Tunisia: Faced With a Life in Limbo Part II

During my two week visit to the Shousha refugee camp on the Libyan-Tunisian border I had the fortunate opportunity of meeting several individuals who were trying to make the most out their new living situation after the Libyan civil war erupted. In part two of my series on how two young women have managed to overcome their obstacles while faced with a life in limbo I introduce twenty-year old Mowahab Abdullah Noor.

As a means of preserving her identity due to the nature of the story she reveals I opted not share her portrait but instead an artistic view of the sprawling tent city that was erected to house the thousands of economic migrants, political refugees and asylum seekers that sought refuge in Tunisia. This is her story.

My name is Mowahab Abdullah Noor and I'm twenty-years-old. I was born in 1990 and have never lived outside of Libya or ever seen my country of Sudan. My parents are from Al Fasher City in Darfur. The problems in Darfur started in 1958 when the Sudanese government started preventing Darfurian people from living a normal life like the other Sudanese by denying them access to government jobs, education in the University and there was a lot of racism.

Fearing for their life, my parents fled to the capital Khartoum and then to Tripoli in 1988 because during this time the government was attacking villages, taking women as hostages or using them as human shields and killing new born boys because they believed that once they reached adulthood they would take up arms against the central government.

There are some people that choose to close their eyes to the truth but I'll never stop sharing these stories.

While in Libya my father worked as a cook and my mother was a domestic worker for Libyan families. My two brothers and younger sister and I attended the best schools that our parents could afford and before fleeing Libya I was in my third year of University pursuing a degree in the medical field.

When the Libyan civil war broke out my family was shocked because we never thought revolutions on this scale could ever happen in the Arab world. Actually, in Tunisia and Egypt it was great to see the people take back their freedom after all those years of being oppressed but in Libya it took a bloody turn because people no longer respected the law and started raping women, taking hostages and killing people.

Eventually all the companies shut down and my father and I lost our jobs, our education was halted due to the closure of the schools and for two months we remained trapped in our house because no one was allowed to go out, especially men because they were killing any males caught on the street.

The situation became very difficult for us because we were drinking tap water, which was so salty and undrinkable but it was what we had. Whenever there was relative calm on the streets our mother would go out to the market for food but there were many days that we starved from running out of food.

As refugees we had only two options, which was to stay in Libya and risk being killed by the NATO airstrikes or be killed by the Libyans but luckily we learned that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was helping those stranded flee Libya and on the 9 May we arrived at the Shousha refugee camp in Tunisia. However, the reality of ending up in a refugee camp has been a big tragedy for our parents because they left Sudan to protect us from living this kind of life, only to find it again.

Through this experience I've learned to be strong and accept this current situation by volunteering and working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) where I've been able to work as a nurses aid and assist their psychologists who provide mental health services to inhabitants of the camp. This opportunity has actually allowed me to gain some hands on experience with working in the medical field, which is going to be helpful for when I'm eventually resettled in a new country and can resume my studies.