Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Testimonies of Survivors of the Sinai Torture Camps

As of 2014, it was estimated that about 7,000 asylum seekers in Israel are survivors of the torture camps in Sinai, where they were held by Bedouin gangs to extract ransom from them after they had fled their country. In these camps, they underwent prolonged and severe torture, including rape, scalding with hot metal, electrocution, hanging, shackling, as well as deprivation of food, water and sleep.

A Passover campaign of ASSAF on social media, from April 2014, revealed the horrible stories of some of the NGO's patients who are survivors of the torture camps in Sinai. The testimonies were followed by posters that, while drawing inspiration from holiday symbols, raised awareness regarding the situation of the survivors and their struggle for recognition.

Artist: Anat Michaelis of the Bezalel Art School. 

The Testimony of T

“I was put in a building with a metal door. The girls were in one room and all the boys were in another room. We saw bread on the other side of the door, but we could not reach it because we were shackled. If any of us needed to go to the bathroom, everyone had to go with them, because we were chained to one another. They shackled us so hard that our hands bled. At some point, they covered our eyes. I knew that I was in a life or death situation. I had no one to call and ask for money, so the Eritrean translator of the kidnappers told me I’ll die there. He tortured us more than any of them did. He told us that when we pay, they will release him too. He gave us one water bottle for all of us and then beat us – this is how I lost my teeth. He hit us so hard that the room smelled of wounds. We did not get food for such a long time that I did not manage to walk. They took me into barbed wire until my entire body was covered in blood. My parents sold everything so they can pay the ransom and release me. It took me two weeks to be able to walk again. They took us toward Israel after ten months in Sinai. They gave us to a smuggler who was with other Sudanese, who were not in [the] Sinai [torture camps]. They saw us and started crying. They carried me until the border.”

Today, T. suffers nightmares and flashbacks, day and night, and cannot wear shoes due to the severe injuries to his feet. As a result of his physical and mental state, he has been unable to find work, but he keeps on trying.

The Testimony of K

My sister and I were kidnapped and were held for two months in Sinai. The driver said we must pay $66,000 to be released, $33,000 each. At night, the kidnappers raped my sister, scalded her back and electrocuted her. When they understood that our family managed to send money to release just one of us, they beat us. My sister was severely injured due to the torture she had suffered. She could not stand, but the kidnappers screamed at her again and again to stand, while they kicked her in the head until she died. Then I had to wait five more months until the money from my family came. The smugglers needed me because I spoke Arabic and could translate for them. This is why I stayed alive and my sister did not.

Today, Q. is deeply in debt for people who paid for her release from Sinai. She suffers from fewer nightmares than she used to.

The Testimony of T

After I was kidnapped in Sudan, the Bedouin took me to Sinai. They held me in a cave and demanded a ransom of $3,000. My family somehow managed to get the money, and I was sure that they’ll release me – but instead they demanded $44,000 more. I told them that I’d rather they kill me, because my family could never raise this sum. They did not give up, they kept beating me, day and night, all over my body. Many of us became infertile. They held me underground, my arms and legs shackled. They beat me all over my body, broke my bones with sticks and metal bars. The scars are still there.”

Today, T. lives in the street. He struggles to work due to pain in his back and legs, which has gotten worse over the past winter.

The Testimony of 'A

They shackled us, eight people in one room together. Every day they gave us one bread for everyone and half a bottle of water. Their boss came, his name was Abu Abdullah, and brought a plastic hose and lit it on fire. He started dripping the molten plastic on our back and gave us the rules of the place:

  1. 20 hits to our back three times per day until we deliver the money.
  2. We are not allowed to peel off the plastic stuck to our bodies.
  3. We receive two pieces of bread that should be enough for everyone for four days.
  4. We all pee in a plastic bag and we are not allowed to defecate.

All of us had puss and inflammation and worms in our wounds. The stench was so bad that you could not believe these are human bodies.

‘A. is suffering from post-trauma, struggles to create social bonds and maintain a job. He lives off of donations and needs psychiatric and medical care.

The Testimony of E

When I escaped Eritrea, I reached a refugee camp in Sudan, and from there, the Bedouin kidnapped me to Sinai. I was the only woman with 16 men. In Sinai, the smugglers demanded $35,000 to release me. My family took five months to raise the funds. In the meantime, the Bedouin raped and strangled me. When I came to Israel, I was jailed in Saharonim Prison for 18 months. Today, I live with my husband, and try to get back to work. My husband does not know what happened to me in Sinai.

The Israeli police did not recognize E. as a victim of human trafficking, and therefore she is not entitled to the medical and mental care and rehabilitation assistance she desperately needs.

Testimony of F

They put us into a room made out of cement. There was no light, only candles, and we would always hear sound of screaming and crying. They told us, “to get out of here, you will need to pay. If you do not pay, your kidneys will be sold.” If you don’t have relatives to call and ask them for money, they say that you are lying and they start the torture. One man died of the beatings in front of everyone. When everyone around me was already very weak, I was still slightly stronger, I was lucky. They broke everyone’s fingers and told me “you come with us”, and unshackled me from the chain. In the place we reached, there was a very thin man and the corpse of a man who died. They asked me and the thin man to dig a grave for him, so we dug it and buried him. After that, they took us back to the camp, our feet shackled. Every day, the torture was worse. They have ropes hanging from the ceiling, and they would tie them to your hands and you hang in the air all night. If they are tired, they use electric shockers. If not, they beat with electrical wires on your head, ears, legs. Beatings with sticks are considered light; it really hurts, but after a while, you prefer the sticks over other things.”

Today, F. works occasional jobs and is supported by friends. He still requires medical care due to the electrocution he suffered. His friends do not know he was in Sinai.