A horrifying tale of Modern Slavery
A story that strikes way too close to home
The subject of human trafficking and slavery is more accustomed to the 17th and 18th century history books rather than the articles in today's newspapers. Unfortunately, that is the horrifying subject of Mende Nazer who was taken as a slave not in the distant past but the supposed civilized 1990s. This story is not for the feint of heart for it tells the saddening tale of modern slavery that doesn't get enough attention in today's environment.
Slavery is not limited to third world nations
Mende was born in Sudan in a remote village into a loving family and a quiet village. All of that changed when Arab bandits otherwise known as Mujahedin, came and destroyed the village. They raped the women, killed the men, kidnapped the children; all while yelling “Allahu Akbar” or G-d is great. At the age of 12 the life Mande knew came to an end and she now belonged to a very powerful Arab family.
Mende spent six years working as a slave in Khartoum doing not only house chores, but also hard labor and anything else her owners demanded. The stories of the abuse she received, physically, psychologically and sexually is incredibly hard to read, especially as they are told in such poignant detail. Harder to imagine was that after 6 years she was sent to work for a family in the United Kingdom. So well organized was the family she ‘belonged to’ and the unfortunate pervasiveness of slavery in Sudan, Mande was easily smuggled into what most would consider a safe and protected Western European country. In what could be consider a miracle , she managed to randomly meet with other Sudanese in a market in London and was able to overcome her fears and explain her situation. By sheer will power and with the help of a few, she was able to escape from a place most would consider a normal house, on a normal street, in middle class London which had been her jail for many months. She was granted immunity and permanent status in the United Kingdom where she still works as a human rights activist.
There are a few questions, specifically from the extremely powerful family that ‘owned’ Mende, to the full accuracy of this story. Was she a slave versus a servant? Did she get paid for her service or was she there completely involuntarily? While at this point we do not know the real answer, given the numerous corroborating facts and the pervasiveness of the violence in Sudan I believe in giving this story the benefit of the doubt. Regardless if you believe this specific story to be true, it does paint the picture of what is highly likely to be going on in the war torn regions in Africa, especially Sudan. I fear that stories like Mende are more common than we think. Human trafficking especially as it relates to the sex trade is not limited to Africa, but is very common in Europe and the United States as well. It is too easy to case a blind eye to the potential of these atrocities, so while this book is not 100% verified as fact, the story of slavery should be an education for all of us. An easy read that is sure to keep parents up at night for fear of what could happen to good people in the wrong situation.
Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, speech, Mar. 17, 1865
What can we learn from Mende's story?
I think there are two important lessons that we can take from this book. First, and probably the most obvious, is that there is suffering in the world with the strong taking advantage of the weak. There are countless news articles (see links at the bottom of this lens) of children and young women sold into sexual or other types of slavery. Unfortunately extreme poverty and wars make this all the more easier and can slip under the radar. This is not just in third world countries across distant oceans, but takes place in our own cities and towns. The State Department estimates that there are anywhere from 600,000-800,000 people trafficked against their will each year, with 17,500 of those in the US alone. Think of that, an entire baseball stadium of children being held in chains in basements and attics across the country that prides itself of freedom and equal rights. We need to speak out against this and support those efforts to find and STOP these atrocities.
The second lesson is a bit more subtle, and that is the power of speaking out. When a terrible thing happens many times we are reluctant to talk about it. Possibly out of embarrassment or possibly because we are trying to put it behind us; sadly neither are the healthy way of dealing with it. When you speak out to an audience, write a book, get interviewed on TV, you can make all the difference in the world. You can inspire others to come forward, you can stir emotions and drive people to get involved, you can make a difference. Stories like Mande's and others I have written about show that it only takes one to change the world. Be strong and share your story!
We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.
Do you believe their is slavery where you live?
Mende Nazer in her own words
Learn so much more than I could write in this short review.
This was a great story that I strongly encourage for all those who want to learn more about modern human trafficking and slavery.
Slavery is theft -- theft of a life, theft of work, theft of any property or produce, theft even of the children a slave might have borne.
KEVIN BALES, Understanding Global Slavery