Eritrean tells of Sinai torture for ransom – By Mike Thomson – BBC News

After seven months of beatings, burns, electric shocks and constant threats to kill him, an Eritrean refugee has finally been freed by his kidnappers in Egypt's Sinai desert. Covered in deep scars and suffering from

After seven months of beatings, burns, electric shocks and constant threats to kill him, an Eritrean refugee has finally been freed by his kidnappers in Egypt’s Sinai desert. Covered in deep scars and suffering from breathing problems and bone injuries, Philemon Semere, now in Cairo, told the BBC how it feels to be free at last.

“Words are not enough to say how good I’m doing right now. I’m so relieved after everything I went through. Death was very near to me and at one point all hope was gone.”

It was hard to believe that this was the same man whose terrible plight had been broadcast across Britain and much of the world a few months before.

In a rare and chilling phone interview last November, an evidently distraught and petrified Philemon Semere had told the BBC in broken English:

“I have no enough food. Have no enough water. Always hit by sticks and burnt by fire and electricity. My body is burning. Please help me, Mike, please help me!”

His Bedouin kidnappers forced him to make frequent calls to his family, warning them that he would be killed if they failed to pay a $33,000 (£22,000) ransom.

With the consent of Philemon’s family, I phoned the number he had called from.

‘Cold, sneering voice’

Numerous attempts brought no response.

Then, finally, the phone was answered.

An unidentified voice wanted to know who was calling and why. A long pause followed my answer.

Then Philemon came on the line. Sobbing, he said that his family could not pay the huge ransom and feared he would soon be killed.

Suddenly, a cold, sneering voice confirmed his fears.

“If he hasn’t any money, I will kill Philemon here.”

I asked the man, who later told me that he was the leader of the kidnap gang, if he had killed other hostages who failed to pay their ransoms. Appearing to relish the question he replied:

“A lot of people I have killed here.”

Facts on the ground seem to bear this out.

Pleading for money

The UN estimates that on average 3,000 Eritreans fled into eastern Sudan each month last year. During that journey many of them were kidnapped, tortured and killed by Bedouin people-trafficking gangs. Their bodies were often dumped in the Sinai desert.

Philemon explained how he and a large group of fellow Eritreans had been seized by kidnappers soon after crossing into Sudan but had managed to escape into the desert.

Driven by raging thirst to drink their own urine after four sweltering days, they staggered to the nearest town for help.

But soon after they arrived there, locals tipped off their kidnappers.

Within hours they were thrown, hooded and chained, into the back of a truck and driven to North Sinai.

“When we got there we were surprised because the house they took us to in Sinai looked quite nice. But minutes after we arrived we were made to lie on the floor and told we’d die unless each of our families paid $33,000,” he said.

In the days and months that followed, Philemon and 19 other Eritrean hostages were repeatedly made to phone their families and plead with them to get the ransom money.

‘She heard my scream’

The kidnappers know that many Eritreans have relatives working in Western countries and can appeal to them for help.

Soon after the hostages were given a phone, the beatings, burning and electric shocks would start.

“They wanted our relatives to hear us screaming and crying in pain. That way they were more likely to pay the ransom money,” Philemon explains.

He described what happened the first time he called his mother:

“She heard my screams and couldn’t stop crying. I was crying too. We both just cried and cried until we had no tears left.”

He says that for the first few days after my phone call, he was treated better.

But the beatings and torture resumed not long after that. Only 11 of Philemon’s group of 20 hostages survived their seven months of captivity.

“There was death every day, right in front of my eyes. The kidnapper who spoke to you wasn’t lying. He’s killed many people, and he’s still killing many people.”

The kidnappers finally agreed to release Philemon after accepting that the $13,200 his now impoverished family had paid was all they had.

But then they changed their minds and demanded that he and two other men being held with him paid a further $10,000 between them.

Several weeks later the money was paid and the men finally freed.

Philemon has now made his way to Cairo, home to hundreds of former kidnap victims like him.

But his search for a better life has brought only horrors and left his family back home poorer than ever.

With no guarantee that he’ll be allowed to work to help pay them back, or be granted asylum, Philemon’s future, like that of so many others, hangs in the balance.

“God brought me out of the deepest darkness and only he knows what lies ahead for me now.”

Link:Eritrean tells of Sinai torture for ransom – BBC

aseye.asena@gmail.com

Review overview
12 COMMENTS
  • Kalighe May 20, 2013

    If we had a government that cares for its people, the bandits in Sinai and their agents in Sudan should face justice. Unfortunately, the regime in Eritrea is part of the problem.

  • Andebrhan Ekube May 20, 2013

    The regime in Eritrea is the number one part of the problem for the Sinai .

    • Justice May 23, 2013

      The regime in Eritrea is the problem in Sinai .

  • Efrem May 20, 2013

    Dear Philimon, conguratulations for reborn to life, it was not easy the problem that you faced. Glory to GOD that he delivers you from that dark moment. be courage GOD has a plan in your life, trust him he will help you again, he is ELSHADAY-GOD.

    this all eritrean tragedy begins from inside Eritrea. the offials has a hand on it for sure.the regime does not care about his people, he only cares about his countinuation of power. but this all will pass. one day we will enjoy freedom and peace in our country. may GOD BLESS ERITREA AND ITS PEOPLE.

  • roma May 20, 2013

    if the government of Eritrea continue in power for the coming three years, all Eritrean people will be vicimes, Eritrea might then will join Ethiopia due to poverity. we will see it watch.

    • Bahrenegestat May 22, 2013

      tidelyo imo yizingiakin. Ertra nab ethiopia kithiwes?. Hzbi Ertra 99.8% n Ertrawnetu eyu meritsu n Shiabya aykonen. slezi w/ro Roma aytihlema. And for Eritreans, Ethiopia would be the last country to annex with.

  • ማሊሻ May 20, 2013

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHLAULEW-Ik

    ንባርነት ሓሳረ መከራን ውርደትን ኤርትራውያን ኣብ ሃገራት ዓረብ ፣ ሊብያ ሱዳን ግብጺ ፣ ንምርኣይ በዚ ሰንሰለት መርበብ ሰዓብ ፤

  • henok May 21, 2013

    we shared good time with Fill. I am so sorry for the suffer and misery he experinced. At the sametime i thank God for his mercy. May the Almighty God bring solution to the problem of Eritrea.

  • NEW HOPE ERITREA May 21, 2013

    Fellow Eritreans,

    The people I call bandits that brought this unbearable pain…although the business starts in Eritrea & the Eritrean banks get their share of the sale of kidneys..why are you not looking at this kidney sells as helping Eritrean economy. In your stereotypical reasonning ,the END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS …Eritrea is getting a good pertcentage of this money…I do not mean to sound crude & I am not playing with your air head..BUT WHAT TJHE F**K IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RECRUITING FORCEFULLY PEASANTS & THROWING THEM IN TO A HELL FIRE THAT THEY NEVER VOLUNTEEREED FOR…..& OUR PEOPLE IN SINAI ARE FINDING THEIR KIDNEYS EXTRACTED AGAINST THEIR WILL..AND IF THEY PAY THE ERITREAN GOVT. PART OF THE KIDNEY CELL IS THAT NOT THE SAME ..HOW THE HELL YOU HAVE SELECTIVE MORALITY…DO NOT YOU THINK THE BEDOUIN FREEDOM FIGHTERS ALSO DOING THEIR DIRTY STRUGGLE LIKE THE DIRTY ERITREAN STRUGGLE.

    Just call them BPLF..(Bedouin people´s liberation front)..SPARE OUR PEOPLE YOUR FAKE COMPASSION & SAVE THEM OF ALL FREEDOM FIGHTERS.THE EPLF/PFDJ OR THE BPLF (BEDOUIN PEOPLE´S LIBERATION FRONT IN SINAI)
    YOU KNOW AFTER MAY 24 I DO NOT FEEL LIKE TEACHING YOU ANYMORE..NOTHING CHANGES….AFTER MAY 24 I AM DONE..I WILL NOT TEACH YOU AND MY CONSCIENCE IS CLEAN..I LEAVE YOU WITH..
    1)KALIGHE
    2)SALIM aka AA YASSIN
    3)BELAY NEGA
    4) DAWIT MECONNEN
    5) MESFIN HAGOS
    6) ADHANOM WELDESEYTAN

    Too sad ..so emotional without principle..OFF COURSE IT PAINS ME WHAT HAPPENS IN SINAI (THE TAIL) WHILE DIRECT BENEFICIARY THE SOURCE OF THE BUSINESS IS EPLF PFDJ.

  • Tedi May 21, 2013

    Philmon, Thanks God, you are alive and witnessing the barbaric and inhuman act of Bedouin to the world. There are many young Eritrean tortured and kill and where about their body unknown. This will be continue and government of Eritrea does not care. Brothers and sisters Eritrean in Europe and America we can do at minimum some thing. Financially starve Eseyas regime by not paying 2% annual tax and cutting any support. The regime does not have friend in the world except us. How long we live like this. Action!! Action Action. Haba nbel!!

  • simon May 22, 2013

    the regime in Eritrea is a part of problem he has goed conection met rashaida and bedouin. if you see the history he killed he oun fighters in sahel and in maihabar
    and he make lot of crime for his oun poeple .Isajas afewerki is the same like POlPOT

    of Cambodia. if eritrean pople he want freedom and Dighinity.he must confront by all meanes.

POST A COMMENT