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"You don't choose to become a refugee . . . It is a matter of life and death.'

From Sudan to Safety JAMES TYDD Canterbury Bankstown Express

Salma Osman is one of many who fled Sudan with her family in search of safety.

BEVERLY HILLS teacher Salma Osman didn't want to flee her Sudanese homeland. Fear and the need for self-preservation gave her no choice.

Between 1991 and 2001 Mrs Osman, her husband and four young children were forced to move from Sudan to Egypt and on to Libya as politics, civil war and the need to survive dictated their lives.

In 2001 Mrs Osman and her family were able to migrate to Australia where she now teaches English at the Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre.

Mrs Osman said she now felt safe in Australia, but had to watch as her country was ravaged by fierce fighting between the Sudanese Government and the rebel resistance.

Mrs Osman said that becoming a refugee was a terrible experience.

"You don't choose to become a refugee and leave your country," she said. 'You have no hope and no choice. It is a matter of life and death.'

"It's very sad to leave your country and your home and be forced to escape to another country."

Civil unrest has raged in Sudan for more than 40 years: At present, fighting is most fierce in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

An estimated 1.4 million Sudanese have fled their homes to escape the bloodshed in Darfur and 50,000 have been killed in the region in 19 months of fighting.

Mrs Osman said that while in Sudan she was arrested and interrogated because she disagreed with the militant government but she said despite her misfortune, she was one of the lucky ones.

High school graduates were forced to work or fight for the military when they graduated she said.

'We fought the government and they stopped me from working.
It wasn't safe and a friend ... told me I should leave. They arrested many teachers. I know many men and women who have been killed by the government.'

Mrs Osman said she hoped the Australian Government would further realise the terrible experience the Sudanese people and other international refugees had gone through just to stay alive.

' You can feel safe here and start life again," Mrs Osman said

"I hope all organisations in Australia and the world put pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the civil war. It's a big issue.'

"l hope the Government considers these people and where they come from."

To donate to the World Vision Emergency Appeal for Sudan, call 13 32 40 or visit the website. Oxfam is also calling for donations for Sudan. Call 1800 034 034 or go to