‘I am scared,’ says 89-year-old Canadian stranded in civil war in Sudan

Must read

George Iskander Ibrahim lives between his family, church and work.

At 89, the Richmond Hill man still keeps himself busy and travels back and forth between Canada and Sudan, where he and his brother run an electrical wiring factory that employs 50 local people.

He’s not one who would complain to his family even when he’s really sick, or communicate about his troubles to get others worried for him.

Since the civil war in Sudan erupted on April 15, Ibrahim, who is alone on a business trip in his homeland, has not stepped out of his Khartoum apartment.

“I am scared,” a shaken Ibrahim, a religious Coptic Orthodox, told his daughter and granddaughter in a brief phone call on Thursday as the minutes on his calling card were running out.

There are plenty of things the old man is frightened of. His food and drinking water are running out, as are his heart and hypertension medications.

All the other residents in his nine-storey apartment building have already left, and his neighbourhood in the capital is in the control of the paramilitary group, Rapid Support Forces.

Two days ago, the two nearby buildings were bombed and he can still hear the ringing in his ears. The bombing happened after three strayed bullets hit through his bedroom wall and TV chair. Thankfully, the shots miraculously missed him.

But what Ibrahim and his family fear most is that the Canadian evacuation flights will unlikely continue past this week, with the latest fragile ceasefire soon to expire.

“We feel helpless,” said his daughter Amani Fouad, whose family came to Canada in the 1980s as economic immigrants. “Whatever we try, we are failing. No one can get through to him, to get him out.

“He has to drink from the tap, which is not clean. He has no bread and is eating pasta. He can’t even turn on the light because the people outside would know someone is still living in that building.”

On Thursday, officials said the first two Canadian-operated evacuation flights left Sudan carrying 118 evacuees to neighbouring Djibouti, including an unknown number of nationals from allied countries.

Global Affairs Canada says about 1,800 Canadians registered their presence in Sudan and just over 100 Canadians still there have asked for help to flee. Roughly 200 Canadians had already left Sudan on flights run by other countries including Germany, the U.K. and U.S.

Defence Minister Anita Anand was pleased with the news some flights had succeeded but called the whole situation “volatile” with intermittent power and communications systems.

“The situation is extremely dangerous in Sudan and key civilian infrastructure is necessary for any evacuation of non-combatants in this situation,” said Anand, adding that there are 200 Canadian military personnel involved in the missions.

Ibrahim has been registered with Canadian officials since the beginning of the war and is among those still waiting for Canada’ rescue.

For his family, the biggest challenge to evacuate him is to be able to get him to the Sudanese government military base, 30 minutes from his home in Khartoum, amid gunfire. They called on relatives for help but they have either fled the cities or been stopped because roads and bridges were closed.

“He can’t leave because the area is so dangerous,” said Ibrahim’s granddaughter Monica Fouad. “He needs someone to escort him. We need someone to come and get him. If these people start shooting at him, my grandfather can’t duck. He’s not going to be able to jump to the ground. He’s not able to run. He’s in a very compromised position.”

Fouad, herself a Toronto immigration lawyer, has called Ottawa’s emergency line, pleading with Canadian officials to bring her grandfather home. But she said she was told he would need to find his own way to the military base to be put on an evacuation flight or seek help from an aid group on the ground to pick up the elderly man.

When the family finally found someone local willing to get paid to get Ibrahim out of his apartment to the base, they asked Canadian officials to pass their cash to the person there because they couldn’t wire money to the war zone. The request was denied.

Through their own network, the family scrambled and finally found a way to pay the person to go to Ibrahim on Thursday, but the driver was stopped at a roadblock.

“I understand the situation is dangerous and I understand that you don’t want to send our own people, but you have a responsibility to your own citizens,” said Fouad. “My grandfather is in a dire situation. We are relying on our government to help us. We feel so helpless.

“I would love if the Canadian government can help the Sudanese citizens. It would be fantastic for the Canadian government to take that step and do the same thing that they did for the Ukrainians. But right now, all we are asking for is help your own people.”

Fouad said the family has kept the situation from their 89-year-old grandmother, Souraya, who Ibrahim has been married to since 1960. The couple worked hard to build a new life in Canada running a small electronics store before he and his brother opened their factory in Khartoum about 20 years ago.

“We’re trying to protect her,” said Fouad, who is at her wit’s end as to what more the family can try to bring the man home. “I don’t want him to die there. I don’t want him to die being scared and alone if, you know, God forbid, that was to happen.”

With files from The Canadian Press

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star
does not endorse these opinions.

Source link

- Advertisement -spot_img

More articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest article