“Wow thanks for the shoes! They are my first pair since I arrived in Hong Kong three years ago. I left my home with these olds ones which got me away from the rebels and half around the world. It reminds me of the day I left my village, when the rebels returned to kill me. Their leaders always come three time to force recruitment: the first time they say it’s religious duty, you must do it for Jihad; the second time they say you must kill the government; the third time they offer you money to fight and they give you a notice “If you don’t come by Wednesday you are dead!” When you hold that warning in your hands, you know your life is worth less than a chicken’s, because the chicken can always make eggs, but if you don’t join them … then you are dead.
The rebels rules the village, it’s a big area like TST with many houses but you can’t hide anywhere because they have eyes in every home. You can’t stay and refuse to fight because they will shoot even your family. These are not people – they are monsters! It’s hard to believe they come from the same place, eat the same food and were the kids we played with. Now they are all crazy, their eyes are full of anger. They think there is no God to punish them, just like there is no police to stop them. I was lucky my uncle sold his old truck – my mom died giving me birth and my father was killed ten years ago – he gave me the money and an agent in the city bought a passport and helped me escape to Guangzhou.
A man has to decide even if he has no money and no power. We belong to a small tribe, with little power. We only have our name and we must protect it until we die. Why do I have to kill my people? What did they do to me? What will my three sons think if I become a killer? It hurts too much to think about it, because now they don’t have a father just like I didn’t. But what could I do? We have to make choices and I don’t want to kill my people. The rebels killed many in my village. A bullet is cheap. I was going to be next, so I had to run, run so far they can never find me. It breaks my heart to be an asylum-seeker, but what could I do? I had no choice in my village, no choice in my country but to become a rebel. It keeps me awake all night. I never sleep till five in the morning because I think too much, but what can I do now? I feel so helpless. I know my country will never change and without hope it’s difficult to get up in the morning. How can a man live without family and without hope? It’s better to have one or the other. Now my life is like a movie PAUSED without changing for three years. The picture is stuck, doesn’t go forward and doesn’t go backwards. I smile a little because I am safe and have friends like Vision First, but in my heart there is only pain.”
Bahari 25, West Africa