Published by NGO Dignity
There is a refugee crisis that is destroying families around the world. To be clear, this is a crisis! Families flee one set of dangerous, dire, and life threatening circumstances and are often faced with yet another dire situation. Refugees are often mistreated, disgraced, struggle to eat, and must overcome huge obstacles to create a new life. At Dignity Restoring Hope, our mission is to assist refugees in the Czech Republic to restart their lives. These are lovely and desperate families that need our help, and with your support, this is what we do!
At Dignity we are currently supporting a wonderful and resilient Somalian family who are refugees in Prague. Their story in Somalia is heart wrenching and cruel, and their journey to the Czech Republic truly miraculous. We have a special opportunity to support this family and we need your help!
Just this week a $10,000 year-end matching gift commitment was made to support this family. Will you help us unlock this matching gift with a year-end donation? Will you help change the lives of this dear family? Do you want to be a part of something really special, part of our story and part of their story, as we help refugee families in central Europe?
To give - follow these simple steps. To learn more about this amazing family, read on.
- Go to: https://giving.ncsservices.org/App/Giving/idp
- Select the fund "International Church of Prague”
- Select the sub-fund "ICP Dignity Foundation"
Zafeera fled Somalia in 2016 as the family was in grave danger from local terrorists and corrupt police after refusing to pay bribes for protection. The situation in Somalia was eroding and intensifying, and Zafeera and Abad were increasingly afraid that if they didn’t seek asylum, their family would not survive. Zefeera chose to seek asylum so that her husband could protect their precious children. What was thought to be a few months apart turned into five years of separation, fear, attacks, and a shooting, alongside physical and emotional pain.
While Zafeera was navigating immigration, legal battles, refusals, and homelessness, her husband fled with the children. The seven girls were targets and four of them were captured and mutilated, creating trauma and medical issues that would surface later. Their home was raided and while protecting the girls, Abad was shot. While he survived the shooting, he was hospitalized and the kids were on their own.
Meanwhile Zafeera faced her own challenges. We met her for the first time two and a half years ago in a refugee camp while waiting for her asylum application to be processed. We were providing food and clothing to camp refugees including Zafeera. We heard about her again in late summer 2020 as she had received international protection, was moved to a different governmental facility, and was struggling. We were contacted by government social workers and asked to help with her case. She was subsequently moved to a safe house close to Prague and we have been helping her ever since. Zafeera has worked tirelessly to gain asylum for her family. Everywhere she turned she was denied. She found work in a factory and a place to live to strengthen her application. The legal battles were complex and difficult, but she would not give up. Dignity has encouraged her, trained her, supported her, and fought legal battles on her behalf. The obstacles have been formidable, but we believe in miracles and the good will of others. After years of appeals and legal challenges, her International Protection was approved.
In August 2021, we received a desperate call from Zafeera. Danger, that caused Zafeera to seek a new safe home, the same danger that caused the family to flee from their hometown, had found them. Zafeera’s husband, Abad, owned a building company, employing several workers – Muslims and Christians alike. When he refused to pay protection money to the state police (essentially a “protection racket”), which would mean he would have to deduct it from each of the worker’s salary, the police withdrew their protection. At this point, the harassment and threats started to come not only from the local terrorist fundamentalist jihadist group, Al-Shabaab – branch of al-Qaeda, but from the police/government as well. It was this situation that had forced Zafeera to flee, rather than her husband. If physical threat came to them, she would be no use as a woman – they decided that Abad would be able to provide a Father/male protection for their children better than her. She left to seek asylum for her and her family, this incredibly difficult decision was made in the knowledge that it was better for her to leave and her husband to stay, as he had more chance of protecting the family. Never-the-less, the family was now in a very dangerous situation, without the police protection that had kept them safe so far. Things were deteriorating and Zafeera was frightened for the safety of her family while feeling helpless as to how she could help. They hoped that they will be apart for several months, at the most, time that stretched to five years. Sadly, the situation was to get worse, before it was to get better.
The family fled their hometown, where they were heavily targeted, and moved to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, where they hoped to “blend in” and not be discovered.
Unfortunately, Al-Shabaab found the father and children in Mogadishu as well. At this point, the threat zoomed in onto the seven daughters. Four oldest (ages 12, 11, 10 and 9 at that time) were captured, taken away and mutilated (Pharaoh Female Genital Mutilation). They were brought back to the father with the message that they are now “ready” and will be given away as prizes for deserving jihadists in due course. Two of the girls subsequently developed severe infection, were hospitalised and one became seriously ill, fighting for her life for several days.
Back to August 2021. Al-Shabaab stormed the house in attempt to take the four daughters, Abad fought them and was shot and wounded. Their neighbours reached out to Zafeera asking what to do with the children as Abad’s injury required hospitalisation. That was the moment when we have received Zafeera’s desperate call. We asked for some hard evidence and received a medical report from the hospital treating Abad for gun shot wounds.
When we shared the information with Zafeera's lawyer, she tried to re-open the case, but was told that the earlier decision by the Ministry of Interior is final and won't be changed under any circumstances.
We then turned to UNHCR with a plea to help in addition to my contacts at the Ministry of Interior. The Director of the Czech branch of UNHCR also said it won't work, but was willing to set up one meeting with the MoI officials to discuss the situation.
This was the first step in the new process. The MoI asked for many documents, photos, reports, certificates, witness statements etc. There was no official appeal, only the request from Dignity and UNHCR. Dignity immediately pledged to fully support the family.
The process was handled as urgent and was fast-tracked. However, it seemed like a lifetime to Abad and the children. At the end of October, we started to see results and hopes and prayers started to become possibilities. We were ready to start putting things into place for the family to come to Czech. The health of their eight year old son, who was suffering with seizures, deteriorated. The boy had been examined and treated at a Somali hospital, several years ago, with no results. I have a medical report where his doctor states that all accessible treatment was tried and didn't work. The family was recommended in this report to seek medical care outside Somalia. Since then, the frequency of seizures increased from once or twice a month to daily, lasting about three hours each. His health became our priority as it could make flying impossible. I have consulted a friend of mine who is a pediatrician and is our daughters’ doctor. She prescribed medication that should suppress each seizure and we tried to figure out a way how to deliver it. No postal services made this task very difficult and the absence of Médecins Sans Frontières confirmed the situation was grim.
Meanwhile, the MoI’s criminal record checks came back and we had to start moving fast. While the MoI passed all details and request to the Ministry of ForeignAffairs, who subsequently instructed the Czech embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The first following step was for Abad and children to come to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - the closest Czech embassy to Somalia. Czech Republic doesn’t have an embassy in Somalia, where they had to officially apply for short term visa (all was arranged from Czech and was supposed to be waiting for them by that time). With visas, we could book flights to Prague, where they planned to apply for asylum. We were promised that the asylum process will be sped up as all checks had been already finished and it would only be a formality.
As I have mentioned above, Dignity pledged to provide sufficient accommodation and full support from then on.
On Sunday, October 24th, the family apartment was raided again. Abad and children fled, split up into two groups and hid in cellars at two different locations. We lost communication for a while as everything was stolen, including Abad’s phone.
Our plan became more fragile than ever and we prayed everything will go according to plan, even in the absence of communication…
Abad took all steps as pre-agreed with him. He applied and obtained Ethiopian visas (expiring 24th November) and booked COVID PCR tests.
On Thursday,4th November, after we re-established communication, we knew we needed to move quickly. We didn’t have medication, but made a decision to purchase tickets for that day never-the-less. Unfortunately, the family didn’t manage to leave both locations and get to the airport safely for their flight. These tickets were no longer valid and their flight fell through.
We made plans to try again during the weekend, when it should be quieter and easier for them to get to the airport.
The situation became more complicated as rebels advanced towards Addis Ababa the same day. Many local embassies, including the Czech embassy, closed down and were awaiting evacuation. We prayed that our family would make it to Addis before the evacuation flight.
On the Friday, we heard that all was ready and they could come. We needed to establish communication between Abad and the ambassador as soon as possible,
Through a contact at WEA (World Evangelical Alliance), we managed to make a connection with their contact in Addis – a Somali Christian willing to help.
On Saturday, November 6th, God brought our family safely out of Somalia!
It was a true reminder of our Lord’s love. Nobody is forgotten by Him, nobody is unworthy, nobody is broken beyond His healing. He is a true Rescuer! We were praising Him while facing new challenges in Addis, but our faith remained strong in Him. We knew He will bring the all the way to Czech!
The situation in Addis didn’t go very smoothly. Since the embassy was officially closed, communication was very difficult and the earliest date for meeting was the 16th of November. Zafeera became very worried and lost hope that our plan would work to a victorious finish. Our wonderful contact in Addis was due to be evacuated on the same date as the embassy appointment. Before he left, he connected us to another friend, another Somali Christian, who took over, met with the family and went with them for the appointment. The situation was incredibly tense and very stressful for all of us at Dignity and, of course, for Zafeera,
On Tuesday, 16th November, Abad and the children applied for Czech visas. Wednesday was a Czech public holiday and we were promised to have the visas ready for Friday. While all of the arrangements didn’t seem very secure, we decided to risk it and aim for a flight to Prague on Sunday 21st November.
Money was wired and withdrew by Abad safely. We waited for Friday the 19th of November.
On Friday, 19th November, Abad and children waited at the embassy from 9am, only to receive their visa at 4:30pm! Time was running out fast for them to make their flight.
We couldn’t purchase flight tickets as ten people are counted as “group booking” and have to be done in person either at the airline or a travel agent. We couldn’t split the group into two bookings either as we had only one adult (person over 16).
When Abad arrived to the travel agent, he was told that they accept only US dollars! There was no option to exchange Ethiopian birrs at a bank or an exchange point. We were advised that it is possible to do so on the black market only. It was Friday evening, no money for tickets, no PCR tests and time running out.
We have covered the family in prayer and trusted that God will find a way!
On Sunday, 21st November, our family travelled from Addis Ababa via Doha to Prague and arrived safely. Abad was successful in exchanging the money on the streets of, to him a foreign city, with people whose language he didn’t speak. He went back to the travel agent and purchased all ten tickets for the next day. He also booked and took PCR tests with all of his children and received negative results the next morning. God’s timing – all aligned perfectly.
We didn’t secure the medication for the boy in the end, but through prayer, the boy was seizure-free for 24 hours! What an incredible miracle! Nothing is impossible!
Abad was ministered to by the wonderful WEA contact in Addis while all seemed lost and was upheld by faith. We prayed with Zafeera in Prague. It was like God wanted them to know. He wanted them to lose all options possible and to cry out to Him from complete darkness, turning all hopes to Him.
He is their true Rescuer! Since then, we have received an offer for the perfect apartment for them. It is owned by a convent who are happy to open their doors and welcome this family. What a blessing!
This journey has been truly incredible for the family, in both physical but also spiritual ways. However, their story does not end here. While we have an apartment, there are still many things the family will need as they start to rebuild their lives. First will be to find employment for Abad (he is not allowed to work for the first six months) and also school for all the children. This will be very difficult for the children, as they do not speak any English, let alone Czech, and only two of them went to school previously. Also, our experience has shown us that it is hard for foreign children to be accepted in Czech schools, especially when they look very different to most Czechs. The family will also need financial aid, to be able to purchase food, clothes, furniture, appliances, books and other vital things. The family arrived here with just three small suitcases and are truly rebuilding their lives from scratch. This is now an opportunity for others to help, to provide aid to this family who have already suffered so much. If you would like to become a part of their story, to help ensure that the start to their new life is happy and as smooth as possible, we are taking financial gifts to help them. For US citizens, Dignity has the means for funds to be gifted easily through our partner in the United States. This agency is 501 (c) (3) registered and can issue tax-deductible certificates for those who give. To become a part of Zafeera, Abad and their nine amazing children’s story, please follow these steps:
- Go to: https://giving.ncsservices.org/App/Giving/idp
- Select the fund "International Church of Prague”
- Select the sub-fund "ICP Dignity Foundation"