We are reminded constantly of how lucky we are to have the freedom to say what we want without fear of reprisals, unlike so many of the people we assist. It is hard to imagine what strength and courage it must take to speak out, knowing that a few words will put your whole existence into grave danger.
Adam*, an Egyptian journalist and blogger was well known for his secular views and critical writings on Islam and Egypt’s highest religious authorities. He also wrote for an opposition newspaper, banned under the regime. Adam faced harassment by the Egyptian authorities for many years as a result of his activities. When threats against him escalated, after having published an article supporting a detained student, he fled to Europe on a temporary visa. Alone, separated from friends and family, our grant paid for urgent medical treatment which Adam needed.
Similarly, Sayid* felt strongly about the mounting atrocities in Syria and wrote articles critical of the regime. This too, forced him into exile to a neighbouring country. Keen to continue his journalism he began work with a TV station that was often critical of the leadership in Iraq. The Iraqi government accused the station of ‘inciting terrorism and sectarian conflicts in a neighbouring country’ which led to police raiding and closing down the network.
Sayid and 14 colleagues were arrested and held for nearly a month, beaten and starved before being released, albeit with heavy conditions. They all still faced a five-year jail sentence on terrorism charges. And foreign nationals, like Sayid, faced the additional possibility of forcible return to Syria, which would have been tantamount to a death sentence. Sayid and three of his colleagues managed to flee to safety in France. On arrival they had nowhere to stay, so our grant paid for temporary accommodation for them in the first instance while their claims for asylum were processed by the French authorities.
Many other courageous individuals like Adam and Sayid have no option but to flee their countries of origin, leaving behind family and friends and arriving in a strange country, destitute and traumatised, with little or no support or security available to them. Most barely have enough money for the very basics of food and shelter. Often the first priority is to meet the most urgent and immediate relief or medical needs, but for those who have suffered imprisonment and torture, there is also an acute and long-term need for rehabilitation and counselling.
Please, give a donation today. With your generous support we can continue to offer a vital lifeline to some of the bravest people in the world.
*Names have been changed to protect identities
We are very grateful to our brilliant intern Izzi Valentine, for creating the original artworks which accompany this appeal.