To Th Unknown Soul

Note: This was my first ever post. I wrote it under duress because of the Lampedusa incident.It was published on October, 12, 2013. I’m going to leave it as it is, without any editing.

Mahmud Saleh

She could have been a young and vibrant woman with big dreams, big aspirations, full of life, looking for a better future; or a hardened one who had beaten life’s challenges.  She could have been a student, a teacher, a soldier, or any professional. She might have been a farmer’s daughter, married, who had plans for happy family life, to raise her kids and see them establish their own families. She might have been longing for that precious grand mom’s role when she could cuddle and caress the soft skin of her grandkids.  She could have been a city girl, or from the country side, from Kabasa or Metaht. I may not know her; it appears, she has perished in the Mediterranean Sea.

The perilous journey might have been planned, or could have been a result of a desperate last decision. She could have been awakened at the middle of the night by a strange knock at her door, or perhaps, the deal of her fate was sealed after a nice dinner somewhere in Asmara. She was most probably a victim of her own bad decision; conceivably, a loved one who wished her a better future closed her doom. Again, this is just a guess, not too wild a guess, though. Money that had originated somewhere in the world, changing hands under tables, finally, guaranteed her tragic destiny.

Did she get time and information to think the whole plan over? If she was informed, what pushed her to the edge? Did she fall prey to the hideous inducements of quick money and much better life? Did her baby’s future swayed her judgment towards taking extreme measures?  In any case, something beyond my little imagination must have pushed her to the edge. Something extraordinary must have been building up, something that tested even the instinct of a mother. I may not know why she included her baby to this deadly dealing, but I know she was found still holding her baby close to her heart at the bottom of the sea. She has become the latest victim of an intricate undergrown world flushing with blood money. I wish she survived to answer my question: “Why would you do this?” I really wish she lived to tell her story.

In the mysterious and awfully shady world of human traffickers, there are no mail addresses and, definitely, no legitimate bank accounts. The business is not like your average transactions. It is shrouded in secrets. The business’s hallmarks are mistrust and murder. Its structure changes more rapidly than the best intelligence apparatus could cope with. The whole thing smells bad.

Treated like merchandise, she had become another exchange, fattening someone’s pocket. Once leaving the real world, she would quickly learn she had entered a world she had never thought existed, a grimy world teeming with heartless criminals, an evil world.

Destination= Europe.

Itinerary and length of time= undisclosed.

Travel condition= nothing ruled out

She would have been yanked in to one of those new SUVs the bloody money had brought on the streets recently, and set for the long ill-fated journey. From that point on, she would have no control over her fate. The treacherous journey had just begun, worse challenges yet to come.

Holding her child close and tight, she had been on the move. Endless transfers, sleepless weeks, hunger and thirst, and over all, the disregard of her handlers must have made her question the wisdom of her decision. As time passed by and her misery piled up, her only flicker of hope would remain to be her little baby. She would push on through. The boundless Sahara, with its shifting dunes, blanketing sandstorms and unforgiving heat would have to be crossed. “I could do this,” she must have thought.  Of course we know her characters- courage and resilience. What she might not have been prepared for would have to be the wicked nature of her handlers, the heartless beasts. Once trapped, her handlers, the worst criminals her short life had exposed her to, would throw her to a packed pickup. These heartless beasts would soon begin showing up their true color by unleashing their psychological assault, ruthless tactics meant to make a point: they were the ones in control. They would remind her time and again she was just another baggage on their racing pickup.

At times she would become philosophical, she would ponder how man could be so cruel to his brethren; she would most likely want to know why and when a person would lose the last emotional connection to humanity. Perhaps, she might have mused to the question: when does human being ceases to be human being? Of course, she would wonder if those brutes had wives, mothers or sisters. Everything about their attitude would challenge her notion of humanity. Particularly, when they ignored the wailing of her dehydrated baby, obviously, she would conclude they were, in fact, beasts, albeit talking ones. They appeared to her to be a breed of an alien world.

Although too late, she must have questioned her judgment. She might have blamed herself for taking the bait, or wished her country and the loved ones did more in informing her. Alas, there is no way of knowing what internal turmoil she went through. And, by the way, who am I to speculate her intelligence? I wish she made it to tell me.

Clinging to her starving baby, she would, possibly, traversed the forbidden desert, sometimes trudging the endless sandbanks, hoping to reach a better place, an oasis of peace and tranquility that she had sought all these years. Courage and resilience would keep fueling her push to the unknown: tattered, thirsty and hungry. She would remind herself that there was an end to misery, her suffering would be followed by years of happy life, “Just make it past that gloomy horizon, beyond that low hanging cloud of death,” she would mutter.

Finally, enduring humiliating physical and mental abuses, she could have made it to Benghazi, Misrata, or any other bloody ports where she would suffer mistreatments in jails of lawless land. The scent of that raging sea looming to the north would possibly have lessened her pain, and the smile of her baby, of course. She could have been raped, many times by many beasts. Some of them could have been those same beasts who had been entrusted with her safety. She must have been shocked to know that folks who should have been protecting her turned out to be accomplices. She would definitely put up a tough fight against those predators roaming the land, like a pack of coward hyenas in a fury to get the most out of a dwindling mass of rotting carcass. How many battles did she win? How many minds did she persuade, just to keep her child alive? And now, that raging sea lies ahead of her.

She kept holding her child up close, preparing for the final push to the unknown frontier. The talking beasts had stripped her off of everything that’s dear to her including her dignity. What remained was pretty much her skeleton and her unbreakable spirit. This resilient girl was not ready to declare defeat. Her will for life was unshakable; her resolute to get her baby to a better place had kept her moving. Keeping her baby close to her, she kept navigating the world of senseless brutes, a dingy world of hungry and drifting thugs. She’s not ready to break down, not yet. She moved on reminding herself of the all familiar saying of her people: “This too shall pass.”

Finally, she would be thrown on board of an overcrowded boat and off to the raging sea still shielding her baby. She would certainly pray to reach the “Promised Land.” Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that she has made it. Since that horrific news off Lampedusa, more than 300 bodies have been brought out of sea. All the children and women are among the dead. This is heart wrenching. Heartfelt condolence for their loved ones. May they rest in peace.

Aspiring for a better life is not a crime, and it’s not unique to Eritreans. We need to do everything possible to shade light on the root cause of this recurring problem, debating domestic policies, increasing awareness of personal responsibility, and most important, taking a critical look at the role of relatives who are paying for this perilous journeys.

Finally, it’s no more possible to stay indifferent. How long are we going to live with our head stuck in the sand? Blaming Washington for cascades of failures is abnegating responsibility. Even if Washington is hell bent on emptying Eritrea, it is the government’s responsibility to counter that by revisiting its policies so that our youth can have choices better than gambling with their life. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure its citizens’ safety. Please, there is no bigger national security issue than this.  Even, say, if Washington played in influencing our youth to take this dangerous journeys, it certainly did not influence the editorial board of ER.TV not to give its perished citizens the respect they deserved. And by the way where was Zemede Tecle? It appears Eritreans advocated more for their rights dead than when they were alive.  I have never been so ashamed of the way my government responded to this catastrophic accident. How could you explain that some Eritreans where partying when Europeans were in a state of shock, mourning the loss of our loved ones? What a moral decay? My son who is very proud of his roots, and is active in his school government, brought to my attention a clip from youtube showing Eritreans in concert when most of us were devastated. He demanded an explanation. I did not have one

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