the nearby community center Yaser tells us the past always catches up with him until today – five years after the events in the Sinai. According to Yaser, there were times when he did not get a wink of sleep for days and without a bottle of wine he would have been unable to sleep at all. We can already imagine what Yaser must have gone through in the Sinai – and not only there.

Yaser comes from a small village close to Darfur in western Sudan. When he was a little child, the village was attacked, and his family fled to the city Nyala, where he went to school and later then as a young adult opened a small telephone shop. During the Darfur conflict, which started in 2003, he has been suspected of being a member of a rebellion movement or supporting it with his shop. Yaser winds up in jail several times where he is tortured brutally. Being extremely lucky he did not die there and after his release, which was effected by a human rights organization, he flees via Khartoum to Kasala and eventually to Port Sudan. There, he did not felt safe either so he crossed the border to Egypt with the help of connections.

Via Cairo to the torture camp in Sinai

In Cairo, Yaser is also not able to find any peace. Due to the cooperation between Egypt and the Sudan he fears that he could be deported once more. So he puts himself into the hands of a smuggler who promises to bring him to Israel for 3,000 USD. Instead Yaser is taken away by Bedouins in the Sinai and is held hostage. They brought him in a tent where he was squashed like sardines with 100 or 200 more captives. Later they divided and then chained them up into groups of 10, says Yaser. He was told that they are not set free until their families pay 8,000 USD. From that point onwards, unbelievably cruel torture begins – and will go on for months.

EEvery day the captives are dragged outside into the blazing desert sun and were hit there. They have to endure electric shocks and burns created from liquid plastic or hot pebbles. The hostages only get enough water and food to survive. Yaser had to stand by and watch while women got raped and people died during torture without him being able to do something against it. Eventually, his family manages to get the money together and send it via middlesmen in Sudan via Israel to Egypt. However, when Yaser is released near the Israeli border with a broken arm and severe torture injuries he is that weak that he can only crawl to the border.

The nightmare goes on

On the border Yaser is picked up by Israeli soldiers and initially put into Saharonim Prison. There he only gets an ointment for his wounds. He is released the next day. Somehow he managed to come to Tel Aviv where he spent the first days in the Levinsky Park and was totally on his own at first. Finally, Yaser gets in contact with a human rights organization that supports him for at least a few months. In a hospital he gets medicine for his eyes which are blinded by the desert sun.

According to himself, Yaser has not been given any official help since 2013, even if he has a document that confirms that he was tortured. The health insurance he initially got, has long been expired. Since he can neither afford eye drops nor further medical examination, he is almost blind in the left eye. His visa has to be extended monthly.

Continue to live somehow

Despite all this difficulties, Yaser somehow manages to eke out a living, at first he tries to finance a Hebrew course to learn the national language in Israel. As a trained actor and singer he makes ends meet through small roles in Israeli TV productions, before the government also takes this possibility away from him. At the moment, Yaser does not have a permanent job, he only earns a little money through performances with the theater group “African Israeli Stage” which he joined a while ago. Yaser proofs his remarkable voice live at our meeting. After the interview he sent us an mp3 with his music so that we can publish it on this website:

Yaser still hopes that he can continue his life as an artist and can have his eyes treated before his gets completely blind.

In the in the book „Nightmare of the exile“ you can read Yaser’s story in detail.

Author: Ingo Steidl
Translation: Nicole Freibott/ Diana Köth/ Melanie Martin


At the beginning of September Yaser received – with the help of Human Rights Clinic who payed for his health insurance – the long-hoped-for eye surgery. Fortunately, he is now able to see again.

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