This is the story of Aisha, a woman who fled from Ivory Coast to save her daughter from genital mutilation, but ended up in the hands of people smugglers.
Female genital mutilation is a tragic reality in Ivory Coast. Aisha (name changed) underwent the procedure when she was only seven - her eldest daughter was four. Their story is told in a UNHCR video that speaks of the horror faced by thousands of women each year.
Flight to save her daughter
According to the UNHCR, "Over 200 million women and girls across the world have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), while 20,000 from FGM-practicing countries seek asylum in the EU every year."
During the procedure, "they tie your hands and feet. Without using any anaesthetic, they cut off a part of your body. There are so many children who died [during the procedure]. The law forbids it. Islam forbids it, but they do it in secret," says Aisha, who decided to flee her country in order to spare her youngest daughter the same fate."I couldn't stand it anymore. A woman has to protect her children."
She had to decide which of her five children to take as she didn't have enough money to take them all. She left Ivory Coast with her youngest daughter and son.
In the hands of traffickers
However, escape meant falling into the hands of human traffickers and making the difficult journey across the Sahara desert to Libya. Aisha was kidnapped and beaten and raped daily for nine months. "There are so many women there. So much suffering. They abuse women, children and men. They killed so many women in front of me." Aisha said that if a woman refused to prostitute herself, she was killed and thrown into the sea.
In Libya, Aisha was held prisoner with her children for three months. Then, she was taken to the beach and put on a boat. She and the other migrants spent two says afloat before being rescued. "I cried. I didn't think I would live."
Aisha and her children are now living in a reception centre in Italy where they receive psychological support. "They are monsters. I lost my dignity in Libya. When I tell my story, it hurts, but it liberates me. I want to mourn the past and to start a new life with my children close to me," she said.