‘I fled torture and now I help other survivors’

'I fled torture and now I help other survivors'

He is one of the co-founders, and now the co-ordinator, of Survivors Speak OUT, a network of people who survived torture from the hand of those who have power.

They use their experience to speak out against torture and the terrible damage it causes to body and mind.

This year, the organisation is celebrating its 10th anniversary and 26 June is the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture.

I am originally from Chad. I fled torture 13 years ago and have since been living in the UK as a refugee

I was detained straightaway upon claiming asylum and sent to an immigration detention centre. It was very difficult for me. I remember looking through the window of my cell. My eye caught on the Union Jack flag dancing in the wind. I don’t know why but it looked beautiful and graceful.

Do you remember Liverpool’s heroic UEFA championship turnaround 25 May 2005? On that day in my cell I could hear the jubilation of the detention centre staff. I knew what was going on – but for my life I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.

Would I be like the guy from the nearby cell who was deported the night before? What would happen to me if I was returned to the country that had tortured me? Would I be tortured again or, this time, would they kill me straightaway? If I had a choice, I would kill myself before they could. And I would add the word please to emphasise my desire.

Thirteen years and one month to that exact date, I am here today, 26 June, the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture, chairing a gathering in the Houses of Parliament.

Back then I could not imagine addressing leaders and representatives of one the greatest countries which has given so much to human rights.

And 27 June will be the anniversary of the day I stood outside the immigration detention centre, for the first time feeling free. Do you know what the Union Jack represented to me then and also now? Freedom.

Of course, I had a long way to go to be really free. I was referred to Freedom from Torture which helped me to understand what had happened to me and how to cope with the damage caused by torture.

Then I joined with some fellow torture survivors from Freedom from Torture to form Survivors Speak OUT. We wanted to build solidarity between survivors and to empower ourselves to speak out about torture.

We are experts by experience and our expertise is needed. Therefore we need to be around the table together with decision makers helping them see better how they can create positive changes. We want to ensure that torture survivors receive fair treatment in the asylum system and a proper opportunity to rebuild their lives in the UK.

We are working hard to forge a relationship with the Home Office, where we are working with the asylum screening unit to improve their understanding. It is still in the early stages but we are on our way.

We want to extend that relationship to the rest of the Home Office. As people who have gone through the asylum system, we can help them to improve the system, to act with fairness, so that they continue this country’s great tradition of treating people with respect and dignity.

News Source SkyNews

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