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Zeina: Am I a target in Mali's conflict?

April 18, 2013

School is helping displaced Zeina, 13, look to the future in Ségou, Mali – but stories of conflict and family members being forced to hide in bushes to escape violence have made her feel confused and afraid. This is her story…

I don’t know why, but I can’t stop thinking about my best friend Fadimata today. I think she is somewhere in Algeria now. I don’t know exactly where she is, but I hope she is ok.

So many things happened to her before she left Kidal. She was crying all the time. Her mother, who was pregnant during the troubles, is dead. My mother said that she died because she was scared of the gunshots and the troubles in Kidal.

I don’t understand exactly what happened or how it happened, but my friend Fadimata was crying all the time after that. All her brothers and sisters were crying too. I cried sometimes with her.

Vandalized and Broken


I cried for her mother, but I also cried for what was happening to us, all the things I didn’t understand. My dad was a pharmacist in Kidal. The insurgents vandalized his pharmacy. Everything in the shop was broken on purpose. At the time, I wondered why? Then mom explained why they did it. I still don’t understand.

My mother said he was targeted because he is ‘black’ and she is ‘white Tuareg’ and some people think their marriage is an ill-match. I never thought that of my family this way - that dad is ‘black’ and mom is a ‘white Tuareg’. Anyhow, what difference does it make? My mother said, some people think it matters. I find that kind of confusing.

Hiding in the Bush


I am even more confused because the other day mother said, my daddy is not a target anymore, but she and her family might be now. She said that my grandfather and the rest of the family have fled Kidal. They are now hiding in the bushes. They don’t want to be found.

I still don’t get it. I am wondering where I stand in all this? Am I a target or not? A target for who and for what reasons? That is why I am so scared at the idea of going back to Kidal. We often talk about that with mother and my sister Lala, but none of us feel that confident.

I Won't Go Back


Hearing all this, I personally won’t go back now unless I know there is someone up there in Kidal to protect me and my family.

Anyway, I kind of like Ségou now, especially the river. My mother took us several times to the riverside. It is always an enchanting trip.

There is no river in Kidal. There are no vegetables, like cabbages, in the market in Kidal. Here there a plenty of vegetables everywhere, even by the roadside.

Making New Friends


I also have friends in my new school in Ségou. I am happy to be still going to school. It took my mother several weeks when we arrived to find schools for the 5 of us. She admitted that she didn’t know where to start, as this was for all of us, our very first trip to Ségou.

Then she met a man from a local organization of northern Mali, who apparently works with a bigger organization called Plan - within days we were all enrolled in new schools.

My new best friend here in Ségou is Fatoumata. Fatoumata and her family are from the Dogon ethnic group. It does not matter for us. When we started playing together, some of her friends warned her not to play with a displaced girl. Some of my displaced friends were against our friendship too.

We don’t care really. We play nicely together and that’s all. Sometimes she comes back at home with me; sometimes her dad takes me to school.

I promised Fatoumata that she will be the first on my guest list if we go back to Kidal one day. I also told her that she will be one of the main characters of my first book. For, I didn’t tell you, but I want to be a writer.

I like reading books. My favorite book at the moment is a book about the history of the old Malian empires. I think that someone will need to tell the story of our exile at some point. I hope that I will be that person.


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