Her name was Dina and she was 17 years of age. The young Gabonese student was raped and murdered on March 28, 2023 in Turkey. Like many before her, she represents the unfortunate reality that African students suffer abuse due to their origins.
It might be surprising for some, but in 2023, racism is still rampant. This curse is affecting many people around the world, no matter their colour, their age or their gender. Anyone can be victimized. Dina was sexually abused and killed. This represents nothing short of a hate crime. Indeed, Dina had told her family she was not feeling safe anymore in the city where she lived. Her mother was even gathering money to have her daughter back. Sadly, it was already too late.
Widely circulated on social media, the murder of the young woman is revolting. She landed in Turkey for her studies, with aspirations for a better future. In fact, many Africans decide to leave the Continent to fulfil their dreams of a better life. These range from completing academic studies, to having wider employment opportunities with the ambition to send some money to their families in Africa. These trips are decisive. They could change the life of an entire family. They do not hesitate to get into debt because of the promising prospects offered in other countries. Dina’s case is a devastating example of a dream gone awry. She was unable to achieve a fraction of her plans. Gruesome cases such as Dina’s are not isolated as unfortunately, they happen everywhere, every day.
These murders rarely make mainstream news channels or even national newspapers. They happen but no one cares, or no one even knows to care. Western and Asian countries are the lands of refuge in pursuit of dreams. There are many previous cases such as the violent death of Olivier Masonga Kitanda, a 23-year-old Congolese student in New Delhi, India in May 2016. Many African students must also endure the cruelty of frontal racism , discriminated against unfairly based on their heritage.
Some Africans are also living under tough societal systems such as the kafala in Liban. This is a kind of exploitation system under which foreign housemaids are abused. This system also exists in other middle eastern countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Bahrein, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The foreigner who comes to work surrenders his passport to a "kafil" ("the one who guarantees", in Arabic) which allows him to obtain a visa to work. The kafil becomes legally liable for the person it "sponsors", and may, or may not, grant the worker the right to leave the country. Even before arriving on the territory, the kafil determines the work that the foreign worker will have to perform. It is impossible for a foreign worker to obtain Lebanese nationality and must leave the territory immediately once the task is completed. If it is not kafala, Africans are still oppressed by their “difference”.
Lately, some African diaspora around the world have asked for some institutional reactions from their national embassy. Their voices are now officially heard. Their state is now aware of the danger they are facing while studying abroad. For instance, it was the case for the repatriation of African students at the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Eventually, with help from governmental organizations and political institutions, the situation of African students around the world will get better. Respect for human rights and human dignity should be a minimum, and Dina’s case reflects that this is some distance away from being commonplace for Africans worldwide.
Then, why do African students still go abroad ?
The following question might be asked, why do they still go to countries where they are facing letal danger ? Whether it is Russia, India or even Tunisia, these different countries have in common their relations with African countries. Russia, which has sought to expand its influence in Africa through the Wagner Group in recent years, has actually been present on the continent since the period of decolonization. Indeed, the Russian giant was the ally of many African countries during the decolonization of Africa. The Cold War period also helped to strengthen ties between Russia and the African continent. Since that time, Africans have benefited from scholarships to enable them to carry out their training in the country. School partnerships are very strong. The Patrice Emery Lumumba University of Peoples' Friendship in Russia is an example. The establishment bears the name of the hero of the decolonization of the Belgian Congo, Patrice Lumumba in tribute. The objective of the university was to offer quality training to students from decolonized African, Asian and South American countries. Nowadays, other countries are looking to strengthen their presence on the African continent. This is the case, for example, in China, India or Turkey. Indeed, the latter wishes to consolidate its trade relations with Africa. The strengthening of these economic relations also requires diplomacy and in particular academic links. This implies the growing presence of African students in European or Asian universities. These establishments are considered reputable which explains their reputation in Africa. Many African students are therefore very attracted to foreign academic scholarships.
Questions possibly surrounding racism faced by African students need to be addressed. Also, because of the many precedents, African states have set up programs that make it possible to report on the dangers that young people in their countries are willing to brave to get by professionally. Thus, perhaps young people will be significantly more likely to realize that the Eldorado they imagine outside the continent is only an illusion.
Edited by Sean Mulryan
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