Usumain Tukuny Baraka is a Sudanese activist and asylum seeker living in Israel. He is a leader of Israel's asylum-seeking community and the first Darfuri refugee to graduate from a Hebrew-language program in an Israeli university.

Usumain Tukuny Baraka
Born (1994-11-15) 15 November 1994 (age 29)
EducationInterdisciplinary Center Herzliya
Occupation(s)Activist for international and Israeli Darfuri community

Biography edit

Usumain Baraka was born in Darfur, Sudan[1][2] in the small village of Dirata,[3] close to the city of Geneina. He is a member of the Masalit people. At age 9, the Darfur genocide came to his village, and Janjaweed militants killed his father—the leader of his village—and brother.[1][4] Baraka fled on foot through the jungle and found shelter in a refugee camp in Chad with his mother and sisters.[1][5]

After three years in the refugee camp, Baraka left in search of a normal life and education,[6] He traveled through Libya and Egypt.[1][7] In Egypt, he saw a television program on the history of the Jewish people and the Holocaust.[1] In 2008, he paid Bedouin smugglers to take him across the desert into Israel.[8][9] Upon reaching Israel, he had no shoes. The first Israeli soldier he encountered took off his own shoes and socks and gave them to Baraka.[10]

Baraka submitted an asylum application in 2013,[11][12] and received humanitarian temporary residency status.[13]

In December 2020, Baraka's brother Sayid Ismael Baraka, who had received American citizenship after being resettled there as a refugee, traveled to El-Geneina, Sudan, to visit family.[14] He was murdered inside his own home by violent militias on January 16, 2021.[15]

Education and national service edit

Baraka received his high school diploma from Yemin Orde,[1] a Jewish[16] boarding school for at-risk and immigrant youth near Haifa, Israel. After completing high school, Baraka hoped to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, but was prevented due to his lack of Israeli citizenship.[16] Instead, he completed a year and a half of volunteer service.[17] He frequently returns to Yemin Orde to give inspirational talks to current students.[18]

Baraka graduated from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in Government and Diplomacy Relations.[16] After completing his bachelor's degree, he enrolled in a Master's program[19] in Public Policy, also at the IDC[19][20] and graduated in summer 2020.[21] During his first degree he was a volunteer member of the IDC student union.[22] Baraka completed his studies in Hebrew, one of five languages he speaks, and is the first refugee in Israel to gain a master's degree in Hebrew.[13]

Baraka co-authored the paper "‘She Died While Missing Us’: Experiences of Family Separation Among African Refugees in Israel" along with Dr. Hadas Yaron Mesgena, published in the book Forced Migration and Separated Families: Everyday Insecurities and Transnational Strategies.[23]

Political activism edit

Baraka is a Co-Founder of the African Students Organization in Israel. From 2016 to 2019 he served as the organisation's Education Director, and took over as the CEO in January 2019.[24] In 2019 he gave a keynote address at the organization's inaugural annual conference.[25]

Baraka makes frequent appearances on Israeli television, radio, and print media, where he represents the asylum-seeking community. He appeared on Kan 11 February 2020[26] following Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting in Uganda with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.[27] He appeared on 103fm and in Haaretz in August 2020[28][29] following an announcement that Israel and Sudan were undergoing peace talks.[30] He was also featured on an episode of the Israeli television series 'Slicha al hashe'ela' or Excuse the Question, which discussed African asylum seekers in Israel.[31] In April 2020, he was the subject of a Kan 11 mini-documentary, which described his activism to help fellow asylum seekers in Israel during the Coronavirus pandemic.[32]

Baraka also gives tours and lectures to groups in English and Hebrew on the topic of asylum seekers in Israel, the Darfur genocide, and South Tel Aviv.[22] He also runs a Hebrew language school for fellow asylum seekers in Israel, through which he teaches Hebrew to dozens of asylum seekers from Darfur and elsewhere.[13]

On June 28, 2017, Baraka spoke to the Israeli Knesset on behalf of asylum seekers in Israel.[33]

Following his brother's murder in 2021, Baraka spoke out about the dangers presented by Sudan's interim government, run by perpetrators of the genocide in 2003.[34] He both spoke to other journalists and authored an op-ed on the subject, published in Israel's Haaretz newspaper.[35]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f "These African asylum seekers came to Israel alone as kids. Now they could face deportation: 'Israel is part of who I am'". Haaretz.
  2. ^ Usumain (Ismail) Baraka - Takiru. YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-09.
  3. ^ "Africans Seeking Refuge in the Promised Land". JISS. March 27, 2018.
  4. ^ "Sudanese nationals in Israel fear deportation after peace deal". ynetnews. October 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "Sudanese Nationals in Israel Fear Deportation after Peace Deal". The Media Line. October 26, 2020.
  6. ^ "Sudanese in Israel fear being returned after normalisation".
  7. ^ "Sudanese Nationals in Israel Fear Deportation after Peace Deal". Jewish Journal. October 27, 2020.
  8. ^ "Why I'm Inviting an Asylum Seeker to My Seder". 22 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Real Steel: Usumain Baraka". November 26, 2016.
  10. ^ "Why I'm Inviting an Asylum Seeker to My Seder". March 22, 2018.
  11. ^ "Sudan deal plunges migrants in Israel into new uncertainty". Star Tribune.
  12. ^ "Sudan deal plunges migrants in Israel into new uncertainty". AP News. 20 April 2021.
  13. ^ a b c "Darfuri refugee dreams of building bridges between the states of Israel and Sudan". UNHCR.
  14. ^ "Death toll from violence in Sudan's West Darfur rises to 83". Daily Herald.
  15. ^ "Sudan troops deployed in Darfur after clashes kill 155". MSN News.
  16. ^ a b c "Raised and schooled in Israel, these young Africans could be sent back to a country they do not know". Washington Post.
  17. ^ Green, Emma (January 30, 2018). "African Deportations Are Creating a Religious Controversy in Israel". The Atlantic.
  18. ^ "Graduate Day Offers Opportunities to Receive and to Give Back". ImpactIsrael. January 22, 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Darfuris in Israel Are Grateful, But Challenges Continue". HIAS.
  20. ^ Rosenblatt, Gary. "Despite Tough Treatment, African Migrants Praise Israel".
  21. ^ LAVALLÉE, Guillaume. "Sudanese in Israel fear deportation after normalization, say they face danger".
  22. ^ a b "אגודת הסטודנטים הבינתחומי הרצליה - IDC Student Union".
  23. ^ Forced Migration and Separated Families Everyday Insecurities and Transnational Strategies. Marja Tiilikainen, Johanna Hiitola, Abdirashid A. Ismail, Jaana Palander. 2023. pp. 79–94.
  24. ^ "Our Team xxx – African Students Organization in Israel".
  25. ^ African Students in Israel First Conference 2019 Section 1. YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-09.
  26. ^ אוסומעין ברקה בראיון לרומי נוימרק - חדשות כאן 11. YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-09.
  27. ^ "Netanyahu, Sudanese leader meet in Uganda, agree to start normalizing ties". Haaretz.
  28. ^ "103FM - גולן יוכפז וענת דוידוב - דרך השלום?". 103FM - האזנה לרדיו און ליין.
  29. ^ "גם אם יושג הסכם שלום, הדרך להשבת מבקשי המקלט לסודאן ארוכה ורצופה מכשולים". הארץ.
  30. ^ Boxerman, Aaron; Newman, Marissa. "Sudan and Israel say talks underway for deal to normalize ties".
  31. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: סליחה על השאלה | פליטים - שידור בכורה ביוטיוב. YouTube.
  32. ^ "דוקותיים: אוסומעין" – via
  33. ^ "Protocol No. 250 From a meeting of the State Audit Committee Wednesday, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 9:00 AM". Nevo.
  34. ^ "Ethnic clashes in Darfur could reignite Sudan's old conflict". The Washington Post.
  35. ^ Baraka, Usumain. "My Brother, a U.S. Citizen, Was Murdered in Darfur. Departure of Peacekeepers Is a Travesty".