Nadia Abdalla

June 28, 1996

Nadia Abdalla is slowly rebuilding a life shattered when a coup in her homeland Sudan forced her into exile.

As a trained doctor Mrs Abdalla was part of Sudan's elite. In 1989 she was in Britain, about to complete a postgraduate course in gynaecology, when a military coup turned her world upside down. She and her husband, a Sudanese army lieutenant colonel, were called back to stand trial as supporters of the previous civilian regime. Fearing for their lives and those of their four children, who were with them in Britain, they sought, and were granted, asylum. But this was only the beginning of her problems.

She said: "We had to leave everything: relatives, friends, our home. We knew that many of our colleagues, other doctors and soldiers, were being persecuted, tortured and killed. The stresses began to affect my relationship with my husband and now we live separately. I began to feel very isolated and depressed." She was, after all, living on state benefits in a foreign country and was more or less trapped in a house looking after her children, one of whom is disabled.

While working for the Edinburgh Pan-African Women's Group, which she helped set up, she heard of the Red Cross ACT scheme. She applied and was accepted to do a postgraduate certificate in psychology and counselling skills at City University. The Red Cross is also paying for a programme of psychotherapy. She remains chairwoman of the London-based Sudanese Women's Group, is now well on her way to regaining her self-respect and confidence and has applied for her masters.

Mrs Abdalla is determined to use her knowledge to expand counselling for women. She said: "All societies must seriously begin to address the problem of refugees and asylum seekers but within that group I think there is a real need for more support for the women. They are largely silent and have no voice. If possible I want to help give them a voice."

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