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Last Updated: 05/12/2005
A Long Walk

This part of an interview with Yassir Kori relates his flight from Sudan that finally brought him to safety in the United States. Kori walked across Sudan and Ethiopia for over a month, working along the way to finance his trip as he tried to escape from a government that wanted to kill him.

I was 15. I like to help my people by any means, so that their voice can be heard by any means it s my duty to enhance this awareness so that people can do as they want in my society. One day we were working with housing authorities called the Ministry of Urban Housing Authority. We had a couple cases of civilians whose houses were being destroyed by the government authorities and these houses, they did not destroy them equally, some houses they had been just selecting, the Muslim people were left there and the Christian people, their homes were destroyed.


And we protested, why is this happening? We are all citizens of the same land, all citizens of the same tribe and same country, but different religions. If it is like that, we have to raise this voice for our international community to be aware that it is religious discrimination. And we won t allow that to happen in our society. As a result of this, we always took cases for these people whose houses were marked with a cross sign and taken out. Those people would give us the case with the names and we take these names into the Ministry of Urban Housing Authority to ask why these people are on the list to lose their houses and why others are not.


They don t try to respond to us quickly, they take a long time to respond to us. So one day, we had been given warning in the morning that one cross-marked house would be destroyed. We encouraged them, don t take any property until we have clarification why this is happening to us. But in the morning, on the day that it was issued, big trucks came in and bulldozers came and broke the houses, all the houses with a cross sign. There were some people inside, some kids inside the house and all the civilians came out and took stones and threw them at the police and the people who wrecked the houses. The police were angry about what was happening there and they shot people with guns. How many of them were killed? Like 13 of them killed, and 20-something wounded.


So we took this case and made a campaign with one hundred people and went to our congress, which was called the Transitional National Assembly, and submitted our case that there were some civilians shot by the government for no reason, because of the houses. The (authorities) there said, Who shot these people? Was it the government? We are a part of the government, we don t have to respond to you right now, there is no way to respond to that. So the civilians were so angry they said, Let us look to other, higher authorities. If the government doesn t want to listen to us there are higher authorities. So I told them I know many places, let us go.


So I lead like eight people. The others returned back to their town, and I lead eight people to different international agencies such as the American Embassy, the Russian Embassy, and U.N. High Commission of Refugees. The last place that we stopped was the American Embassy. The American Embassy people asked me what is going on, who is leading this group? I told them it was me who is leading them and later explained what happened there and they wanted to interview me for more detail. So they took me upstairs and the other civilians were asked to leave the embassy and I remained there for more questioning. They asked me if I would be interested to go with them and show them the place where the incident happened. I said yes, I will go.


They took cameras and everything. In the evening hours we went there and did a report of that place and what happened. After a couple hours a release was issued by the U.S. Department of State condemning what s going on there and the news was spread all over the world in the media. Everyone was talking about what was happening there.


Those people who returned back to (their homes), they were happy to say it was me, and they were announcing and so on, and the government heard that it was me who did so, and I was being looked for by security. At the same time, God told me something: Don t sleep in your house tonight, there is something that is going to happen. The next morning, my mother told me that some people came at 1 a.m. and looked for me. You cannot come back here, she said. Otherwise, you are going to be killed somewhere.


So I had to sleep from church to church. Finally I went back to the embassy and told them what happened, and they gave me a recommendation to go to Egypt so that I could speak to the High Commission on Refugees to start the process to go out. And they gave me some money to go out, which was good. I immediately gave some people in the government money, I gave them that money to get a passport quickly. The people there, you give them money, whether you are legal or illegal, they will issue anything to you. I gave them money that I got from the U.S. Embassy, and they got my passport and my visa to go to Egypt. I went through Port Sudan, in the Red Sea.


I went there with a lot of people. When we arrived, eight people who were young like us, boys, were taken aside and the adults were allowed to go. The decision was made that (we eight) had to turn back and were not allowed in. So I came from Khartoum because of the persecution there I was not able to turn back, there was no way, but I was forced to go back there. I took the same ship back to Port Sudan. From there I was not able to go to Khartoum, of course, so I had to just take a small transport to Kassala. I tried to go to Asamara,


I made some arrangements, but in order to go to hasamala, the government has to take your passport and keep it, and then they will allow you to go and you can come back and take your passport. But I could not leave my passport there. So I said, I cannot leave my passport here otherwise I will go back to Khartoum. So they said, yes, you can go back to Khartoum and make it official and get a visa there. I said no, give me my passport back. When I got my passport I just started walking, because I had to walk somewhere. So I crossed that places walking through the city called Ghadarif, I walked across the border with the purpose of looking for a job. When someone asked me where are you going? I answered I am going to look for a job.


So I started walking. Every three days I had to walk all day until the sun went down. When I got tired, I had to see the nearest field and ask if I could work there, a couple days or whatever hard work. I had to work like three days to earn some money and then I would ask, Where is Ethiopia? And he would tell me, Those mountains are in Ethiopia. You can make it. It took me 21 days to reach that last point, to go to Ethiopia. I walked all the way through Sudan, through the fields, the agricultural fields. They were growing grain and different kinds of agriculture crops.


I reached the last point there, at the border, and some people told me if you cross there the security will find you, so wait until night, then you can cross. So I waited until night, then I crossed the (Ethiopian) border and entered into that village. With a truck, it took me one day to get to the capital city. I went there to the American Embassy and I gave them the recommendation and told them I wasn t allowed to go into Egypt at the border there. So I gave them what happened, explained everything with the recommendation letter and everything.


So they gave me a choice. We can do the process in this embassy, but the people who are responsible for that, the immigration people, they are going from country to country doing refugee cases so if you want to wait for six months, they will come back here. Otherwise, if you have sufficient funds we can make a visa for you to go to the U.S. and then you apply for political asylum. Do this paperwork and we will do everything for you. So, I had to think about it. I stayed there one week and something thinking, how can I do this? Or is it better for me to go where the immigration people are, which was in Nairobi, Kenya.


Again I started walking, and I didn t know where to go. So that time I didn t walk much, only a couple days, three days, then I found another truck someone showed me. I paid the driver and he took me to the last city (on the border with Kenya). I had to wait until night again for somebody to lead me to cross the boarder. That person also knew people on the other side and knew people on this side. Those who don t have visas, you just have to pay a certain amount of money, then you can cross the boarder. I paid again. All my money was finished that time. I paid a certain amount and he led me at night across the boarder and there was a driver to take me to the capital city Nairobi.


I had to go to the Embassy again, same thing again, and show the letter of recommendation. Very good, everything is well organized. I went to the refugee camp and showed them what happened, and immediately they set up the process to come to the United States. And this is how far I came.


Now whenever I go anywhere I pray to God to open the doors and the way for me so that I can pass safely. I was always encouraged by the verses in the Bible that say The Lord is my shepherd, I will never be afraid of anything. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid because you are with me.