Beyond Numbers

The Sudan war has displaced more than 4 million people causing a dire humanitarian crisis.

By Pomy Hailu

Updated 09:05 pm EDT, September 2, 2023

Published 02:23 pm EDT, July 30, 2023

Photo Courtesy: Mozan Abdalla

Twenty-eight years was how long it took. For almost three decades, my father endured the haunting aftermath of the Red Terror, carrying the weight of a ruthless crime that left him with physical injuries and ultimately claimed his life. The Red Terror, executed by the iron-fisted Dergue—a military junta that led Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987—cast a dark, suffocating shadow over the nation. Within the confines of this domestic campaign, the Red Terror ruthlessly silenced dissent, leaving a trail of shattered lives, torn families, and devastated communities. But as if one storm wasn’t enough, a parallel struggle unfolded—the civil war—an agonizing 17-year battle that added to the chaos, compounding the suffering experienced by all.

Photo Courtesy: Mozan Abdalla

I have never been a fan of numbers; I hate them and everything they represent. In numbers, there is a calculation, and in calculation, there is not much story. My father was among the hundreds and thousands of people who were impacted by the dark times caused by the Red Terror and the civil war.

To most, he is just a statistic. For me, he was beyond numbers, and his name was Hailu Legesse.

Despite being born years after the conclusion of the Red Terror and the civil war, I personally witnessed the profound impact it had on my father’s life as he endured the physical injury inflicted upon him.

Photo Courtesy: Mozan Abdalla

Often, victims of conflicts and wars become nothing more than a statistic, overshadowed by the larger narrative. When the war “ends,” the world moves forward, leaving survivors to grapple with the aftermath. Among the displaced masses, they find themselves left with the task of rebuilding their shattered dreams, fragmented identities, restoring education and livelihoods, and healing physical injuries and fractured families. Their once cherished aspects of life become reduced to mere numbers – 100 lives lost, a 1000 displaced.

Mozan Abdalla’s story mirrors this reality. A remarkable young software engineer from Sudan, who embodies the harrowing realities of war. At just 23 years old, her journey has already traversed more hardships than most experience in a lifetime. Born and raised amidst the longing for peace in Sudan, Mozan’s unwavering commitment to education and technology led her to pursue a degree in computer science, with dreams of making a difference in her community.

Photo Courtesy: Mozan Abdalla

But fate had other plans. Mozan’s dreams of furthering her education were shattered by the unrest that followed the uprising which ousted the oppressive regime of Omar al-Bashir in 2019. And as if that blow wasn’t enough, armed conflict erupted on April 15th, 2023, among rival factions of Sudan’s military government. On that fateful day, Mozan was supposed to represent Sudan at Egypt’s global peace chain summit. She was eager to raise awareness about the dire situation in her country, where citizens’ basic rights and needs were not being fulfilled. However, she never reached the summit; instead, she found herself trapped in a warzone, where she and her family were struggling to survive.

“Everything has been a challenge for me living in a country that has been affected by war basically my whole life,” Mozan said. “To pursue education, to learn English, to develop myself, to make a change, none of it has been easy. But after the recent war, we could literally do nothing.”

Photo Courtesy: Mozan Abdalla

Under the constant threat of bullets and bombs, Mozan and her loved ones sought refuge, huddled beneath a table, their stomachs empty, their voices silenced by fear. ‘“My nephews cried out scared, and we did our best to quiet them, to keep them safe. We went without proper food for over a week, relying on the small supply of biscuits and water we had,” she recalls.

With no access to food, water, electricity, or healthcare, and constant rain of bullets, the family was forced to abandon their home, carrying only essential documents and a few biscuits—a reminder of the life they had to leave behind.

“The war started just three weeks ago, but it feels like years,” Mozan reflects, the trauma carved into her words. Sleep offers no rest as gunshots and flames persistently haunt her dreams, reminders of a reality she longs to escape. “The war has stolen my peace, shattered my dreams, and left me homeless,” she adds.

Photo Courtesy: Mozan Abdalla

Yet, amidst the devastation, Mozan remains resilient, holding onto a flicker of hope. She believes in the power of collective action, urging the international community to provide crucial medical supplies, protect the innocent, and simplify immigration and refugee processes.

“Do not turn a blind eye to the suffering happening because of our race, color, or religion. We need people to be more aware of what is happening in Sudan. Please be kind to us. We need help from everyone. We matter. Every life that is being lost matters.”

I join her in earnest, pleading. Despite the daily cruelty we witness, we must constantly remind ourselves that EVERY life matters. The lives shattered by the horrors of war are not faceless numbers or soulless statistics; they are unique individuals, each with their own aspirations and dreams. Mozan’s story intertwines with my father’s, vividly illustrating the harrowing consequences suffered by countless victims of war and conflict. It serves as a powerful reminder that healing, justice, and peace are not mere fantasies but urgent necessities that demand our attention.

Remember: lives lost, lives displaced—each with a story of its own. By amplifying their voices and addressing the long-lasting aftermath, we can foster healing and ensure that no one is left behind in the pursuit of lasting peace.

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