Refugee voices: Sudanese hairdresser in Tine, Chad

from Refugees International
Published on 08 Apr 2005
We arrived in Tine at 10 in the morning, in search of any Sudanese refugees living among local Chadians. A typical border town that shares its name with the town right next door in Sudan, Tine has long been home to merchants and migrants of the Wada Feri regions of Sudan and Chad. Just inside the town, a large marketplace appeared.
The usual bustle of an African market was muffled by the sandstorm that was slowly building strength. Since the war in Darfur erupted over a year ago, Tine has also been host to Sudanese refugees. Today, Approximately 400 to 500 Sudanese refugees live in Tine, Chad.

Sitting in front of a neighbor's dusty music stall, a young hairdresser, Jamal, told Refugees International how he managed to flee from continuous attacks by the Janjaweed on his small village in north Darfur. Despite Jamal's eagerness to speak with us about his life in Tine and his experiences in Sudan, a veil of sadness lingered in his eyes and face as he described horrors of fleeing torrential aerial attacks.

Jamal and his family first fled to Al Fasher, but the aerial bombings soon followed him there and once again, Jamal and his family fled. He and his family continued on their long track westward to Tine, on foot, stopping every few days to hide in forests or caves. Along the way, his family lost practically all of their cattle and other animals they had brought with them to help the family set up once in Chad. But that is not the only important thing he lost.

Like many who fled the violence in Darfur, Jamal was forced to witness the killing of his neighbors and family. "I saw so many people with my own eyes being taken away by Janjaweed or the military. They took some of family and neighbors. I don't' know if they are alive or not. It has been a long time, but I have not seen them since."

Only five members of his family survived the tragic massacre and now live in Iridimi refugee camp in Iriba, eastern Chad. Asked why he did not stay in the camp with is family, Jamal said he chose to stay in Tine because of the opportunity to earn a living, no matter how small. Every couple of months, he gathers his meager belongings and tracks through the desert to visit his family in the camp.

As a hairdresser, Jamal earns very little, but any amount of money he can earn for his family is better than living without work in the camps. "There is not much work here, but how can I help my family if I stay in the camp? So I stay here in Tine to work. Some weeks there is little money to eat and some weeks there is no money at all. It's not easy."

Refugees International McCall-Pierpaoli Fellow Yodit Fitigu and Senior Advocate Michelle Brown just completed an assessment mission to Chad.