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Agonising choice of NHS doctor fleeing Sudan has left her riddled with guilt

Many British nationals have found their own ways to safety as the UK government evacuates British citizens from Sudan.

Djibouti has become a refuge for people fleeing the destruction and bloodshed in Sudan’s capital Khartoum.

The international rescue missions have evacuated hundreds of people and brought them here. The sleepy port town has been transformed into a global military base, and is now a gateway to safety for those who are scrambling.

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Iman Abugarja, an NHS doctor from Khartoum was not expecting to find a friend in this building.

Her eyes, like others in the lobby were red and round from tears. Her head moved from side to side when we hugged. Her head shook from side to side. The rejection of this horrifying reality.

Dr Iman Abugarja, a British national, was able leave Khartoum through sheer persistence.

Sudan: More Information

Her son, an Irish citizen, received a message from the embassy stating that an evacuation was in progress.

She and her daughter, 17, arrived at the embassy in Khartoum where the European Union was organising the effort. An injured man was placed on a mattress to be taken away safely.

Image: Iman Abugarja, her daughter Sarah, and son have fled Sudan

The security guard ushered her in and she offered to help as a physician. The head of the mission, who was waiting for her in the building to welcome her aboard the flight as a generous gesture once she had entered the building.

“They brought me to the consul’s office and I told him: “I am British, I’m not EU.” “He said: No, you’re still a member of the European Union”, which I thought to be very, very nice,” says Dr Abugarja, with a watery grin.

She added, “I couldn’t leave again to say goodbye my mother or sister.”

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The streets of Khartoum have been devastated

Dr Abugarja was faced with a difficult decision. Staying with her elderly and sick parents, or getting her children to safety.

Between her brows, and the corners of mouth, she feels the agony of making a choice.

The violence in her hometown, where she has her closest relatives remaining, continues despite another ceasefire brokered by the US. She is filled with guilt and worry.

She says that her 96-year old grandmother was also there with my parents. “These are our most vulnerable people – it’s heartbreaking.”

“People are still trapped”

Her daughter, aged 17, is also suffering the consequences of her survival.

“Honestly, I feel very guilty.” Sarah says, “It’s really hard to leave my grandparents in Sudan,” while holding her mother by the hand. She had planned to attend medical school in Khartoum, Sudan next year.

“Sarah said last night that it felt like we were too easy. “People are still trapped and exposed to bombs and missiles,” says Dr Abugarja.

Read More:

Britons fleeing Sudan in peril

UK warns ‘not miss the window’ to evacuate

Irish woman’s dramatic flight – she leaves her husband behind

If the evacuation of her family fails, she plans to return to Khartoum and retrieve her parents.

She said her father, who is elderly, would prefer to die at home rather than spend his life as a refugee abroad.

Dr Abugarja continues: “When the refugees do leave, we must ensure that they are able to live in dignity.” They need to be provided with shelter, food, and water, and have their medical needs met – which is very, extremely difficult.


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