Freedom (Befreit)

May 21, 2021
Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse
May 21, 2021

By Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis
In the summer of 2007 escaped former slave Mende Nazer decided to risk all in a journey back to the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, her homeland. She would be leaving the relative security of London, her new home, to return to the war-ravaged land of her birth. She would be risking all in an effort to try to find and make contact with her family. This is how she writes about the driving imperatives that made her face the epic journey and the risks that accompanied it – from the story as told in her new book, Freedom (Befreit).

In London I was often alone and I was often depressed. I fought against it. I told myself over and over that I deserved to be happy and to have a life and to be free. I told myself that I could build a new life in London, as a British citizen, a citizen of the West. But I still cried often and I cried alone and I cried without anyone hearing me. In spite of my freedom I was still crying alone, just as I had done during my years as a slave. Still I had no family to hear my pain, to dry my tears and surround me with affection and love. And when you cry alone and no one hears you, then you are crying the tears of silence.

Finally I realised that there was only one way to break the silence, to make my cries heard. And there was only one group of people who would listen – really listen – and feel my suffering and my pain. I knew then that I had to attempt the impossible: I had to try to make the journey home to the Nuba Mountains to try to find my family. I had no idea how to go about doing this, but I had a sense of the risks involved.

My country, Sudan, had been at war with itself for years and years and years. Hundreds of thousands have died. There are millions of refugees. And right in the very centre, at the heart of the killing fields, there lie the Nuba Mountains. My people had suffered more than most. The assault upon them had been likened to a genocide. And it was into that isolated, war torn and insecure land that I would have to go if I were ever to find my long lost family. But there had to be a way. There had to be a way back to my family. There had to be a way home.