Photo credit: IOM/Monica Chiriac
"My husband and I sold everything we had, and with 600 dollars in our pockets left for Europe. We wanted to try and provide a better life for our four children – now we only have three. On our way to Libya, I lost my three-year-old son. The pick-up car they piled us into was very small and overcrowded. There were about 50 people inside with no food or water. People were dying left and right.
Once we finally reached Tripoli, they separated the men from the women and put us in connection houses. There were more than 600 women in that house: young, old, all kinds. Some people had recently been stranded at sea so they told us to wait; we waited for three months. I had heard things about Libya, but what I experienced was much worse than what I had imagined. There was so much suffering and death all around. I have never seen anything else like it in my entire life.
As a woman in that situation, you want to die. I have seen so many women forced to prostitute. I always made myself look as unattractive as possible: didn’t wear any make-up, messed up my hair, and wore ripped clothes. Libyans have no feelings whatsoever; they treat you like an animal. They used to take women to cark parks and garages, rape them 15 at a time and then put them back. Sometimes they tied them up and left them there. Other times they carried them to the bathroom while they were screaming and kicking as we watched helpless from the side. This went on for months. You just pray to God they don’t take you too.
They are free to use you however they want. What are you going to do or say? Even if you talk back, they won’t understand. If you are a black African, and can’t speak any Arabic either, they automatically don’t like you. You waste your breath trying to argue. Nobody cares. Or worse, they can shoot you or kick you out of the connection house, which you don’t want because you still hope to get to Europe.
We gave up on that dream and decided to go back, but it’s very stressful having to do so because we don’t know how we will survive. Someone on the route took pity on us and gave us a lift to Niger, and advised us to go to IOM and explain our situation.
If I ever see a woman wanting to take this route, I will tell her to kill herself instead."