Hear no evil

A Sudanese refugee living in Syracuse escaped the violence in his home country, but remains haunted by the horrors he witnessed.

To live in Sudan is to live at war.

Guerilla soldiers draw their battle lines through towns, homes and human lives; lines that tear the country apart.

Fifty years of civil war have split the country in two. In half a century, the war has taken two million lives and left more than four million others homeless.

Photo: Mackenzie Reiss
Beut Koug at his home in Syracuse.

On Jan. 9, 2011, the Sudanese had the chance to break that cycle of violence.

Southern Sudan held a referendum to determine whether the south would become an independent nation. With 98.6 percent of the vote in favor of independence, Souther Sudan won the referendum and will officially celebrate its victory as a new nation in July.

But a backlash of violence following the vote has already claimed 800 civilian lives and sent an estimated 93,000 fleeing from their homeland.

The majority of these refugees fin temporary settlement in other parts of Africa, the Middle East, or Europe. Others, like Beut Koug, travel much farther to escape the violence.

When Beut was just 15 years old, he joined the Sudanese National Army where learned to shoot, kill, and hate the Sudanese rebel forces.

As a young boy, Beut witnessed his parents, friends and family die at the hands of the rebels. Afraid of becoming a victim of civil war violence, Beut chose to join the Sudanese National Army out of self-preservation.

But his military career was short-lived.

Beut lost his hearing after constant exposure to rapid gunfire at close range. When he became deaf, he went from being a respected soldier, to a useless one.

Without family or friends left to support him, unemployed and disabled, Beut left Sudan for the United States. He came to the U.S. in search of peace, but even with thousands of miles separating his present and past lives, he cannot escape the nightmares.

Beut considers life in the U.S. a challenging but positive experience.

He is learning American Sign Language (ASL) and struggling to find a steady job in Syracuse. He received his U.S. citizenship in June 2010, and has embraced American culture with enthusiasm.

Beut has made friends here in America, and hopefully one day -- a family.

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