Eritrean Slaves – A Trafficker’s Tale



A Trafficker’s Story

I buy Eritreans from other Bedouin near my village for about $10,000 each. So far I have bought about 100. I keep them in a small hut about 20 kilometers from where I live and I pay two men to stand guard. I torture them so their relatives pay me to let them go. When I started a year ago, I asked for $ 20,000 per person. Like everyone else I have increased the price. I know this money is haram [shameful], but I do it anyway. This year I made about $200,000 profit.

The longest I held someone was seven months and the shortest was one month. The last group was four Eritreans and I tortured all of them. I got them to call their relatives and to ask them to pay $33,000 each. Sometimes I tortured them while they were on the phone so the relatives could hear them scream. I did to them what I do to everyone. I beat their legs and feet, and sometimes their stomachs and chest, with a wooden stick. I hang them upside down, sometimes for an hour.

Three of them died because I beat them too hard. I released the one that paid. About two out of every 10 people I torture pay what I ask. Some pay less and I release them. Others die of the torture. Sometimes when the wounds get bad and I want them to torture them more, I treat their wounds with bandages and alcohol.


I beat women but not children and I have not raped anyone. My parents don’t know I do this and I don’t want them to know. I’m not interested in speaking to anyone who wants me to stop doing this. The government doesn’t care so I don’t mind talking to you. The police won’t do anything to stop us because they know that if they come to our villages we will shoot. The military might try to get us, but I am young so I don’t think about that.

I first started doing this because I had no money but saw others making lots of money this way. I know about 35 others who sell or torture Eritreans in Sinai. There are 15 just near my house, living close to each other. We are from different tribes. Some just buy them and sell them on to others, and some of us torture them to get even more money.

Human Rights Watch interview with a 17 year-old trafficker near the town of Arish, Sinai, November 6, 2012 .


A Witness’s Story

When I see the detainees [former trafficking victims detained in Sinai police stations], I see burn marks on hands and arms, I see cigarette burn marks on their cheeks. Some have dislocated wrists and broken fingers. They tell me it is because the traffickers bend the wrists and fingers backwards and into other bad positions. In some cases I saw amputated fingers, usually the middle finger. Some have head injuries. Some can’t walk because the kidnappers tied them up for so long or beat them on the soles of their feet or legs and they need someone else’s help to stand.

When I ask about the injuries, Eritreans always tell me what happened to them. Most women say the kidnappers raped them and they are ashamed. Some of them tell me only indirectly, for example by saying they missed their period. They tell me the traffickers gave them electric shocks, hung them from the ceiling by the hands, sometimes with their hands tied behind their backs, beat them all over their body, including their head.

Many are obviously traumatized because of the torture. Many are dehydrated and have lost a lot of blood.

The police don’t take people to hospital. Some detainees tell me the police refuse to take them and some say they saw other detainees die in the police station of their injuries. When I identify someone who is particularly badly injured I ask the police to take them to hospital. Sometimes they agree and sometimes they say no. And when I speak to doctors in the Arish hospital, some of them ask me why they should treat migrants who are trying to get to Israel where they will be turned into fighters and then attack Egypt. 

Confidential Human Rights Watch interview, November 7, 2012 .

According to Teresa May, there is nothing wrong in Eritrea, people who leave their home country, cross the Sinai desert and get kidnapped & tortured are doing so for economic reasons.