By Mark Ellis
She was kidnapped in South Sudan before she was even a teenager and forced by her Muslim captor to the North. Subjected to beatings, forced genital mutilation, and commanded to “pray like a Muslim,” she found liberation after 19 painful years.
“I was captured in 1994 in Gok Machar. I was still young, not yet a teenager. Six of us were captured. Three of us refused to go to the North. They were killed. My hands were tied to a horse to pull me along. We walked all day without rest, and we weren’t treated when we were sick,” Ayul Aguer told those who worked for her release at Christian Solidarity International (CSI).
After they arrived at their destination, her new master – a man named Mohammad Jamos, sold two of the remaining three victims, so only Ayul remained as his servant.
“He did not treat me well,” she recounts. “He beat me all the time, as much as ten times a day. He forced me to work, grinding grain, fetching water, cooking, and washing clothes,” according to her interview with CSI.
One day Mohammad sent her to the market for provisions, but a tragic incident happened. “Some Arab boys raped me on the way, and knifed my finger, upper arm and upper thigh.”
Ayul followed Jesus Christ at the time of her capture and attended church, but her captor forbade any outward expression of her faith.
“Mohammed forced me to pray like a Muslim. He threatened to kill me if I talked about church. Once I told him I was going to go to church anyway. He tied me up outside and left me in the sun all day. He ordered me to look at the sun. I couldn’t see for some days after that. I still get dizzy sometimes,” she recounts.
Mohammed also forced her to undergo female genital mutilation/cutting (FGC), sometimes referred to as female circumcision. It is estimated that between 100 million and 140 million girls and women worldwide have received FGC, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There are more than 3 million girls at risk of having FGC each year.
“I didn’t want it; it’s not from my culture,” Ayul says.
A short time later, Ayul was given to another slave, Deng, to be his wife. “We had three children, and gave them Arab names. If I had given them Dinka names, I would have lost my life,” she says.
Ayul is from the Dinka people group, the largest ethnic tribe in South Sudan, which makes up about 18% of the population.
Ayul was separated from her three children when she was liberated in September, 2013 and returned to her home in South Sudan. “I need my children back,” she says. “I also need Deng. He’s the only one I know.” Deng also belongs to the Dinka people.
“But I’m happy to be here. When the slave retriever told me we were going back to South Sudan, I was so happy that I laughed all the time.”
The freedom to openly express her Christian faith is a huge blessing to Ayul. “I will go to church again. I want to make a business here. I will make a shelter with a plastic sheet, and wait for my children.”
Ayul was freed from slavery for only $50. Thousands of others, including her children, are still trapped in slavery in North Sudan. Learn more about bringing them home by visiting CSI’s website.