“For the last 20 years, I have been looking for a safe place … a HOME for my kids and me. I hope it remains forever”
Voice over by Somaya Abdelrahman
In a 12-day journey in unbearable smell, and surrounded by cows, I and my kids secretly crossed the borders, we were exhausted but safe, we reached Cairo… our new home.
My name is Hassiba Alnajib and I am a 38-year-old single mother of five kids. I was born and raised in western Sudan, a student at Medical Laboratory Science College with a Promising future waiting for me until I fell in love with a man from another tribe that has a conflict with us. My family rejected our love, and when I decided to marry him, they rejected me, too. My husband’s family also did not accept our marriage, so after four years in pain, I ended up getting a divorce with two daughters and dropped out of college.
I went back to my family and they took me in, and I started working as a saleswoman. In the meantime, I met an Egyptian man, whom I worked with, and soon we got married and I had two children with him. It was five lovely years until he decided to leave me and go back to Egypt with a promise that he would come back to take us to Egypt, but it was a lie.
We were alone, so I returned to my family. Working hard every day was the only thing I did to keep myself busy, so I had to leave my kids with my mom. One day when I came back home, I found my father sexually harassing my oldest daughter. All I remember about that night is that I kept screaming until I fainted.
I realized that I couldn’t live in Sudan any more, so I decided to travel to Egypt. But I could not because I did not have passports for the Egyptian kids, so travelling illegally was my only option.
I had missed finally feeling safe, but it did not last very long. After four months in Egypt, two men threatened me with knives to take my clothes off and when I fought them back, they hit me until I fainted. The next thing I remember, I woke up covered in blood, half-naked in a strange place… they raped me.
Moving to a much safer area and wearing a niqab gave me protection while I was out working. I tried to find my husband, but his family lied to me that they did not know where he was, but after a while, he called asking about me and the kids and wanted to help us with money. Sadly I believed him and when I visited him in his apartment, he raped me.
This time I got pregnant and I hid the pregnancy from my kids until the 7th month, then I told them they would have a new sister. A lovely, and beautiful girl joined our family. I named her Waard “flowers” and with some help from UNHCR, and some lawyers I could extract a birth certificate for her.
I had to return to my job as a housekeeper but not for a long time because of coronavirus, I am a diabetic I couldn’t take the risk of going out. If something bad happens to me, the kids will be all alone and this thought frightened me. After 5 months from lockdown, I had no money left to pay the rent for the house, and the owner kicked us from it … back to the street, searching for a home.
For the last 20 years, I was looking for a safe place … a HOME for me and my kids, and I am still looking. With some help, I found a new home for us and I hope it remains forever.
Anas Kamal is an Egyptian photographer specializing in documentary and everyday life photography. Graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. A student of documentary photography.
The story of Mrs Hassiba and her life in Cairo as a refugee and a single mother of five children, presented by Anas in 2020 as his final project during the DMJX Workshop Series in Cairo. The entire series was exhibited at Cairo Photo Week in March of this year. Anas won the second prize in the Andrei Stenin International Photography Contest for his picture of Hassiba Najib and her daughter.