Former slave Athok starts her life over

Athok Mayuot Adieek spent 19 years as a slave in Sudan where she endured terrible physical and mental abuse. Thanks to a slave retrieval operation by Christian Solidarity International (CSI), Athok is now safely back in South Sudan where she is starting to rebuild her life.

Now 35, Athok had a happy childhood, living with her siblings and mother in what is now the northwest of South Sudan. She enjoyed helping her mother with the housework. But the life she knew came to an abrupt end one day in 2001 when Athok was out looking for firewood in the nearby forest. Feeling tired, she climbed up a tree to have a rest, unaware of the danger she was in.

“Suddenly I saw five Arab fighters surrounding the tree. They were shouting something at me that I could not understand. So I climbed down,” Athok told the local CSI team.

Immediately, the Islamists grabbed her. Together with other people taken captive from her village, Athok was abducted to the north.

Attacked for trying to resist

When Athok finally arrived in northern Sudan, she was bought by Sadeed Sala who at once tried to rape her. “When I resisted, he grabbed a knife and cut me on my hand and my nose,” she recalled.

Athok was now a slave without rights, forced to work daily in the master’s house. She ground the sorghum, cooked the meals, did the laundry for the whole family and cleaned the toilets. After a hard day’s work Athok was not even allowed to shower.

The young woman had hardly any time to herself: “I had to be careful not to do anything that might displease my master. Otherwise he would beat me severely with a bamboo stick.” Despite the daily abuse she suffered Athok did not think of escape. Sadeed had threatened that if she tried it he would beat her so badly that she would be left disabled.

A full 19 agonizing years passed before Athok learned one day that an Arab slave retriever would be coming to her village. When Sadeed was not watching, the young woman fled his home on 25 September 2020. She soon found the slave retriever who led her to a group of women and men like her from the south. Together they made the long journey back to their homeland, the newly formed state of South Sudan.

Athok was overjoyed to find a CSI team waiting for her and the other 150 or so freed slaves. Along with food and farming implements, Athok also received the gift of a dairy goat. For the former slave a new, happier chapter of her life has just begun.