I am often asked: Who are you?

And my answer is usually: I am Mutasim Ali, I am 27 years old, I am a refugee from Darfur, Sudan, and live in the desert of Negev, in a detention center called Holot.

I also serve as the CEO of a non-profit organization called ARDC (African Refugee Development Center).

And then usually the next question is: why you are here in Israel?

My answer is almost always: because of the genocide committed against Darfurians, I had to escape in order for me to survive.

Often after I answer these two basic questions, I feel that I am all of the above and none of it, all at the same time. These two answers have become my identity. And I do not know if that is what I am or who I am.

So here I am today. I have been in Israel for five years. It has been 11 years since I last met my family. I know people say time just flies by….  But for me time stands still. It is like my whole life is on hold until I am reunited with my family and able to go back to my land. During my time in Israel, I have not been able to receive basic refugee rights, which keeps me in a limbo. So the feeling of my life being on hold is intensified. Sometimes I find myself wondering why the rest of the world has not stopped. Why is everyone living normal lives? Street cleaners get up in the morning to clean up the streets, children go to school, parents go to work, people laugh, people travel and enjoy a life mission that seems to be easier to achieve than mine. Why is not the world stopping with me? Something terrible happened: 400,000 Darfurians had been killed and 2.5 million are displaced. And the world just seems to go on. It was hard for me to process this reality when I first arrived in Israel.

So I had to make a choice. Was I going to let my nightmares get to me from the torture? Was I going to let myself become depressed? Was the climate against Africans in Israel going to distract me from my ultimate mission, which is to work towards regaining the dignity and humanity of my fellow Darfurians? Was the limbo I am living in going to stop me from moving forward? I decided it was not going to. I owe it to the people that scarified for me, to the ones in my village that were murdered, to my family that is displaced, to the 400,000 that were killed. I owe it to them.

Right now my main goal is to advocate for myself and my fellow African refugees here in Israel.


by Mutasim Ali, Israel
posted: Thursday, 19th June, 2014


1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at UNHCR.org