Fourteen thousand. That is the estimated number of Sudanese men, women and children that have been abducted and forced into slavery between 1986 and 2002. (Agnes Scott College, http://prww. agnesscott.
edu/alumnae/p_maineventsarticle. asp? id=260) Mende Nazer is one of those 14,000. The thing that sets her apart is that she escaped and had the courage to tell her story to the world. Slave: My True Story, the Memoir of Mende Nazer, depicts how courage and the will to live can triumph over oppression and enslavement by showing the world that slavery did not end in 1865, but is still a worldwide problem.
In Slave: My True Story, Nazer personally and vividly chronicles her life, which began in the Nuba Mountains of southern Sudan. Her early life with the Karko Tribe in a rural and isolated area was very simple and happy. Nazer grew up in a family that was, by Nuba standards, considerably well off. She was the youngest of five children, with two brothers and two sisters. Nazer, along with both her brothers and one sister attended a government-run, Arab school. She led what has been described as an “idyllic childhood” with no worries about food, shelter, or social comforts.
However, in the spring of 1993, everything changed. At the age of twelve or thirteen (the Nuba people do not keep records of birth dates) Nazer was abducted during a raid on her village. “…a man seized me from behind. He pinned me down with his stubbly beard pricking the back of my neck…He dra...
gged me to my feet and started to march me through the village…We arrived at the edge of the forest. Beneath the trees there were about thirty other children huddled together”(Nazer 97).
Nazer, along with the other children were taken to a converted army base run by Arab Militiamen loyal to Sudan’s Islamist Government. …a camp – made up of twenty or more khaki green tents, arranged in rows. We approached the camp in a long line, and at the gates we were met by a group of men in military uniforms”(Nazer 105). She was then sold to a wealthy Arab family in Khartoum, Sudan’s capitol, for the equivalent of $150 (estimated). She worked as a slave for the family for seven years, from 1993-1999, and was then sent to London, England to work for the family’s relatives.
She was a slave in London from 1999-2000. Nazer escaped on September 11, 2000, with the help of a British journalist and a Sudanese national. Shortly after my escape, I went to live in the London home of Damien Lewis, the British journalist who helped me write my story. I had met him on the day of my escape, as he had agreed to witness my bid for freedom. He helped take me to the asylum lawyers on the day of my escape, along with the Nuba man who rescued me” (Nazer 316). While Nazer’s account of her enslavement in Sudan and England could have easily become vindictive, bitter and self-centered, Slave: My True Story is the exact opposite.
As Nazer tells her story she weaves in her experiences of
events and tells how after her escape she was able to put them into perspective. …one night I was jerked awake in the early hours of the morning by a series of massive whooshing sounds, right above my shed. The sound was followed a few seconds later by a number of enormous explosions. Shortly after I could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles racing across the city…The next morning I listened to Rahab and Mustafa talking excitedly over breakfast. They had also been woken by all the noise. They had gone outside to see a huge, orange glow on the horizon.
Clearly something was on fire, but that’s as much as I knew…Years later, I learned the truth about the attack.The whooshing noise we had all heard was later revealed to be the sound of six cruise missiles passing low over our quarter of Khartoum…The explosions I had heard were American missiles blowing up a factory in Khartoum that was supposedly making deadly weapons for terrorists”(Nazer 193-194). Nazer also tells about how she was able to decipher the reasons behind her masters’ treatment of her and understand the she was being treated differently than other domestic workers. “‘No! You are my abda! ’ she yelled at me. ‘So don’t you argue.That means you stay here in this house and you do what I say.
You work. You don’t play. Got it? Abda! Abda! One abda, many abeed. ’…I suddenly remembered the story my father had told me about the Arabs who had raided the Shimii village.
He had said they had taken the girls as ‘Abeed’ – as slaves. Now I finally knew what Rahab was calling me. She was calling me her slave”(Nazer 153-154). Nazer’s story is further legitimized by the fact that her co-author, Damien Lewis, was with her the day she escaped. “I first heard of her plight a few days earlier.
A Nuba friend called to ask if I could help rescue her. He needed a British journalist to witness the rescue so that it was ‘on the record. ’ That’s where I came in” (Nazer 337, ‘A Note from Damien Lewis’). Slave: My True Story is not a book for those seeking dry, historical accounts of slavery, or a tirade against the injustice of the Sudanese slave trade. It is a story that grabs the reader from the first sentence to the last.
“The day that changed my life forever started with a beautiful dawn…Maybe my story will have a happy ending, after all.Insha’Allah – God willing”(Nazer 1 & 335). Nazer writes in a way that makes the book so compelling that it is impossible for the reader to put it down. The language is not so simple that the book seems childish nor does it overemphazise or over exagerate her experiences.
Instead, Nazer tells her story in with a voice that everyone can understand and that allows her to get her point across easliy and effectively. “To me freedom is a treasure…I have realized that those who live in the west often take their freedom for granted.They were born into it and it has always
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