Eskander ran for an hour in total darkness the night the military burned down his family
home and killed his father and brother. That night, the soldiers forced his mother to sign
over ownership of their family farm to the state.

Eskander had already been imprisoned for four months almost 100 miles away from their
family farmstead in Dima. Dima is in the regional state of Oromia, the homeland of the
Oromo people: a large minority ethnic group who have been subject to political oppression,
cultural suppression and victims of internment and state violence. He took part in a student
protest at the technical college where he was studying electrical engineering when the
military opened fire on protestors. Eskander was one of many students who were arrested
and taken to a military camp, before being sent to an underground prison where he was
beaten with sticks, cut with knives and tortured with hot metal bars.

In 2011, after he’d lived in hiding with his uncle for five months, his mother sold her
possessions to raise funds for Eskander to escape.

Leaving Ethiopia was only the beginning of a decade of turmoil that saw the teenage college
student progress through his twenties working for two years without pay on a building site
in Sudan, imprisoned in Libya by people smugglers, crossing the Mediterranean in a plastic
dinghy, being subjected to a brutal assault by a group of men in Italy, living in a bus station
near Milan and spending time in Direct Provision Centre in Monaghan before finally
boarding a bus to seek a new life of safety in Belfast in April 2019.

After he arrived in Northern Ireland, a doctor suggested that running would be a good way
of helping manage the trauma of his past experiences. He has since won many races as part
of the Annadale Striders Running Club. The medals and trophies he has won adorn his
bedside table, along with newspaper cuttings about his athletic achievements.

This year Eskander’s running talent earned him a place on the Northern Ireland and Ulster
athletics team where he recently led the team to a magnificent silver medal in the British
Inter Counties Cross Country Championships. In August he will make his track debut over
10k in the NI championship. He hopes to compete as part of the elite field in the Antrim Coast
Half Marathon, a world class event which will see Eskander battle against some of the
world’s top runners including Mo Farah.

Eskander got married last year and he and his wife Amina are expecting their first child at
the end of summer.

You can help us support people like Eskander by donating here. 

Get involved this Refugee Week by connecting with us on social media:

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | TikTok