This Toronto family narrowly escaped Sudan's conflict with the help of their community online

·4 min read
Dalia Abbadi, left, is pictured with her parents on an emergency evacuation flight out of Sudan. (Submitted by Dalia Abbadi - image credit)
Dalia Abbadi, left, is pictured with her parents on an emergency evacuation flight out of Sudan. (Submitted by Dalia Abbadi - image credit)

A trip to Sudan to observe Ramadan and celebrate Eid al-Fitr with family turned into a nightmare for Toronto woman Dalia Abbadi, when violence broke out between Sudan's military and a paramilitary group in mid-April.

But on Sunday, Abbadi received an email her family had desperately been waiting for.

The Canadian government had secured seats both for Abbadi and her parents on a flight to the Netherlands. From Sudan's capital of Khartoum, they just had to make it to a nearby airbase — a task complicated by closed bridges and military checkpoints that, if not handled carefully, could threaten their escape out of a country grappling with sudden conflict.

"Sudan has had a history, you know, of maybe some conflict, but not like this ... This is not like any other time before," Abbadi told CBC's Metro Morning on Friday.

With the help of family and strangers online, Abbadi says her family charted out a path to escape the rapidly deteriorating situation in the east African country.

Abbadi says members of the Sudan diaspora across the world have been mobilizing online to share information about the conflict and possible paths of escape for the benefit of those stuck in the country.

It was from asking others who knew the area and some who made the journey out of Sudan before them that Abbadi and her family settled on path to get to the airbase. What should've been an hour-long trip took almost three times that, she added.

WATCH: Toronto woman recalls harrowing journey leaving sudden violence in Sudan

They arrived to find their flight to the Netherlands left without them, but were able to board one headed to Germany instead. Her relatives couldn't board the same flight and opted to try to leave for Egypt.

It was painful to leave knowing she couldn't bring her loved ones with her, Abbadi said.

"I don't know if you would say survivor's guilt, but that guilt of being able to leave... leaving part of my heart," said Abbadi, her voice faltering. "They're my family. They looked out for us."

Conflict a result of two groups clashing

On April 15, dozens were killed and hundreds were wounded as a result of fighting between Sudan's army and a paramilitary force, serving a new blow to hopes of a transition to democracy and raising fears of a wider conflict.

According to The Associated Press, the violence comes after months of escalating tensions between Sudan's armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group. Those tensions had delayed a deal with political parties to get the country back to its short-lived transition to democracy, which had been derailed by an October 2021 military coup.

Since then, the World Health Organization said that more than 420 deaths and 3,700 injuries have been reported. Canada began its long-anticipated humanitarian mission in the country on Thursday, which is now in the midst of a precarious ceasefire between the two warring factions.

Abbadi says the situation on the ground is hard for locals. Resources are scarce, and everyday essentials like electricity and water aren't guaranteed.

"On top of that, people are being displaced from their homes," said Abbadi.

"I think people are in like survival mode, just like we were. But now thinking about it ... I don't know how much longer it can go on," said Abbadi.

Global Affairs Canada says 1,703 Canadians are registered as being in Sudan, of which 573 have requested assistance in departing the country. Minister of Defence Anita Anand said roughly 250 Canadians have been evacuated so far, with 117 of them being airlifted by the Canadian military.

Government needs to do more to help, says woman 

Abbadi says the Canadian government needs to do more to ensure accuracy in communicating with Canadians stuck in Sudan, and ensure the safety of Sudanese nationals who ordinarily would have no way of leaving the country.

"It made my heart warm seeing Canada step in for Ukraine the way that they did, and I think my heart wants to see a percentage of that go to the Sudanese people," said Abbadi, her voice cracking with emotion.

"They have been fighting for a civilian-ruled government for years and it's not happening. I think when it's this bad, I think it's on international partners to step in that have that power to just support these people because ... this is not their fight."

Global Affairs Canada says it will introduce new immigration measures to support Sudanese temporary residents who are currently in Canada and may be unable to return home, and will prioritize processing temporary and permanent residence applications already in the system from people in Canada.

Amidst criticism for the federal government's slow pace to kickstart its evacuation efforts, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly said Canadian officials have been seized with the issue at a time of multiple international crises.

"My job is to get Canadians outside of Sudan and we will make sure that that's the case," she said.