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Reform Magazine | May 18, 2024

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I am… a survivor of torture - Reform Magazine

I am… a survivor of torture

How Kolbassia Haoussou overcame torture

I have taken many journeys. After enduring torture in my home country, escaping to the shores of the UK was one. Enduring homelessness in the British climate while suffering from trauma was another. These experiences are unique to me but the journey is a common one, shared by many torture survivors who are seeking protection.

I was detained and tortured for supporting my neighbourhood to improve the lives of young people in my home country in Africa. I was beaten unconscious and woke up in a cell with others.

After escaping the detention camp, I did manage to get to the UK, to seek protection. I had no choice but to take this journey – whatever took me away from the unbearable pain.

The charity Freedom from Torture helped me start my rehabilitation. This involved one-to-one talking therapy and group therapy. We also had a therapy football group organised by the clinicians. This helped me very much. When I was playing football with the other survivors, I didn’t have to think about the past. I could get lost in the game. Like many of the other torture survivors I met through the charity’s programme, I struggled to eat, sleep and recover from what I understand now to be post-traumatic stress disorder…

Kolbassia Haoussou leads Survivors Speak Out, a national network of torture survivors. ‘Lessons not learned’ is published online at


This is an extract from an article that was published in the May 2020 edition of Reform

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