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Refugee Story: Hunted at Home, Beaten Abroad

  • Heather Murdock

At a mall in Dresden, Germany, a man holds up a picture of the time he reported being attacked by locals, angry at the large influx of refugees and migrants. Since then he has been attacked again twice, but hasn't reported, July 8, 2016. (Photo: H. Murdo

At a mall in Dresden, Germany, a man holds up a picture of the time he reported being attacked by locals, angry at the large influx of refugees and migrants. Since then he has been attacked again twice, but hasn't reported, July 8, 2016. (Photo: H. Murdo

About two weeks ago, 37-year-old Ahmed pitched a tent by the river Elbe - a brief respite from the chaos at the refugee camp. After breaking his Ramadan fast and relaxing by the thick, meandering river, he decided to pray around midnight.

As he prayed out loud, kneeling and rising, four people wandered onto his campsite. He could smell alcohol when they neared him and hit "record" on his cellphone.

“I don’t like Muslim,” Ahmed said he heard the slurred voice of a woman say. Ahmed, who was a college administrator before fleeing Libya, plays me the recording at a mall in Dresden. “Islam is bad,” the voice says.

The voice continues to repeat vague anti-Islamic statements and Ahmed says the person, along with another woman and two men, begin kicking and punching him. He then shows us cellphone pictures of his injuries, some still visible on his leg.

"Nazis? No thanks" reads the graffiti on this wall in Berlin. The rising far right in Germany has provoked fears from the left, further polarizing the country, July 8, 2016. (Photo: H. Murdock / VOA)

"Nazis? No thanks" reads the graffiti on this wall in Berlin. The rising far right in Germany has provoked fears from the left, further polarizing the country, July 8, 2016. (Photo: H. Murdock / VOA)

There have been more than 800 assaults on refugees in Germany, but refugees say most of attacks go unreported. Almost every refugee I talk to deep in eastern Germany knows someone who has been punched, beaten or assaulted with a bottle.

The June attack was the third time Ahmad has been beaten in Germany, where he has lived for the past seven months.

The first time, he was hit in the head with a beer bottle and spent two days in the hospital. He reported that attack to the police, who took his statement but never caught a suspect. He brings up a picture of a blonde police officer in the refugee camp he lives in about 17 kilometers away.

“Did you also report the attack at the camp site?” asks my colleague, and Ahmed briefly shakes his head. “Why not?”

“They didn’t do anything,” he says, “Why would I?”

Ahmed shows this picture on his cellphone of his former office, smashed by men hunting him for revenge in a lawless part of Libya, July 8, 2016. (Photo: H. Murdock / VOA)

Ahmed shows this picture on his cellphone of his former office, smashed by men hunting him for revenge in a lawless part of Libya, July 8, 2016. (Photo: H. Murdock / VOA)



Going back

“Is there a chance you will go back to Libya?” I ask.

“I want to go,” he says. “But there is no government in my area. I will surely be killed.”

In his home city four men are hunting him, he says, flipping through his phone again. He pulls up professional looking pictures of himself, blindfolded with a rifle pointed at his head, a smashed car with bullet holes and a trashed office with glass on the floor.

Another cellphone picture shows a car smashed and shot at. Ahmed says if he goes back he will be killed, July 8, 2016. (Photo: H. Murdock / VOA)

Another cellphone picture shows a car smashed and shot at. Ahmed says if he goes back he will be killed, July 8, 2016. (Photo: H. Murdock / VOA)

The first picture had been sent to his family, who gathered more than $16,000 to pay a ransom.

The men, says Ahmed, are brothers who murdered their neighbor in 2006 when strongman Moammar Gaddhafi ruled the country.

Ahmed was a witness to the crime and reported them. One of the brothers had police connections and got out in a month. The other three stayed in jail for two years and have hunted him since 2011, when Gaddhafi fell and Libya slid into chaos.

“I can’t have a wife or children,” he says. “If I was married they would kill my family.”

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