Bashir from Darfur has earned a distinction in his Masters of Environmental Engineering at the University of Leeds. He was able to study the course after receiving a bursary grant from Prisoners of Conscience that covered the cost of his fees.

Bashir used to live in Khartoum where he worked as a teacher at a training centre. He also volunteered as a teaching assistant at the university. The University of Khartoum, which is one of the best universities in the whole of Africa, is one of the main landmarks in Sudan due to its strategic location in the city centre, academic reputation and the fact it was the first Sudanese university to be built.

In 2016, the government announced plans to sell university land to private owners. The universities lecturers, staff and former and current students were horrified at this news and organised a peaceful protest to try and stop the sale. Bashir was one of the people who spoke up against the plans.

“I gave a powerful speech that made the crowd applaud. Shortly after, I was detained – I will leave the rest for your imagination.”

When he was eventually freed, he was told he must not tell anyone about what had happened, nor could he seek the medical assistance he urgently needed as a result of the torture he had experienced while imprisoned. He was also to give names of fellow protesters to the police.

The demands were impossible to comply with leaving Bashir with no other choice but to run. He says: “I had two options, either flee my country as fast as possible or stay and expect the inevitable death. Leaving Sudan was the only option that could guarantee my survival.”

Bashir managed to escape out of Sudan into Ethiopia where he found someone who could help him take a flight to the UK. At Heathrow Airport, he was detained, questioned and then sent to Liverpool before finally being granted refugee status

“Psychologically, I was horrified. I felt lost and overwhelmed. Depression and PTSD were kicking in. Physically, I had a non-stop headache and my body was in a severe pain, especially both my hands, which have recently needed surgery as a result of the injuries I received during my imprisonment in Sudan. I have still not yet fully recovered and don’t think I ever will,” he says.

However, in many ways his life has improved. He is now safe and has excellent career prospects ahead of him, thanks to his new qualification.

“The very generous grant that Prisoners of Conscience gave me has kept me focus on my studies without being worried about covering my living expenses. It made my life much easier,” he says, adding how the funding motivated him to achieve the best possible grade. “As a result, I worked hard, remained focused, and eventually completed my master’s with distinction, and named among the top 10% of my class.

“I cannot thank Prisoners of Conscience donors enough. You are changing lives and making dreams come true. I will always be extremely grateful to you.”

Image courtesy of Petr Adam Dohnálek