Comforting Numbness

by Elijah DeRoche, UWCM
January 31st, 2018

[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]Mahmud Jabir was fourteen year old when he fled Eritrea, leaving his friends, family and life behind. “My father was unable to join the military, so the government started searching for him and then me. First they came to my house, but because I was not home they did not find me.” Mahmud quit school shortly afterwards, in fear that Eritrean soldiers would find him there. A week later, he left the country.
With little money and no phone, Mahmud started walking North into Sudan. He had seen a picture of Sweden in a magazine and decided his future lied in a country of opportunity. With the money he had saved, Mahmud payed various drivers to bring him from Eritrea into Sudan. Once in Sudan, he began walking the remaining 2000 kilometers into Libya. As he crossed the border from Sudan into Libya, he was met by police, and lacking sufficient funds, was unable to bribe his way into the country. He was handcuffed and driven to the outskirts of Tripoli to a little house where he was locked up for nearly two months.
“We didn’t have phones and I couldn’t call my mother. I was very scared but after a while I became a little stronger” he said in an interview with the Flying Dutchman. He was released after one month and twenty days. “From Libya, I took a small boat into Italy, and once in Italy I used the rest of my money to buy a train ticket to Stockholm.” He arrived in Stockholm during the frigid winter months of 2015, and with no connections, direction or even a warm jacket, began wandering the city streets. Luckily, he quickly met a group of young Eritreans that brought him home and helped him request asylum. He was allocated to an apartment and now goes to school in Soderhamn, a city on Sweden’s east coast, where he hopes to study hard and graduate as a mechanic.
Stories like Mahmoud’s often come to us in the form of distant, numbing headlines,
Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 1,916 in 2018; Deaths Reach 194 (ReliefWeb, 2018), More than 30 drown as hundreds fall from migrant boat off Libya (Khomami, 2018), but how often do we think about the truth behind the numbers? Every individual casualty in that news article has a name, a story a family. Many of us have become dangerously numb to the ever-increasing pile of similar stories. Mahmud dreams of a brighter future for Eritrea and the for world. A future of equal respect and no oppression. A future which I believe most UWC students hope for as well. This dream can, of course, become a reality, but only if we remain active and avoid spiraling into a state of comfortable numbness.