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318 Chapter 8 Collective Trauma from Sinai Trafficking: A Blow to the Fabric of Eritrean Society Selam Kidane & Mirjam Van Reisen I know my son is no longer there [in the Sinai torture camps], but the memory of those phone calls will never leave me. (Interview, Selam Kidane with the mother of EL, face-to-face, 5 April 2016) You see many families begging for money on the streets with pictures of their children and you wonder how long it will take to collect the ransom [...] but what else can a mother do? People try to help, but it is getting too much for everyone. There are collections everywhere: at churches, at work, at village gatherings, on the streets, everywhere. I pray for an end to all this, but what is a good end? (Interview, Selam Kidane with the mother of EL, face-to-face, 5 April 2016) Introduction The impact of human trafficking in the Sinai on individual victims is catastrophic and particularly worrying given the limited opportunities for therapeutic intervention to allow victims to heal from their experiences (see Chapter 7 of this book). This chapter identifies the collective expression of the trauma that results from human trafficking for ransom. It is argued that such events do not just affect individuals and their respective families, but whole communities, Eritrean society (including Eritreans in the diaspora), and even Eritrean culture. 319 The basis of this chapter is formed by interviews conducted by the authors in Kampala (Uganda), Asmara (Eritrea), Tigray (Ethiopia) and Tel Aviv (Israel). The main results of this research conducted with Sinai trafficking victims in Ethiopia and Israel were presented in Chapter 7. This chapter presents the results of this research in Uganda and Eritrea to assess the impact of human trafficking in the Sinai on Eritreans who were not direct victims of Sinai trafficking, but who were affected as family members, friends or general witnesses through social and traditional media. In this research, among other things, IES-R tests were administered in order to compare the levels of primary and secondary trauma. In addition, the authors conducted a literature review on Sinai trafficking for ransom, secondary and collective trauma, in order to provide the theoretical foundation of this chapter. The chapter also draws on an ICT study conducted by Selam Kidane in 2016 to determine the potential use of mobile phones and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) to support communication among youth refugees. Trauma can be perceived as ‘collective’ or ‘cultural’ when people who have a sense of belonging to one another feel that they have been subjected to fearful and painful events that have left a mark on their collective consciousness and memory. Cultural trauma is a social construct with an impact not only on the past and present identity of subjects, but also on their future identity (Pastor, 2004). Studies around the world on trauma from major disasters indicate that interventions and support at the individual level are not sufficient to address the impact of such trauma. Understanding and addressing the problem at the community level is key to supporting traumatised individuals in the event of wide-scale trauma. In addition, after disasters resulting in traumatic stress, the functioning of families and the wider community has to be restored for social, economic, and political rehabilitation (WHO, 2003). Collective trauma is a devastative blow to the basic fabric of life; it damages the bond between people and impairs their sense of 320 community (Erikson, 1994). Erikson (1976) distinguishes between individual and collective trauma as follows: By individual trauma I mean a blow to the psyche that breaks through one’s defences so suddenly and with such brutal forces that one cannot react to it effectively. Collective trauma on the other hand is a blow to the basic tissue of societal life that damages the bonds attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality. (Erikson, 1976, pp 153–154) Collective trauma works insidiously as a form of shock, with the gradual realisation that the community no longer exists as an effective source of support and that an important part of the self has also disappeared. While people suffering from individual trauma usually have difficulty recovering if the community remains shattered (Erikson, 1976), collective trauma may occur even in the absence of individual symptoms (Scheinberg & Fraenkel, 2001). This chapter looks at the devastative impact of human trafficking in the Sinai on Eritrean families, communities and the society as a whole. It examines the deliberate...


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