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  1. airport-mogadishu

    (CNN) - The explosive device built into a laptop computer that detonated last week on a Somali passenger jet was "sophisticated" and got past X-ray machines at the Mogadishu airport, a source close to the investigation told CNN, raising concerns about security measures at airports across Africa and internationally.

    The device blew a hole in the skin of the Daallo Airlines plane on February 2 but did not down the aircraft, because it detonated 20 minutes into the flight, before it reached cruising altitude. The suspected bomber was blown out of the plane, and his body was recovered on the ground near Mogadishu. The plane returned to the airport. Two people aboard were injured.

    Investigators suspect Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, a Somali national, carried the laptop computer with a bomb in it onto Daallo Airlines Flight 159, the source said. The bomber knew precisely where to sit and how to place the device to maximize damage, the source told CNN. Given the placement, the blast likely would have set off a catastrophic secondary explosion in the fuel tank if the aircraft had reached cruising altitude, the source said.

    But an hour delay in the departure of the flight may have saved everybody on board, the source said.

    The source said two airport workers, who became suspects in the plot, put the laptop on an X-ray belt and then handed the device to the suspected bomber in the departure lounge. Authorities released surveillance video showing the handover.

    A military grade of the explosive TNT caused the explosion on the Somali airliner, two other sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN, citing an initial analysis of residue recovered from the aircraft.

    Experts told CNN it was unlikely a forensic examination of the airplane would so quickly have provided clues about the sophistication of the device because the laptop was blown into many pieces. They said the most likely explanation for such a quick assessment was that investigators were able to look at a saved copy of the X-ray scan.

    A Somali official told CNN that a piece of the keyboard from the laptop and the laptop bag, although burned, survived the explosion.

    The airport worker wearing a white shirt in the surveillance footage died in mysterious circumstances three days after the attack when a vehicle he was in exploded, a Somali official close to the investigation told CNN. Just before the explosion, the person to whom the vehicle belonged -- the man in a yellow vest in the surveillance video -- had gotten out of the car so he could buy something at a shop. He was taken into custody, according to the official.

    The same official backtracked from his earlier assertion that both airport workers were arrested.

    Lax standards in security 'elephant in the room'

    It was not clear what kind of X-ray machine failed to detect the explosive device nor whether the laptop was subject to other explosive detection systems. Most airports in the developed world use the latest generation of multiview X-ray machines, but some airports in less developed parts of the world still use single-view X-ray machines significantly less reliable in detecting explosives.

    Many airports in Africa and across the developing world also lag behind in the deployment of explosive trace detection technology, or ETD. In a practice familiar to many air travelers, security staff take swabs that are placed into a machine and can detect minute quantities of explosive residue.

    The latest generation of X-ray machines and ETD, when used in combination, are generally good at detecting TNT and should catch the explosive, even if it were concealed in the electronics of a laptop, because ETD swabs can detect minute amounts of residue, according to William McGann, an explosive detection expert at Implant Sciences, a U.S. company that manufactures explosive detection systems.

    McGann told CNN that when modern multiview X-ray systems are used alone there is a chance the clutter in the X-ray image caused by the laptop could lead operators to overlook anomalies flagged by the technology. "Single view X-rays, on the other hand, would be totally reliant on a very vigilant screener at best -- and TNT concealed in a laptop could be easily missed," he added.

    Lax standards in airport security across Africa and in many developing nations across the world has been the "elephant in the room for a long, long time," an explosives expert with experience in Somalia told CNN on condition of anonymity.

    "When terrorists start changing their methods to the point where their explosive devices are no longer just a bag of bolts or a steel pipe, then the rest of the world needs to be worried. These sorts of disguised devices are disturbing. A perpetrator may not fool the world-trained expert looking at the device on an X-ray, but a half-bored official without the same training might let something slip by. They are starting to defeat visual technology. It's only as good as the operator," the expert said.

    Robert Liscouski, a former senior official at the Department of Homeland Security and president of Implant Sciences, said there's an urgent need for better training of airport workers.

    "In developing countries where there are significant challenges to training and maintaining an effective security workforce, it is almost impossible to have a security system that won't have process vulnerabilities," Liscouski said.

    One avenue of inquiry for investigators will be whether the laptop received less scrutiny by staff manning the X-ray machine because airport workers brought it in.

    Somali investigation called open

    The Somali government has been open and cooperative with its international partners in the investigation so far, a Western official in Mogadishu said.

    Jangali, the Somali transport minister, told CNN the investigation was progressing well.

    "Hopefully when we conclude the investigation, we can share this information we have gathered with other intelligence agencies," he said by phone. "It's too early to speculate on the exact nature of this attack. We first want to find out exactly what happened, the sequence of events and all the people involved to get the complete picture."

    Laptop used in earlier attack

    If the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab built the explosive device in the plane bombing, it would represent a significant elevation in its bomb-making capabilities, according to analysts. Given the sophistication of the device, one possibility is that al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- shared technology with the group. AQAP bomb-maker Ibrahim al Asiri has been developing a new generation of explosive devices concealed in electronics, according to Western intelligence officials, and there are indications the group has shared this technology with al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.

    Last week's explosion in the air above Somalia wasn't the first case of a laptop bomb being used to try to target civilians in the Somali capital.

    A laptop explosive device was used in a 2013 attack on a Mogadishu hotel.
    A laptop explosive device was used in a 2013 attack on a Mogadishu hotel.

    In November 2013, Al-Shabaab deployed a laptop bomb at the city's Hotel Maka.

    A confidential source close to that investigation at the time provided photos of the device, saying they show that the bomb was faulty. The incomplete detonation, however, led people in the hotel to run outside the building, and when first responders arrived, a suicide bomber drove a car bomb into the group, killing six and injuring more than a dozen.

    More than 40 arrests so far, official says

    Al Qaeda affiliate believed to be behind laptop bomb

    Al Qaeda affiliate believed to be behind laptop bomb 01:57

    No group has claimed responsibility for the Daallo plane attack. U.S. officials said Al-Shabaab is the most likely culprit. The terror group attacked a restaurant and hotel last month on Mogadishu's Lido Beach, killing dozens of Somalis.

    A Somali official close to the investigation told CNN that three field tests for explosives were conducted at the explosion site on the plane. All tested positive for explosive residue. Now those tests have been sent to labs in the United States.

    According to the official, Borleh, the suspected bomber, was seated in 16 F on the plane. Investigators found parts of the laptop -- a piece of keypad -- and the laptop bag burned. The explosive device was hidden inside the laptop. The plane was at 12,000 feet when the explosion occurred. Borleh's right leg and right hand were blown off -- leading investigators to believe the bag was somewhere on his right side.

    The source said Borleh's injuries were consistent with those suffered in an explosion, and he had explosive residue on him when his body was recovered. Borleh was heading to Turkey, ostensibly for medical reasons. He ended up taking the Daallo Airlines flight to Djibouti after a Turkish Airlines flight he had booked was canceled.

    There have been 45 arrests made so far in the case, and those are some people who were directly and indirectly involved, the Somali official said.

    Somalia's criminal intelligence division and explosive ordinance disposal team are leading the investigation. People are being interrogated, surveillance footage is being combed through from the 92 closed-circuit TV cameras at the airport, the official said.

    "We have minute-by-minute footage of the event," the official told CNN.

    New security standards at Mogadishu airport

    Somalia has begun using new search and security methods at the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, including bomb-sniffing dogs, says Ali Ahmed Jama Jangali, the Somali transport minister.

    Passengers said sniffer dogs were now searching their luggage at the airport. These dogs are not new; they are part of the Somalia National Police's explosive ordinance disposal teams.

    Until now these canines and their Somali handlers have been deployed at big events or during VIP visits -- but Jangali said they would become a regular feature at the Mogadishu airport.



  2. ayan-farah

    Ayaan Farah has no criminal record.

    For eight years, she was a customer service agent for US Airways at Pearson airport with the highest security clearance, undergoing background checks in 2006 and 2012.

    And then a brief and vague police report — possibly based on information obtained through carding — got her clearance revoked.

    On Jan. 9, 2014, Transport Canada received two pieces of information from Toronto police, via the RCMP: Farah, 31, was seen once in 2011 with a Dixon Crew gang member who “admitted at the time being a very close associate to (Farah).” And in September 2012, a car registered to her was seen leaving the funeral of a gang member. Farah was not in the car, but two people with criminal records were.

    Farah told Transport Canada that she did not know who these people could be — none are named — and that she recalled no interaction with police and the gang member identified only as Subject A. It was likely her father driving the car to the funeral, she said, as he attends many funerals as a leader in the Somali community.

    Farah’s clearance was placed under review for nine months and then restored in full in October 2014. It was revoked two months later. She has been suspended without pay since.

    On Monday, Farah is challenging the decision in Federal Court, arguing that she was not given a fair chance to defend herself and that her Charter rights were violated because her associations were scrutinized with no reasonable grounds.

    “I don’t have a criminal record, I’ve never committed a crime, I’ve always followed the law,” Farah said in an interview. She grew up in the Dixon Rd. area and Rexdale — both areas with serious crime problems — and volunteers as a community youth worker. “How do you know if someone has a criminal record? If you grew up in Dixon and John Garland, you went to school with these people, in the same community. Can you remember who you said hi to in 2011?”

    She has been denied further information about the incidents due to privacy laws — she does not know who the subjects are, the exact dates the incidents occurred or where, or how the information was obtained.

    The police report states they had a “direct interaction” with Farah and Subject A, who has been convicted of several charges, including drug trafficking and is involved in firearms trafficking. The report notes the current status of their association is not known and the exact nature of the association is never specified. It is not mentioned in the information provided if Farah herself ever spoke to the police during the incident or confirmed an association with Subject A.

    Subject B, one of the two people with criminal records in the car at the funeral, was listed as having several convictions, including robbery and assault with a weapon. Subject C had a single conviction for theft under $5000.

    Transport Canada’s director-general of aviation security found it unlikely Farah would not recall an interaction with police and, due to her “close association” with Subject A, “either knew or was wilfully blind to Subject A’s activities.” In her decision she noted Subject B has a withdrawn charge for second-degree murder.

    Farah’s association with three individuals with criminal records (including the two found leaving the gang member’s funeral) raised “concerns about judgment, reliability and trustworthiness,” the decision states, concluding Farah may be induced to commit or help in an act that would impede civil aviation.

    At Monday’s hearing, Farah’s lawyer Mitchell Worsoff says he will argue that Farah’s Charter right to “life, liberty and security” has been violated because her personal associations have been examined for no reason.

    “She gets chastised and loses her job, suffering humiliation and essentially impecunity at this point, all because the state has chosen to look at who she has been associating with. What is happening here is a very dangerous thing,” Worsoff said in an interview. If she is not successful in this proceeding, he said, “every member of our community and by extension, our country, and I don’t say this in a dramatic way, will face danger without having ever committed a criminal act.”

    The factum he submitted to court argues “it is evident that an individual could objectively suffer serious psychological stress where that person cannot ever dispute or escape the shadow of criminal accusations that were never proven in court or substantiated.”

    Transport Canada could not comment on the case as it is before the courts, a spokesperson said. Its factum filed with the court states that “access to a restricted area of an airport is a privilege, not a right” and that the decision “was both reasonably made and procedurally fair.”

    It also says there is no basis for a Charter argument because there is no evidence Farah has undergone “significant psychological stress” due to her clearance being cancelled.

    “What really frustrates me is how your clearance could be taken away from you for something you have not done,” Farah says. She questions why, if there were genuine concerns about her being a risk, it took so long for the information to come to Transport Canada and for her clearance to be revoked. “Maybe they think working at US airways is just a job. But I came from humble beginnings. It was making ends meet. It was really important to me. For them to come to a decision so easily with no proof, no evidence…it’s very disappointing.”

    Farah believes that the information given to Transport Canada was obtained through carding. While she has no recollection of being carded, her father did give his name and the car’s registration details to police once when leaving a funeral, according to an affidavit he filed with the court.

    Farah’s younger sister, Naiima, has seen the ramifications of carding in her work in youth development — students unable to land jobs or volunteer positions because a police interaction shows up on a background check — but this is the first time it has struck so close to home.

    “Targeting people from certain communities, this is something everyone needs to step against,” she says. “We are not collateral damage, we are not scraps of metal, we are human beings.”

    Farah wonders how far the information has spread. Shortly before Farah’s security clearance was revoked, her aunt, an American citizen, was crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. She was taken aside, searched and finally asked if she knew Ayaan Farah and where she was.

    Farah, a Canadian citizen, is now worried about what will happen should she travel to the U.S.

    “No matter where I lived, it didn’t matter. I could make sure our situation improved by getting a job, going to school. I always believed in that,” says Farah who is currently attending Seneca college.

    Now she is not so sure.

    “You teach these kids follow the rules, obey the law, don’t take any shortcuts, go to school…but when the kids see that you’ve been following the law and you haven taken any shortcuts and your clearance is revoked and you don’t have a job even though you did everything right, why should they listen to me? My character is damaged. I don’t have answers for these kids.”

    By: Alyshah Hasham Staff Reporter,


  3. zahra-abu-somali-police-officer-maine-first

    New Portland police officer makes history for Maine’s Somali community

    Zahra Abu, who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and went on to graduate from Deering High and USM, is sworn in as the state's first Somali police officer.

    When she played as a child, Zahra Abu always imagined herself the sheriff, arresting bad guys.


    The fact that she was born to Somali parents in a Kenyan refugee camp, then raised in Portland, didn’t dampen her enthusiasm – but it may have contributed to her drive.


    After years of hard work, including earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine in three years while working two jobs, Abu became a first: She was sworn in Friday as a Portland police officer.


    A large segment of Maine’s Somali community and other immigrants, still uncertain how they fit in their new home, are celebrating the appointment of the state’s first Somali police officer.


    “This is history for us,” said Fatuma Hussein, executive director of United Somali Women of Maine, who could barely contain her enthusiasm. Abu is “young, energetic. She stands for a lot of youth, who really deserve the opportunities such as that and I think she’s going to pave the way for many girls, women, boys and men in our community.”


    Maine’s police departments are becoming more diverse. The most recent Maine Criminal Justice Academy class included three graduates – from Portland police, Auburn police and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office – for whom English is not their first language.


    The police department in Lewiston, which also has a large Somali community, has been recruiting heavily to attract officer candidates from that group, though none has yet been hired.




    Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Abu has a different background from many in the department, but she went through the same process as everyone else to become an officer.


    “There’s no question that we want to be as diverse as our communities, but we will only hire the best, and I do believe she is one of them,” he said. “I hire good human beings and then we make police officers from them.”


    Sauschuck welcomed five new officers, including Abu, to the department during a ceremony Friday at City Hall. All five had to pass a rigorous series of physical and psychological exams representing a variety of life experiences.


    “I’m very excited, a little nervous,” Abu said Friday before the ceremony. “I feel very grateful for this opportunity. … I like helping people.”


    Also sworn in was Darrel Gibson, who is from Ohio. He studied to be a firefighter and emergency medical technician and is now getting his bachelor’s degree in religion and theology from Liberty University. He also competes in mixed martial arts.




    Concetta Puleo is from Long Island, New York, and worked as an insurance agent in Manhattan before moving to Maine and becoming a police officer.


    David Moore was raised in Newport, where he was home-schooled through 12th grade and later became an emergency medical technician and studied justice at the University of Maine at Augusta.


    Ben Savage is from South Portland and graduated magna cum laude from Thomas College in Waterville. He is a former member of the Scarborough Police Explorers, a group for youths who are interested in law enforcement. He was a Portland police cadet for two summers.




    Abu, 22, the youngest of nine children, moved to Portland when she was 2. She earned a Girl Scout Gold Award, the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout award. She graduated from Deering High School in 2011. While studying criminal justice and women-and-gender studies at USM, she worked in loss prevention for Kohl’s department store in Westbrook and was a full-time case manager for Catholic Charities Maine.


    She considered studying law, but her brother, Ilyas Munye Abu, a police officer in Worcester, Massachusetts, talked her into pursuing an internship with the Maine State Police instead.


    “I told her it’s very rewarding when you go home to your family and can say you helped people,” he said.


    Her father, Munye Munye, said he is proud of his daughter, because her path may have been difficult but she followed her ambition.


    Abu is athletic, as well as calm, reserved and respectful, said her oldest brother, Mohamed Abu, 49, a computer engineer. He said the family is proud of his sister, who they say is the nation’s second Somali police officer.


    Abu still has work to do before she can wear the badge that was presented to her Friday. She and other recruits from around the state must complete an 18-week training program before they can become full-time municipal police officers.


    Abu’s sister Samira, 29, a social worker, said her family always has emphasized education, and all the children have attended college.


    “One of the things our parents kind of nailed into our brains was, ‘You’re here for a reason. You need to take advantage of the education that is provided for you,’” she said.


    Abu wore a hijab to her swearing-in, but won’t wear one when she’s patrolling the city’s streets.


    “I don’t plan on wearing the hijab every shift just because it can become a hazard,” she said. “If you get in a scuffle, someone can decide to choke you with it. … I don’t need my hijab for everyone to know I’m Muslim and I’m Somali. That’s always going to be in my heart.”




    Abu’s appointment gives immigrants a sense of belonging and a sense of ambition, said Hussein, of the United Somali Women of Maine. Abu will be a role model and an important liaison with law enforcement, she said, someone who speaks Somali and understands the culture.


    “She is the symbol of creating a trust relationship, bringing our community closer to law enforcement. I think she is the symbol of building bridges and forging relationships,” Hussein said. “She will be getting a lot of phone calls. She needs to be ready for that. She’ll be getting knocks on her door.”


    Reza Jalali, multicultural student affairs coordinator for USM, said Abu’s accomplishment resonates on a number of levels.


    “It’s wonderful for the entire new Mainers community because they need role models. They need to feel that they belong and are included, and that this is their country as well and their community as well,” he said.


    Abu also is breaking down barriers for other women.


    “She’s shattering some kind of ceiling and stereotypes and barriers that her own community has,” Jalali said, referring to how some traditionalists don’t approve of women pursuing roles that are seen as more appropriate for men.


    “Now maybe some girl wants to be chief of police, attorney general,” he said. “That’s how it starts.”


    Hussein concedes that it is unfair to put such a burden on one person, carrying the aspirations of so many people. But it is the inescapable price of being a leader.


    “You will have many immigrants graduating from college that will look into law enforcement because she made that bold move for them. She laid the foundation,” Hussein said. “She has made history. Nobody can take that away.”



  4. National Consultation Forum (NCF) 

    The Federal Government of Somalia, Regional Governments and Federal Parliament recently launched the National Consultative process to give  an opportunity for Somalis to think collectively and to arrive at common decisions on how the electoral transition will be conducted.  The process is designed to be inclusive, and incorporate viewpoints of a cross-section of Somali society.  In line with the New Deal and Vision 2016, which encourage participation, the inclusion of women, youth and minorities is essential to the process.  The process is also designed to incorporate national, regional and local perspectives.  The resulting recommendations will reflect the interests and concerns of a broad-range of Somali opinion with regard to inclusive political participation and building a more peaceful society.





    One Team: The Story of The Lewiston High School Blue Devils from LHSOneTeamFilm on Vimeo.


    The Lewiston High School boys soccer team is comprised of players from six different countries, with a majority being African Immigrants that fled refugee camps in hopes for a better life. The story looks at how soccer has shaped the immigrant population as well as how the immigrant population has shaped a Coach and a community.


    Produced by Ian Clough, Tom Fournier and Brad Bosse

    Directed by Ian Clough

    Director of Photography John Mowat

  6. More than 240,000 people in Somaliland do not have enough food because of acute droughts caused by poor rains. Save the Children, which is building wells and reservoirs and providing chlorination, warns that malnutrition rates – especially for children under five – are alarming and likely to increase


    Photographs by Felicity McCabe/Save the Children


    somalia-climate1 somalia-climate2 somalia-climate3 somalia-climate4 somalia-climate5 somalia-climate6 somalia-climate7 somalia-climate8 somalia-climate9 somalia-climate10 somalia-climate12



  7. 2015-12-06-1449387816-4763011-girls.jpeg


    Soccer is big-time in the former mill town of Lewiston, Maine. Last month the high school boys team took the state championship, capping a 17-0 season. A few details: the day was warm, the stands were packed, and the team included seven players who'd lived together in a Somali refugee camp before coming to the U.S.


    Since 2007, I've been writing about Lewiston and the 5,000 Somali refugees who have made it their home. In Lewiston, the news is mostly good. The magazine and newspaper pieces I've done are stories of adaptation and progress because that's what I see happening here.


    Message to political leaders across the nation who don't want Syrian refugees in their states: If Lewiston can do it, then so can other U.S. cities and towns.




    In Lewiston, there are Somali city leaders and police force recruits. One in four schoolchildren is of African descent, and Somali kids are heading off to college in ever-rising numbers. Stores that had been shuttered have reopened under Somali ownership. Somalis work in health care, financial services and industry. They sell vegetables at farmers markets, and the triple-deckers that fan out from downtown Kennedy Park once again are filled with families. What's happening in this city of 36,000 people is isbedal, the Somali word for transformation.


    "We are making it here," says Fatuma Hussein, who moved with her family to Lewiston in 2001 and serves as executive director of United Somali Women of Maine. "We've come a long way in fifteen years. People see Lewiston as their home."


    Two weeks after the soccer championship, a party was held at the local Ramada Inn to mark the victory. Hussein was there. "It was so diverse," she says. "I looked at the crowd and thought, 'This is who we are.' The whites and the blacks, the young, old, women, children, men - all of us were there to celebrate our boys."


    Last spring I spent time at a Lewiston youth center that primarily serves Somali kids. At the center, girls raced down the hallway, their hijabs flying, to get first dibs on supplies in the art room. Teenagers sandwiched into a music studio sang Beyonce and Stevie Wonder to the accompaniment of a self-taught pianist, while outdoors bystanders cheered and a dog barked as goals accrued in a pick-up soccer game.




    The Somalis are finding their way alongside Lewistonians who've lived here for decades or generations. It's not utopia. Unemployment among the refugees remains high, and even after a decade many still speak limited English. For some, PTSD and other effects of trauma hinder acculturation. Social services are strained. And among some Lewistonians, racial and religious bias lingers. But there's vibrancy to the place, especially to downtown, that didn't exist a decade ago -- and very little conflict.


    I grew up an hour from Lewiston and, as a journalist, often wrote about western Maine. The arrival of hundreds of African Muslim families in a city that was almost wholly white and Christian interested me from the start. But I had to work to sell the Lewiston Somali story to my editors because, in spite of occasional news briefs to the contrary, things in Lewiston were mostly going well.


    What's happened with the Somali refugees is likely what would happen with the Syrians and other refugees, especially those relocated to smaller, former industrial cities with population drain -- places in need of revitalization.




    For decades, Lewiston was an urban hub for nearby towns and villages. In the 70s, my family drove there to shop and visit relatives several times a year. The city's glory days of textile manufacturing were fading, but the downtown sidewalks were still filled with people. It wasn't until the '80s that it became clear how much things had changed. One by one, storefronts grew vacant and dark until the downtown was all but deserted. Lewiston was in the same predicament as other industrial cities--mills closed, jobs gone and the young leaving.


    Such was the situation in February 2001 when the first Somali refugees came northfrom Portland, where relocation housing was short. A handful of families soon became a hundred; at the height of the influx several dozen Somalis were showing up by Greyhound bus each week.


    The climate grew strained. In 2002, then-mayor Laurier Raymond wrote: "The large number of new arrivals cannot continue without negative results for all... [W]e need breathing room." Raymond's letter triggered a chain of reactions, including a poorly attended white supremacist rally and a sizeable counter-demonstration.


    Relations steadily improved from there. When a man tossed a pig's head through the doorway of a downtown mosque while people inside were praying, the reaction -- at least publicly -- was unanimous. The deed was denounced, the offender criminally charged.


    New arrivals kept coming. Most recently there's been an influx of asylum-seekers from Chad, Djibouti, and Congo. Month by month the neighborhoods and schools of the city are growing and adapting. Lewiston's workforce is ever more diverse, and the overall economy is robust.




    To be sure, there remains a divide between the newcomers and some longtime Lewistonians -- cultural and religious differences that preclude anything but a civil intersection. But civility is a start.


    The first Somali-American children born in Lewiston are now in their freshman year of high school. They are Mainers, kids who grew up with snow and ice and the piercing blue of a winter sky. They wear wool hats over their hijabs and go to sleep at night with the nearby Androscoggin River a vast, unseen presence in the dark.


    They, and Lewiston, are part of change. They are isbedal.



  8. knaan-somaliaonline


    Somalia-born and Canadian-raised rapper K'naan will team with Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow on a new HBO drama series that will focus on Jihadi recruitment in the United States. The series, titled The Recruiters, "will draw open an iron curtain behind which viewers will see the highly impenetrable world of Jihadi recruitment," HBO said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.


    The Recruiters will be set in Minnesota with K'naan on board to write and direct the pilot; Bigelow will serve in an executive producer role. The Hurt Locker director previously partnered with HBO for The Most Miraculous Year, a drama series that wasn't picked up after the pilot was filmed.


    On K'naan's Twitter, the rapper-songwriter has posted multiple audition announcements for Toronto and Minnesota, with the series seeking a "young Somali man" for the lead role. In K'naan's childhood in Somalia, he witnessed three of his young friends get gunned down during the African nation's bloody civil war, an incident he wrote about for the New York Times in 2011

    Toronto, your chance to audition!

    — K'naan Warsame (@KNAAN) December 11, 2015

    While K'naan has released four albums, most recently 2012's Country, God or the Girl, The Recruiters would mark his first television project.



  9. somaliland-somaliaonline


    SAHRA HALGAN, a musician, fled Hargeisa in northern Somalia in 1991. The city she left was a smoking ruin; most of the population was scattered. But in 2013, after 22 years living in France and working as a cleaner, she felt the urge to return. “I love France, but my country is called Somaliland,” she says. And so she set up a restaurant. At weekends, it fills up with Coca-Cola-sipping young men in smart shirts and women in bright silk head-dresses. Musicians strum the lute-like oud and sing folk songs, as plates of camel meat and spiced rice circulate and the audience hold up their iPhones to take selfies.


    Stories such as Ms Halgan’s abound in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a breakaway region which declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991. Unlike Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia proper, Hargeisa is broadly safe, and undergoing a remarkable economic boom. On its dusty streets, goats compete for space with Land Cruisers; new businesses such as “the English Beauty Salon” and “the Scandinavian hotel” are everywhere. In cafés Somalis with accents from London, Minnesota and Amsterdam sip frappuccinos. The boom is an indicator of how successful other parts of Somalia could be if the fighting could be stopped. But it also comes with tensions that could undermine the fragile peace.


    Almost every building in Hargeisa has been constructed in the past two decades. In the city centre a Russian-built MiG is mounted on a crudely painted plinth: a relic from the Somali civil war, which ran from the late 1980s until 1991, when the city was comprehensively destroyed by Siad Barre, Somalia’s last military dictator. The war convinced many that they wanted nothing to do with any government in Mogadishu. On the plinth is the date “26th June”, the day on which, in 1960, Somaliland gained its independence from Britain, five days before it formally joined Somalia, newly independent from Italy. Most Somalilanders think the union was a mistake.


    Recovery began with refugees sending money home through the hawala system (see related article). It accelerated dramatically in 2009, when Saudi Arabia lifted a nine-year ban on imports of livestock from Somalia. Last year some 5m animals were exported, more than for 20 years. The animal trade generates money which can be spent on consumer goods: shops are full of Vietnamese clothes and Chinese electronics. That in turn creates opportunities for investment, and so diaspora Somalis who had previously mostly sent money home began to set up businesses. They have helped to build a world-class mobile-phone network, a fibre-optic broadband link to Djibouti and a mobile-money system which is one of the most widely used in Africa.


    Mahdi Abdi moved to Hargeisa in 2013 from the suburbs of Washington, DC; he had left Mogadishu in the 1970s as a teenager. In his American twang, he jokes about his mid-life crisis. “I had the house in the ’burbs, the dog, the business, everything.” But Hargeisa seemed more exciting. In his dental clinic he proudly shows off imported equipment with which he can build proper crowns and dentures—unknown until now in Somaliland.


    Those who have lived abroad have plenty of advantages. Those with foreign passports can travel to business meetings. In a country where the local currency is traded in brick-sized bundles, they have greater access to foreign money (almost all large transactions are dollarised). Most of all they have education, which, 20 years after the civil war, is sorely lacking. More than a dozen universities have opened in Hargeisa over the past decade or so, hawking degrees to hopeful youngsters (the median age in Somalia is around 17). But few trust their quality.


    But not all members of the diaspora are welcome. Newcomers are buying up land, pushing up property prices—which, in a country with a creaking legal system, can lead to bloody disputes. Their teenage children, whom Somalilanders often send home for the summer, are accused of flashing money around, flirting and generally making a nuisance of themselves. And tension simmers between two different diaspora groups: Westerners, and those from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the other Gulf states. Like Mr Abdi and Ms Halgan, Westerners tend to get busy setting up businesses such as cafés, restaurants and clinics. Those back from the Gulf, by contrast, are more involved in the import and export trades, livestock and the construction industry—through which they can exert a worrying political influence.


    “This society used to be half-African, half-Muslim, not too deeply religious,” says one well-connected Somalilander. “Now the Wahhabis are everywhere.” The country’s early democracy has faltered: an election in Somaliland planned for this year has been delayed, ostensibly because of problems organising it. Corruption is endemic, and the media is seldom critical. Dissent is increasingly dangerous, particularly on the fraught issue of national identity. On September 27th, four musicians were arrested on their return to Somaliland: they had apparently waved a Somalian flag at a gig in Mogadishu. They were released only after widespread protests.


    Still, life remains much better than in Mogadishu, where car-bombs and shootings continue to punctuate the night. The question is what happens next. Independence, most think, is a pipe-dream: politicians in Mogadishu are unlikely to want to lose a substantial chunk of the country. African neighbours such as Ethiopia, whose troops guarantee security in much of the rest of Somalia, will not approve either; nor, for that matter, will the West. No country has yet recognised Somaliland’s self-declared independence. But for a million or so Somalis living abroad, Hargeisa offers a model for how they might return to their homeland and to try to rebuild. If only the rest of Somalia could catch up.



  10. Sahro1-641x801


    When Sahro Hassan stepped into the halls of Lewiston Regional Technical Center as a freshman in 2010, she was already designing her future along with trendy clothes for young Muslim women.


    “The fashion industry in the US doesn’t do justice to modest women, especially when it comes to young females like me, and that frustrated me,” explains Hassan. “I decided to create fashions appropriate to my culture and to my beliefs,” she adds, “but also unique and sophisticated so that both Muslim and non-Muslim women would want to wear it.”


    “I love being able to express so much with just a piece of garment,” says Hassan, who at age 19 already has three fashion shows and both local and state awards to her name. One of her goals, she emphasizes, is to use her fashions to create cross-cultural conversation. “The more people who come to this country as immigrants,” she explains, “the more we need to share and embrace each other’s cultures. We need to understand each other’s stories. I want to do that through fashion.”


    For a promotional video shoot in Lewiston, Maine, designs by 19-year-old Sahro Hassan are modeled by (clockwise from top-left) Heather Pollock, Reyni Bernabel, Cristal Martin, Kenzi Langley and Maryam Abdirahman.Hassan’s own story began before she was born, when her family emigrated in the early 1990’s from Somalia.“I remember my mother telling me that she and my father walked for days and days before they ended up in Kenya,” she recalls. Desperate to leave famine and civil war behind, Sahro’s parents spent several years at a refugee camp named Dadaab, some 100 kilometers across the border, where Sahro was born. After relocating to the Kakuma camp in northeastern Kenya, the family was accepted for refugee resettlement in Indianapolis, Indiana when Sahro was 10. After four months there, Somali friends in Lewiston suggested the Hassans join them in Maine. “I feel humbled because of the experience I had at such a young age,” says Hassan. “Looking back, no one would choose to grow up in hardship, but I believe that if I can overcome my past, I can overcome anything.”There was indeed much to overcome. When Hassan, her parents and seven younger siblings arrived in Lewiston in 2007, none of them spoke English. Her father needed work. Despite the obstacles, Sahro Hassan flourished.


    At home in Lewiston, Sahro Hassan stands at top left with her mother and siblings around her. Of the family's journey from Somalia to Kenya to Maine, Hassan says, “No one would choose to grow up in hardship, but I believe that if I can overcome my past, I can overcome anything.”


    “Sahro always stood out,” says Barbara Benjamin-McManus, Hassan’s middle-school teacher and mentor. “I remember that when she first came to school, most of the other Muslim girls wore long skirts with pants underneath. But she wore vibrant colors and was always dressed a little bit different, and she was never self-conscious.” She adds that Hassan often expressed her desire to become a fashion designer. “I think she’s going to make it because she’s breaking a mold, and she is driven to excel. She is the first Muslim girl I know who’s gone into fashion design, and I told her to hold onto that dream!”


    Hassan learned to sew at the Tree Street Youth after-school program, and as a freshman at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts, she honed skills in apparel construction under Jeanne McDavitt.


    Hassan learned to sew at Tree Street Youth, an after-school and summer program for at-risk youth in downtown Lewiston. With its support, which included a donated sewing machine and fabric, she held her first fashion show in 2013, and Somali friends modelled her designs. Last year she graduated from Lewiston High School with honors, and she calls herself an “Islamanista”—her own moniker as a Muslim “fashionista.”Hassan laughs when she recalls how unprepared she was for her fashion launch. “I had no clue what I was doing, so I just threw stuff together,” she says. “Some of the garments were even hard to walk in since I was still teaching myself how to sew.”Fatuma Ali, her 18-year-old cousin and one of her models, recalls her own disbelief when Hassan told her she wanted to be a fashion designer. “I never really thought she was going to do it because in our culture we don’t do fashion or anything outside of the box. She was the first girl in our community to do something different.” Hassan has tried to find a good cultural mix, adds Ali. “We still keep our hijabs on, but she’s changing the designs. I think that’s really cool.”


    Wearing Hassan’s designs, models prep for the runway. “I decided to create fashions appropriate to my culture and to my beliefs,” Hassan says, “but also unique and sophisticated‚ so that both Muslim and non-Muslim women would want to wear it.”With each show, Hassan’s sewing and production skills have improved. In 2013 and 2014, she held two at an outdoor plaza during the city’s summer Artwalk festivals. Local Lewiston residents filled the seats at her last show, Benjamin-McManus recalls. “Most of the spectators were white. Afterwards they came up to Sahro and wished her well. They were so supportive it blew me away,” she says. Among those who were impressed was Lewiston photographer Jim Walker, who offered to photograph her fashions and created her first professional portfolio—for free.“The mere fact that Sahro Hassan is a known name in Lewiston demonstrates the impact she has on both the Somali and local community,” says Julia Sleeper, founder and director of Tree Street Youth. “I think she sees herself as someone working toward unifying populations by helping people to understand cultural differences using something she’s passionate about.“She knows that what she is doing goes beyond making fashions and dresses for some of her friends and customers. It’s a much greater statement that affects the young Muslim women of her community as well as the community at large.”


    Lewiston, Maine: The Accidental Melting PotTake an economically struggling Maine mill town of 36,600 and add to it nearly 5,000 Somalis seeking haven in a new country. On the surface, it hardly looks like a formula for success.When the first substantial numbers of Somalis began arriving in 2001 in Lewiston, they were not welcomed with open arms. Unemployment was high, and locals feared that new arrivals would overburden social services and increase competition for the few jobs left after the closure of once-thriving textile mills.Despite Lewiston’s economic slump, it was one of the US cities that Somali refugees themselves found attractive—through websites and word of mouth: good schools, affordable housing and, most important of all, a safe place to raise a family. Many brought a strong sense of community and entrepreneurship; they enrolled their children in the local public schools, signed up for English courses and found—or created—jobs.Today, per-capita income in Lewiston is rising. The crime rate has dropped. The center of town, once called “The Combat Zone,” has new, family-owned grocery stores offering halal meats (prepared following the Islamic method of slaughter), and there are storefront mosques in between new organic-food cafes as well as other more conventional businesses.“Challenges still exist,” comments Julia Sleeper, founder of Lewiston’s Tree Street Youth Center. “Acculturation is messy.” But relations, she says, continue to improve. This, she says, is “testimony to the strength of both communities.”“Sahro is an amazing success story,” says Sleeper, “and an important peer role model for our other students at Tree Street.” Both Sleeper and her colleague Kim Sullivan continue to mentor Hassan as she pursues fashion design at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.Sullivan maintains that Hassan’s ability to bridge cultures stems in part from her parents’ steadfast backing. “They are incredible,” she comments. They have always been supportive of Sahro in what she wants to do, even when it has not always seemed culturally appropriate to them.”Hassan admits that her parents were at first confused. “My mother even told me that in our culture we have people who sew or tailor clothes—but not designers,” she explains. “My parents didn’t understand what a designer does, or how it could become a career.”


    Hassan’s desire to launch her own business got a boost during her junior year at Lewiston when she joined the Youth Entrepreneurs Academy (yea) program sponsored by the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce. Chip Morrison, then president of the chamber and director of yea, interviewed Hassan when she applied. He wondered how this soft-spoken, small young woman was going to be able to promote her business idea. “But she had this incredible drive. You could feel it even though she didn’t articulate it very well in the beginning,” says Morrison, who observed her transformation over the 30-week after-school program.


    Hassan keeps focus during the shoot.In the end, she wowed the local investors, and they gave her the grant she needed to launch her business under the name Fashionuji. “Sahro is magnetic,” exclaims Morrison. “This young woman will not be denied. She is driven to succeed, and I would never be surprised if she later founded a Fortune 500 company. I have that much confidence in her.”Today, it’s hard to find anyone in Lewiston who hasn’t heard of “Fashion Girl,” as Hassan is affectionately known. Young Muslim women inspired by her designs are sporting brighter colors and trendier patterns, and some local stores showcase her fashions. She has a growing fan club among non-Muslim girls in town.Morrison’s confidence was well founded. As a result of the yea, in 2013 Hassan received first prize in Maine’s “Future Business Leaders of America” competition. Later that same year she represented Maine in the national Future Business Leaders of America competition. In 2014 she won the “Girls Rock Award” for entrepreneurship from Hardy Girls, Healthy Women, a Maine-based non-profit. That’s quite a list of accomplishments for a young woman who didn’t speak a word of English when she arrived in Lewiston eight years ago, let alone a word of fashion lingo.The conversation, it appears, is just beginning.



  11. 08maine-web01-master675.jpg

    Ben Chin, center, at a campaign event last week in Lewiston, Me. Mr. Chin is a candidate in a runoff election for mayor that will be held Tuesday. CreditTristan Spinski for The New York Times

    LEWISTON, Me. — This city’s high school teams have won state championships in football, hockey and basketball, but never for soccer.

    Then last month, the undefeated Blue Devils, made up largely of refugees from Somalia, Congo, Kenya and elsewhere, eked out a 1-0 win to claim the state crown. Just as remarkable as that story was the prequel: eight of the players grew up together in a Somali refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to the United States.

    Their triumph gave this hardscrabble town something to cheer about, especially in the midst of a vituperative political season in which anti-immigrant fervor has flared both on the national stage and here in Maine, the whitest state in the country, where Lewiston is preparing to vote on Tuesday in a runoff election for mayor.

    The election comes as Lewiston, Maine’s second largest city, seeks to define its future against a backdrop of roiling demographic change.

    Because of an influx of Somali refugees starting 15 years ago — drawn here by abundant affordable housing, after unhappy relocations to other American cities — Lewiston is on the leading edge of otherwise glacial shifts in Maine’s demographics.


    Abdi Shariff, 17, is the captain of the soccer team at Lewiston High School, which recently won the state championship.CreditTristan Spinski for The New York Times

    In addition to being the whitest state, Maine is also the oldest. But Lewiston’s population of 36,300 has become younger and more racially diverse. The median age here is 40, about four years younger than the state median, though still older than the national median of 37.7. The city is 86 percent white, while Maine as a whole is 93.8 percent white; the national average is 62 percent.

    “We’ve been through this transformation now for 15-plus years, but things continue to change,” said Phil Nadeau, the deputy city administrator in Lewiston. “More new asylum seekers are coming in than new refugees. And most asylum seekers are college-educated and have working skills. The question over time will be whether they stay. Will we lose the talent?”

    The nonpartisan mayoral election, which offers a sharp generational and ideological contrast, could help answer that question. It pits a two-term incumbent, Robert E. Macdonald, 68, a former Marine, Vietnam veteran, retired police detective and virulent opponent of welfare, against Ben Chin, 30, a political activist with the liberal Maine People’s Alliance and an Episcopalian lay minister; in the past he has advocated for allowing noncitizens to vote.

    Mayor Macdonald has cast the race as a referendum on his tenure. “People know what I’ve done,” he said in his closing remarks at a recent debate, during which he referred to his attempts to limit welfare, rehabilitate downtown Lewiston and bring in new jobs. “I can look in the mirror,” he said.

    Mr. Chin, a third-generation American who has been subject to some race-baiting, framed the election as a choice between uniting and dividing. “We have two roads we can go down,” he told reporters here. “Pull together, do big things, or just stay stuck and fight with each other, immigrant pitted against native-born, seniors against children, working class against the poor.”

    Lewiston, a former mill town along the Androscoggin River in south-central Maine, has struggled to redefine itself since its once-thriving textile mills began closing in the 1970s.

    Most jobs now are in health care, education and the financial sector and light industry. The latest wave of immigrants, after the Irish and French Canadians in the 1800s, began in 2001, when refugees from war-torn Somalia began relocating here.


    Fatuma Hussein, 36, who left Somalia in 1991, arrived in Lewiston in 2001 via Georgia and is now executive director of United Somali Women of Maine.CreditTristan Spinski for The New York Times

    Today, 5,000 or 6,000 call Lewiston home. They have been joined by hundreds of asylum seekers from Africa.

    It was not an easy adjustment. In 2002, Mayor Laurier T. Raymond Jr. wrote an open letter to Somalis urging them to keep out. “This large number of new arrivals cannot continue without negative results for all,” he wrote. This prompted out-of-state white supremacists to rally here against what they called the Somali invasion.

    Such overt hostility is long gone.

    “We have moved on in ways we didn’t foresee 15 years ago,” said Fatuma Hussein, 36, who left Somalia in 1991, arrived here in 2001 via Georgia and is now executive director of United Somali Women of Maine.

    “People don’t ask me anymore at the grocery store, who are you and why are you here?” she said. “I’m a Lewistonian. I have seven children; five were born here. My daughter goes to Georgetown University. I am the person who grows the population of Maine.”

    Somali businesses have helped revitalize Lisbon Street, the main commercial thoroughfare. Tucked between the street’s historic brick and granite buildings are so many Somali shops that part of downtown is now called Little Mogadishu. Somalis have even been elected to the school board.

    “Lewiston hasn’t always had the best reputation,” said Abdi Shariff, 17, captain of the winning soccer team. He arrived here in 2008 from Somalia via Louisville, Ky., and is now mulling scholarship offers. “But we see now that everyone supports everyone in the city and the school.”


    Said Mohamud, owner of the Mogadishu Store, a market he runs with his wife in Lewiston.CreditTristan Spinski for The New York Times

    This includes Mayor Macdonald, who has celebrated the team and been supportive of the refugees. But his strict attitude toward those on welfare is sometimes perceived as anti-immigrant, especially because of initial fears that refugees would overwhelm the welfare system. The mayor declined to be interviewed for this article.

    In 2009, refugees accounted for 16 percent of Lewiston’s welfare costs, according to the Lewiston Social Services Department. But in 2010, the city began seeing a steady increase in asylum seekers, and welfare costs started climbing. This year, asylum seekers accounted for 37 percent of the city’s welfare costs, while other refugees accounted for 11 percent.

    Mayor Macdonald, who in 2012 told the BBC that immigrants should “leave your culture at the door,” has sought to ban welfare payments to asylum seekers, saying they unfairly burden Lewiston. He has also called for the public disclosure of the names of “every individual on the dole.”

    At the same time, the mayor has distanced himself from racially tinged campaign episodes. This included a sign put up by a local landlord urging voters to “vote for more jobs and not more welfare.” It featured a drawing of Ho Chi Minh, the communist revolutionary in Vietnam, and said: “Don’t vote for Ho Chi Chin.”

    The Maine Republican Party created a blog on Tumblr with Mr. Chin’s picture in front of a city in flames. In addition, a state representative, Lawrence Lockman, a Republican from a town about 130 miles away, strung together various quotations from a lengthy sermon delivered by Mr. Chin and, in a post on Facebook, called him an anti-Christian bigot. “Chin hates America, hates Americans, and hates Christians, and he wants to allow noncitizens to vote,” he wrote.

    Lance Dutson, a Republican political consultant who is trying to combat what he views as extremist elements in the party, said such “xenophobic and bigoted undertones” would backfire.

    Mr. Macdonald has run what might be called a stealth campaign, with no events, has no campaign headquarters and no website. He has accumulated $5,800, compared with Mr. Chin’s haul of $87,800, a record for a mayor’s race in Lewiston. Mr. Chin is spending the money on an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort.

    While Mr. Macdonald is not running a traditional campaign, his supporters do not count him out. “He’s an incumbent, he has a longtime following, and a lot of longtime citizens like him,” said Steve Morgan, a prominent real estate broker and losing candidate in the Nov. 3 mayoral election that led to Tuesday’s runoff. “And they like that he screams about welfare.”

    But Mr. Chin’s supporters are just as determined. Inside the Mogadishu Store, where the aroma of warm sambusa wafts across the entryway and freezers are packed with camel meat, Said Mohamud, 56, the proprietor, who had been a chemical engineer in Somalia and even ran for president of that country, said he supported the new generation.

    “Macdonald is the past,” he said. “Chin is the future.”

    Correction: December 7, 2015
    An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to fund-raising in the Lewiston mayoral race. The $87,800 raised by Mr. Chin was a record for a mayoral race in Lewiston, not in all of Maine


  12. Norway is paying asylum seekers to return home as the refugee crisis continues.


    Tens of thousands of kroner are being offered to each person who voluntarily leaves the country. They also have their flights paid for.


    Katinka Hartmann, head of the immigration department’s return unit (UDI), said that many of the people arriving from Syria, Iraq, the Middle East and Africa expect to receive protection quickly and cannot wait the months or even years the process can take.


    “They thought they would have the opportunity to work or take an education – and maybe even to get their family to Norway,” shetold NRK television.


    Norway has committed to housing thousands of Syrian refugees

    “Many cannot wait (for the asylum process to run its course). They have family at home who expect them to be able to help.


    “For a long time, Norway has not been able to forcibly return people to Somalia, but now that we can, I think that more Somalis with an obligation to leave will opt for assisted return.


    “It’s important to have more initiatives of this kind in the future.”


    The UDI’s figures show that more than 900 people have applied to take financial support to leave Norway so far.


    A couple with two children can receive upwards of 80,000 kroner (£6,200) in addition to having their flights paid for.


    The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which processes the Voluntary Assisted Return Programme requests and offers advice and counselling, described it as “safe and dignified”.


    Spokesperson Joost van der Aalst said the number of asylum seekers taking up the offer was rocketing, particularly among people attempting to bring their families to Norway.

    “Earlier this year, the number was an average of 100 per month,” he told NRK. “In October, there were 150 and in November there were 230 applications.”


    People whose asylum applications have been denied can also apply for economic assistance to return home.


    The number of asylum seekers making first-time applications in Norway has been steadily rising throughout this year, Eurostat figures show.


    In January the number stood at just 570 but in October, the most recent month recorded, the total hit 8,575



  13. CULTURE_SomaliSemantics_WEB


    This past summer, McGill students Sumaya Ugas and Yasmin Abdulqadir Ali started making art that is revolutionary in its aims to foster transformative discussion. Their zine, Somali Semantics, is an edifying form of empowerment that shifts the authors from object to subject in a discourse that refuses to lend them agency as Black, Muslim, Somali women.Somali Semantics is first and foremost a set of personal narratives that stem from the traditional oral art of storytelling.


    Their art is also a rumination and dissection of a violent, racist, Islamophobic, misogynistic reality. Throughout this zine, they reject the relentless gaze of a world that constantly seeks to reduce and constrain them. If you were looking forward to reading Somali Semantics in the hopes of finding the often repeated narrative of sad East African girls, you would realize your mistake through seeing the creators talk, as their faces are almost constantly lit up by a contagious laughter. Their work gives insight into key places and spaces that have helped shape their multifaceted identity.


    The Daily interviewed Ugas and Abdulqadir Ali to find out more about their project.


    The McGill Daily (MD): You are very upfront about who you consider the target audience for this zine: how do you see the importance of Somali girls making art for Somali girls?


    Sumaya Ugas (SU): Well this zine was born out of a strong desire to see ourselves represented in ways that went beyond the typical sad diasporic narratives; beyond the nostalgia of an ocean many of us second generation kids have never really seen, and especially beyond being used as “visible minorities” by a country so bent on proving its ‘tolerance’ through its ‘multicultural’ social fabric.


    Yasmin Abdulqadir Ali (YAA): Yeah, exactly. Also, most Somali girls exist at a really complicated intersection of Muslimness and Blackness that we really wanted to explore.

    This zine was born out of a strong desire to see ourselves represented in ways that went beyond the typical sad diasporic narratives.

    MD: Throughout your art, you use varied media to convey intent and a variety of topics and tones – these touch on the tragic natures of xenophobia, sexual assault, family tragedies, and the more lighthearted music playlists. How did the use of media help you convey these emotions ?


    YAA: For me, the use of different forms of media really helped us capture the full complexity of our identities – especially as Black women. So often, we are put into a box and are only allowed to be one thing – happy Black girl; sad Black girl; et cetera – and we really wanted to use media to deconstruct that idea. The reality is, as living , breathing human beings, our lives are tinged by an array of emotions – and we wanted to honour that truth through our work.


    MD: The Soomaali language’s recurrence throughout the zine seems to tie the various narratives together. How are your thoughts formulated in Soomaali versus in English or French?


    YAA: This is actually a recurring conversation between the two of us. Whatever language you are speaking, I think it’s always informed by all the different languages you are thinking in, or know. Often, I find myself trying to say something in English, but being stuck because my entire thought process in that moment is happening in French. This is why we chose to keep Soomaali in our zine. Because so much can be lost in translation, and because our main audience (we assume) has a minimal understanding of the language in ways that enables them to get the references we make throughout the zine.


    MD: Are you reading, or have read, anything in particular that has inspired you in your writing?


    SU: I’ve recently gone back to reading Diriye Osman’s short story collection, Fairytales for Lost Children. He’s easily become a writer whom I admire on so many levels, and his words often feel like he is writing into existence so many realities – on being young, queer, Muslim, Somali, displaced, et cetera – that have been denied.


    YAA: Last year, I read Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism (edited by Bushra Rehman and Daisy Hernandez) and it really inspired the hell out of me. More than anything, it drove home the fact that women of colour should take autonomy of their voices and their narratives.


    MD: There’s a very purposeful focus on place and space in Somali Semantics. How do you define “home?”


    YAA: I would define home as this weird grey space between Toronto and Mogadishu: classic diaspora-kid floating. As time has passed, I’ve come to realize the beauty of existing in this grey space, and the power that lies in the ability to mix and borrow aspects from different cultures.

    I would define home as this weird grey space between Toronto and Mogadishu: classic diaspora-kid floating.

    MD: Sumaya, there’s a sentence that you use that seems to brilliantly summarize what this zine is really about; “I am tired of talking about identity for the sake of talking about identity, it’s exhausting.” Where do you see the role of lived experiences in artistic creation and where do you see academia in this picture?


    SU: That line you quote came from a place of refusing to write about our identities in ways that are devoid of feeling and of reality. I wrote this during a semester where I was increasingly alienated by all the discussions that were happening around me when it came to identity – how everything felt so dry and compartmentalized, even conversations about intersectionality.


    Audre Lorde once spoke on fear, visibility, and silence, saying she was a “Black woman warrior doing [her] work” and that “your silences won’t protect you.” I think the need to write those words down came from a place of refusing to give in to the fear and exhaustion. Academia is useful in so many ways, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how it gives voice. Academia and knowledge production have always been sites where certain experiences, realities, et cetera, are given importance. Basically what scholars choose to study [and] write about […] is not objective and us deciding to write our own lived experiences in this way is us reclaiming that voice.

    Somali Semantics





    MD: Both of you put great emphasis on parental narratives and how, as first generation Canadians, your sense of identity is necessarily formed differently than your parents’. Are those narratives worth reclaiming, and what emotions stem from this process?


    YAA: I love this question. As children of the diaspora, I think parental narratives are so important to reclaim. Despite the fact that our identities are conceptualized differently, our parents’ movement and migration stories are directly linked to why we were born in North America, why we speak English and French. That being said, it’s impossible not to reclaim these narratives, because they are intertwined with our own. Also, so many of our parents have also experienced incredible trauma in the process of migration and resettlement – and I believe it is valuable and necessary to honour those lived experiences.

    As children of the diaspora, I think parental narratives are so important to reclaim. Despite the fact that our identities are conceptualized differently, our parents’ movement and migration stories are directly linked to why we were born in North America, why we speak English and French.

    SU: Yes! I mean, we are born out of the lived experiences of our parents. We are hybrids and aliens in this Canadian space that is either constructed as white or as ‘multicultural’ and devoid of any real meaning. We, as children of immigrants, often inherit this reality of parents who’ve abandoned everything to build a better tomorrow for us.


    At the same time, for many of us born and raised here, Canada is all we know. These realities are in constant communication with one another. My father is the best storyteller I know, and I wouldn’t have this love for words and stories if it weren’t for him and how he talks about Somalia.


    So in terms of reclaiming our parents’ narratives, for children of immigrants trying to make sense of who they are and where they come from, while [also] figuring out how they fit into this “new” space, I think nothing is more important than being aware of how the realities of our parents influence how we exist in this world.



  14. There are many strong, capable women in Somalia. Dr. Hawa Abdi, Deqo Mohamed, Amina Mohamed, Edna Adan, Ilwad Elman, Fartuun Adan, and Fatima Jibrell are seven such amazing women. The actions of each demonstrate that in adversity there is the opportunity to make a positive difference and even to inspire others. Here are their stories:

    Dr. Hawa Abdi’s and her Daughters’ Health Initiatives

    As a 12-year-old, Hawa Abdi lost her mother to complications related to childbirth. Determined to understand why her mother had died, young Ms. Abdi studied medicine and, in 1971, obtained a medical degree. The following year, her grandmother died and Dr. Abdi learned that Somali laws prevented female relatives from inheriting land or other possessions. She immediately took up legal studies and, working as a physician during the day and studying law at night, obtained a law degree from Mogadishu’s Somali National University in 1979.

    After working in Mogadishu for several years Dr. Abdi opened a small clinic on her farm. Within a few years she was providing healthcare to approximately 800 internally displaced families, and over 4,000 people that were living in makeshift homes neighboring her clinic and a nearby Red Cross feeding station. That number quickly grew. By 2009, around 90,000 people were being assisted by Dr. Abdi and people outside of Somalia were increasingly aware of her amazing work. Swiss associates, inspired by Dr. Abdi, established the Association Suisse Hawa Abdi that enabled Dr. Abdi to open a Women’s Education Center at her clinic. What began as a small clinic has grown into a 400-bed hospital, an accompanying school, and nutrition center. Approximately two million people have been assisted by Dr. Abdi’s facilities since 1983.

    dr hawa somaliaPhoto credit:

    Dr. Abdi hasn’t been doing all of this impressive work entirely on her own. She is aided in her work by her daughters Dr. Deqo Mohamed and Dr. Amina Mohamed. The women represent three of ten female doctors in all of Somalia, a country with approximately 200 doctors for a population of over nine million. Dr. Abdi’s daughters grew up working alongside their mother. They were treating wounds and delivering babies while still in high school. In 2010 all three were named Glamour Magazine’s women of the year.

    Since 2012, when Dr. Abdi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and recognized by the Women in the World Foundation, approximately 100 staff and 150 volunteers have assisted Dr. Abdi and her daughters. Funds to support the growing enterprise are channeled through the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation (DHAF) which is run by Dr. Abdi and her daughters. Through DHAF the women are able to treat more than 250 patients per day as well as provide scholarships to train female doctors and nurses.

    Edna Adan: Founder of a Teaching Hospital

    Edna Adan (also known as Edna Adan Ismail) is the daughter of a prominent Somali medical doctor. She was trained as a nurse in the United Kingdom and married Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, a Somali politician who was elected Prime Minister of Somalia in 1967.

    In the mid-1980s she began building a hospital in Mogadishu, but the Somali Civil War began and she fled the country. She worked for, and with, the World Health Organization for around a decade before returning to Somalia in the late 1990s.

    edna adnan somaliaPhoto credit: Líba Taylor

    In 2002, she founded the non-profit Edna Adan University Hospital through which she has trained many healthcare professionals and made notable strides in the fight against maternal mortality. Edna Adan was the only female minister in the Somaliland government until July 2006. She holds an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Clark University in Massachusetts in the USA and is an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University’s School of Nursing in Wales, in the United Kingdom. Edna Adan also has been featured in the documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and named among the 100 most influential Africans. She is recognized internationally as a pioneer of women’s health and education.

    Ilwad Elman and Fartuun Adan: Promoters of Peace

    Ilwad Elman was born in Somalia, raised in Canada, and returned to Somalia in 2009, a time of significant conflict. Her aim was to continue the work of her father, Mr. Elman Ali Ahmed, an activist for peace who was assassinated for his efforts to remove weapons from the hands of Somali children in Mogadishu.

    In his honor, Mr. Ahmed’s wife and children created the Elman Peace Centre in Mogadishu. It is the country’s first program to assist the victims of gender-based violence. The Center also provides counseling and health and housing support for women in need.

    In the present day Ms. Elman runs a program to rehabilitate child soldiers and integrate them back into society. Through the Elman Peace Centre she provides shelter for the victims of abuse and educates against the stigma and silence surrounding sexual violence. In addition Ms. Elman serves as the Chairperson of the Gender Based Violence Case Management group and the Street Children Task Force, both based in Mogadishu.

    Ilwad Elman somaliaPhoto credit: Muse

    In mid-2012 the first TEDx conference was held in Mogadishu and Ms. Elman was a speaker at the event. In 2013, she was featured in the documentary Through the Fire (with Dr. Hawa Abdi and Edna Adan) and in 2014 Ms. Elman was appointed a Young African Leader Initiative (YALI) Fellow by the US Department of State.

    Fartuun Abdisalaan Adan was born in 1969. She married at age 18 and raised three daughters in Fartun Abdisalaan AdanMogadishu. In the late 1980s, her husband Elman had a successful electronics business in the city, but the country was locked in conflict and many unemployed teens had joined local militias, fighting as child soldiers. Ms. Adan’s husband began to provide support for the child soldiers first by retraining them and later formally establishing the Elman Peace Center. In 1996, a warlord took exception to Elman’s efforts to get child soldiers to leave militias and obtain regular jobs and ordered Elman killed. With his death, Elman’s extended family took over the running of the Peace Center, and Ms. Adan was left with nothing. As a refugee and widow without means, Ms. Adan fled to Canada with her daughters.

    She later returned to Mogadishu to take over the running of the Elman Peace Center and renamed it The Elman Peace and Human Rights Center. With so many child soldiers, there was strong need for the Center’s services. Using funds obtained from UNICEF, Ms. Adan was able to begin educating former child soldiers, give them job training, and integrate them back into society as teachers, electricians, and mechanics. As violence continued and even escalated to include widespread rape, Ms. Adan became a founder of Sister Somalia, a new agency that provides counseling, financial support, and relocation to safer housing for victims of gender based violence.

    Ms. Adan has advocated for her people beyond her country’s borders. Lobbying in partnership with Oxfam, she has addressed the African Union, met with representative of the European Union and spoken with UK Prime Minister David Cameron. In February 2015, Ms. Adan organized One Billion Rising in Somalia, a global initiative to end violence against women.

    Fatima Jibrell’s Environmental Initiatives

    Fatima Jama Jibrell was born in 1947. Due to the efforts of her mother, Ms. Jibrell was able to attend school. As a young woman she married, Abdulrahman Mohamoud Ali, a diplomat. In 1981 Mr. Ali was transferred to the USA where the couple engaged in activism and humanitarian work and Ms. Jibrell earned her Master’s in Social Work.

    In 1991, unrest in Somalia prompted Ms. Jibrell, her husband and some friends to found the organization ‘Horn Relief’ to support peace through youth leadership and environmental initiatives. Ms. Jibrell also co-founded the Resource Management Somali Network in 1996. It is the only cross-clan, cross-regional environmental organization in Somalia.

    fatima jibrell somaliaPhoto credit: Youtube

    Ms. Jibrell environmental successes took off in 2000 when she convinced the regional government in northeastern Somalia to save old-growth acacia trees by creating a ban on charcoal made from them and began promotion of the use of solar cookers domestically. At the time, charcoal was Somalia’s major export after livestock. For her excellent work Ms. Jibrell was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2002.

    In 2004, Ms. Jibrell co-founded Sun Fire Cooking and through the donation of 950 solar cookers created the world’s first solar cooking village, Bender Bayla. Ms. Jibrell has written and co-produced Charcoal Traffic, a short award-winning film about Somalia’s charcoal crisis and is the co-author of the book Peace and Milk: Scenes of Northern Somalia (2011). She is the recipient of a 2008 National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation.

    Horn Relief began providing assistance to communities in Kenya and South Sudan in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Horn Relief changed its name to African Development Solutions (ADESO) to reflect the organization’s work beyond the Horn of Africa. By late 2014, ADESO’s cash for work program had positively impacted over 120,000 people and their direct cash grants had benefited 580,466 (most in emergency situations). For these and her other successful projects, in 2014, Fatima Jibrell became the first Somali, male or female, to win the United Nation’s top environmental accolade, the Champion of the Earth award.

    These strong Somali women are making a positive difference. All are assisting those in need and advocating for a better future. The projects that Dr. Hawa Abdi, Deqo Mohamed, Amina Mohamed, Edna Adan, Ilwad Elman, Fartuun Adan, and Fatima Jibrell have undertaken reflect a long-term commitment to the Somali people and a love for their country. Their stories demonstrate the importance of seeing what is possible even in difficult situations, as well as that effective aid to African countries often comes from within.


  15. somali-sue-dutch-goverment


    Two Somali shepherds who were caught in a drone strike aimed at a terrorist convoy are to sue the Dutch state for war crimes, their lawyers said. One of the nomadic tribesmen lost a leg and saw two daughters killed in the attack by an American drone in January 2014. Both claim they had most of their cattle herds wiped out.


    The shepherds are suing the Netherlands because information from the military intelligence service MIVD was used to pinpoint the location of the terrorist convoy. It would be the first case to be brought in the Dutch courts by victims of a US-directed strike. Lawyer Göran Sluiter told the Volkskrant there was a more realistic chance of compensation under Dutch law. ‘The Americans will use the defence that they were protecting national security, especially as non-American victims were involved,’ he said. ‘Under Dutch law this is a war crimes case.’ The drone strike was aimed at a convoy carrying members of the terrorist organisation Al Shabaab. Its leader, Ahmed Godane, survived the missile attack but several of his colleagues were killed.


    Sluiter said the Americans should have seen there were innocent bystanders in the area when the missile was fired, and therefore that they broke international law. ‘There were a lot of cattle in the area, a clear indication that there were people there,’ he said. The ministry of defence said it had no knowledge of how other nations used information it supplied in military operations. Information was exchanged with the US in Somalia as part of ‘routine co-operation’, a spokesman added.





  16. Somali American

    If you get your news from the headlines, you can be excused for thinking that “Minnesota men” pose a special risk of taking up the terrorist jihad at home and abroad. As theWall Street Journalreported this past April, for example, “U.S. charges six Minnesota men with trying to join ISIS.” The “Minnesota men” featured in such headlines are almost invariably drawn from Minnesota’s swelling population of Somali Muslim immigrants. The state—mostly the metropolitan Twin Cities area—is home to 35,000 such immigrants, the largest Somali population in North America.

    Starting in the 1990s, the State Department directed thousands of refugees from Somalia’s civil war to Minnesota. As Kelly Riddell pointed out in the Washington Times this past February, in Minnesota these refugees “can take advantage of some of America’s most generous welfare and charity programs.” Riddell quoted Professor Ahmed Samatar of Macalester College in St. Paul: “Minnesota is exceptional in so many ways but it’s the closest thing in the United States to a true social democratic state.” After a dip in 2008, the inflow of Somalis has continued unabated and augmented by Somalis from other states. If it takes a village, Minnesota has what it takes.

    Unfortunately, according to a September report of the House Homeland Security Committee task force on combating terrorist and foreign fighter travel, Minnesota also leads the country in contributing foreign fighters to ISIS. Reviewing the public cases of 58 Americans who had joined or attempted to join ISIS, the task force found that 26 percent of them came from Minnesota. When it comes to exports to ISIS, we’re number one.

    In a presentation to Minnesota’s National Security Society last month, FBI Minneapolis chief division counsel Kyle Loven conveyed the impression that his office is devoting substantial resources to terrorism-related issues. “We have four national security squads working this thing,” he said.

    The April charges against six Minnesota men represented the culmination of a 10-month FBI investigation. The charges and the FBI affidavit setting forth the basis for them strongly suggest the existence of an ISIS recruiting network aimed at or operating in the Twin Cities. The FBI affidavit details the recruitment of individuals and provision of assistance to those who want to leave Minnesota to fight abroad. According to an unnamed local FBI informant, ISIS recruiter Abdi Nur (formerly of Minnesota) “may have a trusted contact in Mexico who could provide false passports to those members of the conspiracy interested in traveling from the Twin Cities to Syria from Mexico.” (Nur hasn’t been heard from recently and may have been killed.)

    Somali Minnesotans have been the focus of law enforcement concern for nearly 10 years.

    The Department of Justice acknowledges that since 2006, “overseas terror organizations” have targeted Twin Cities residents to join al Shabaab (an al Qaeda-allied group in Somalia) and ISIS. Over five years ending in 2011, Operation Rhino targeted al Shabaab recruiting in Minnesota and resulted in the indictment of 20 individuals. Since 2013, according to the Department of Justice, ISIS has targeted “Twin Cities residents” (i.e., Somalis). The Minneapolis division of the FBI and local law enforcement authorities devote substantial resources to deterring and interrupting the recruitment of Minnesota Somalis.

    In the case of the six men, law enforcement benefited from an informant. In his October presentation, the FBI’s Loven queried how long law enforcement will be able to count on such informants. Loven highlighted the increasing difficulty of tracking the radicalization of individuals online given the evolution of social media and the growing use of encrypted communications. “We are behind the eight ball when it comes to online communication,” he said.

    Even before the massacres committed by ISIS in Paris, local law enforcement authorities feared that Minnesota’s Somali immigrants might take up the cause locally. In February, al Shabaab released a video identifying the Mall of America as a terror target. Both Minneapolis and the Mall of America lie within Hennepin County and the jurisdiction of the county’s sheriff, Rich Stanek. Stanek commented at the time: “We train, we exercise, we plan and prepare incessantly hoping something bad never happens but knowing full well each and every day across this country, world, it does. But we are prepared.”

    Nevertheless, law enforcement is sensitive to concerns about the attention paid to Minnesota’s Somali community. In an interview for this article, Stanek bristled when I asked him about security issues raised by the Somali community. Why was I doing that? I referred to the House report recognizing Minnesota’s contribution of 26 percent of the American fighters joining ISIS. “I just came from an FBI briefing this morning,” Stanek said. “They told me we’re 20 percent.”

    Under the rubric of Countering Violent Extremism, the Obama administration has designated Minneapolis-St. Paul for implementation of a pilot program to deter ISIS recruitment in the Somali community. The program—Building Community Resilience—plows new ground in euphemism. According to the Department of Justice, “This effort seeks to bring together community-based organizations and local partners, including the Minneapolis and St. Paul school systems, interfaith organizations, nonprofits and NGOs, and state, county, and local governments. These organizations will together create community-led intervention teams. In addition, the plan brings mentorship programs, scholarships, afterschool programs, and job trainers and placement officers into the Somali community to build community resilience and address the root causes of radicalization.”

    What are the root causes of radicalization according to the program? Several are set forth in a February 2015 brochure issued by the Minnesota office of the United States attorney, and they seem mostly to derive from the Marie Harf school of terrorist sociology. Harf is the former deputy State Department spokesman who famously identified “lack of opportunity” as leading “people to join these groups.” In September U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger held a press conference to announce the accomplishments of the first year of Building Community Resilience. They included “a mentorship program for Somali youth operated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities, .  .  . the Opportunity Hub, which is a public, private and community partnership to provide a one-stop shop for education and workforce resources .  .  . [and] nearly $500,000 of private and government grant funding to be administered by” the nonprofit organization Youthprise. “This is just the beginning of what we hope to accomplish,” Luger said.

    Although unemployment among Minnesota’s Somalis remains high, the problem is probably not attributable to lack of opportunity. The six young Somali men charged in April attended local schools and/or had jobs. Indeed, one of the men told an FBI informant in a recorded conversation “that as long as he had a job, no one [would] suspect him of anything.” ISIS recruiter Abdi Nur attended a local community college and spoke of becoming a lawyer. “Then he started visiting a new mosque and dressing in more traditional garb,” the New York Times reported in a March profile of Nur by Scott Shane. “His case suggests that the Islamic State may rely on recruiters inside the United States and shows how hard it is to predict who will be swept away by ideological fervor.” Prominently featured in the April charges is another local mosque conveniently situated in the neighborhood of one “alternative” Minneapolis high school serving mostly Somali students and attended by one of the defendants charged in April. (The Minneapolis School District has just moved to take over management of the school.)

    Building Community Resilience appears to rest in part on the proposition that lack of financial resources contributes to recruitment of Minnesota Somalis, although the evidence supporting the proposition is thin. The FBI affidavit supporting the April charges demonstrates a fine-grained knowledge of the multifarious financial resources available to Somali Minnesotans. The affidavit reveals that one of the defendants withdrew $5,000 in cash from his federal financial aid debit card in the weeks leading up to his attempted departure to join ISIS.

    Obvious questions beyond the empirical basis of Building Community Resilience remain unanswered. What will we do if any of the Minnesota men who have joined ISIS come marching home? It’s a question on the mind of one local reporter, who asked Minnesota senator Al Franken about it in the immediate aftermath of the Paris massacres. Franken responded: “Well, this recruitment of Somali Minnesotans has been something that I’ve been dealing with since I first got to the Senate when they were being recruited to go to Somalia and fight with Shabaab. This is a very, very small number of young men and women. Each one is a tragedy for their family. It’s dangerous, you know, for us, especially if they’re allowed to return, which we don’t allow unless we are tracking them. But the large, vast majority of Somali Minnesotans are as against this as every other American.” Asked by email what Senator Franken meant by they’re not being allowed to return “unless we are tracking them,” a spokesman failed to respond. As with so many matters related to “Minnesota men” seeking ISIS, we are left to puzzle it out for ourselves.

    Scott W. Johnson is a Minneapolis attorney and contributor to the site Power Line


  17. When Abdirahman Kahin immigrated to Minnesota in 1997 from Somalia, getting into the restaurant business was the furthest thing from his mind. He had no formal training as a chef and said he didn’t know the first thing about starting his own business. One thing Kahin did know was that he wanted to be an entrepreneur, and he was determined to do whatever it took to make his dream a reality. 

    Before opening up his wildly popular restaurant Afro Deli five years ago, Kahin owned a media production company, recording wedding ceremonies, parties, and events for the East African immigrants in Minnesota. After a while, though, he lost interest in that and says he wanted to “become a businessman in a bigger scale.”

    “I never cooked and still now, I don’t know how to cook. I’m more of a entrepreneur and I’m into that side of my businesses,” Kahin tells me one November evening. We are sitting in a back office at his first location of Afro Deli. With its bright, orange-colored walls adorned with African art, the space is cozy and welcoming. The menu at Afro Deli spans the African continent and makes stops in South America and North America, too. Kahin says it was important for him to represent all foods of the continent, but also mix it up with some traditional American and South American options. 

    Kahin estimates that there are over 60 Somali restaurants in Minnesota, with 90 percent of them located in Minneapolis. Afro Deli stands out because of its eclectic menu, one that takes the customer around the globe with dishes with names like “Afro Steak Dinner” and “Chicken Fantastic.” On the particular night I go to talk to Kahin, I go with the Chicken Fantastic, an entrée that consists of cuts of white grilled chicken with sautéed vegetables and grated Parmesan cheese over Somali-seasoned basmati rice. For dessert, I go light and sip on a Somali sweet spiced tea.


    Fried plantains.

    At Afro Deli, Millennials of the African diaspora make up a huge chunk of its customer base. Kahin says they were his first customers and spread the word about the food to friends and family. For a lot of Somali Millennials, the menu has introduced them to a lighter, healthier version of the dishes they were fed at home growing up. “This new generation of Somalis, ones who were born here or came at a young age, they are not like their parents and don’t want to eat heavy meals that are common in Somali diets. They are more health-conscious but also love their native food. I’ve kept this in mind as I created the menu and changed things over time,” Kahin explains. They’ve also brought in their parents, who’ve have become aware of the health complications that can arise from a diet that consists of a lot of meat and carbohydrates. 

    Recognizing the popularity of his first restaurant, Kahin opened up a second restaurant in downtown Saint Paul. Kahin is modest about his success and says he still is setting goals and has bigger plans for his restaurants. In 2016, he will become the first Somali-themed food vendor at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International airport. There are also early talks with the Mall of America, the biggest mall in North America, to open a location there. When I congratulate Kahin on these feats, he smiles but insists he’s only getting started. 

    But Kahin is hardly the only Somali restaurateur in town. In fact, Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the country, with recent census numbers listing 33,000 residents—a number many Somalis believe is underestimated by tens of thousands. They began settling here in droves in the 1990s and early 2000s, rebuilding their lives after years of being refugees in foreign countries that weren’t always welcoming. Among Somalis all over the US, Minnesota was dubbed “Little Mogadishu,” a nod to their homeland’s capital. There was a major decline in new Somali immigrants in 2008, due to stricter immigration policies, but the number of Somalis resettling in the state has more than tripled in the last four years.

    Copy of somali steak

    Somali Steak.

    About ten minutes away from Afro Deli’s main location sits Safari Restaurant, one of the first Somali restaurants in the state, which has been open for 15 years. Owners Abdirahman Ahmed and Sade Hashi are charismatic, funny, and passionate about their restaurant and their city. The original location of Safari was in downtown Minneapolis; in 2010 they decided to move it to the Central neighborhood of Minneapolis’s Powderhorn community, and added an event center that’s connected to the restaurant. They are surrounded by restaurants and markets owned by immigrants who hail from China and Mexico, all carving out their own slice of the American dream. 

    Safari’s cuisine is traditional in essence but also dabbles in some contemporary choices. “Our menu consists of three different themes,” says Ahmed. First is traditional Somali food like goat meat, rice, sambusas [somali version of samosas]. Second is contemporary, which is items like burgers, fries, and chicken wings. And last there is something we call fusion. The fusion items are Safari specials, and in this area we play with what’s popular. These items have the texture, taste, and smell of Somali food, but have a lesser degree of spiciness.” 

    On this particular visit, I go with the Galcaio Steak Wrap, one of their fusion choices that’s named after the capital of the north-central Mudug region of Somalia. It consists of grilled marinated slices of beef and grilled vegetables, wrapped in homemade bread.

    Ahmed and Hashi have been in the United States since the mid-1990s; before entering the restaurant business, they worked in the banking and IT industries. They both got tired of the 9-to-5 and wanted to build something from the ground up. “We like the lives we have right now—our destinies are in our hands. The outcome of our work depends on our efforts,” Ahmed says proudly. They also say they didn’t want to just open a restaurant, but a place of community, hence the addition of the event center that hosts weddings, parties, and even meetings for delegates from Africa.

    For many Somali customers who frequent Safari, the food tastes like their homeland that they were forced to flee from due to decades of civil war. It satisfies their stomachs, but more importantly, it fills their hearts with memories. Ahmed tells me they are very proud of what they’ve built and are excited for the future and what they have planned for their restaurant. “We plan to expand and open new locations in the coming years, and also give back to our community by mentoring young entrepreneurs who want to enter the restaurant business. The future looks bright for Minnesota … and the Somali community here,” Ahmed says with a smile. 


  18. yasmeen-somaliaonline


    “My name is Yasmeen; the meaning of my name is very central to who I am and how I live my life.”


    In Persian, Yasmeen means “flowering plant.”


    Yasmeen (Amina) Ahmed, a biology major, is from a tight-knit Somalian community in Africa with traditional values and practices. She is the eighth child of 11 siblings. Out of her nine sisters and two brothers, she was the only child to attend boarding school and is now the only one receiving higher education in the United States.


    “Ever since I discovered the origin of my name, I knew I needed to do something different,” Ahmed said. “My dad always knew I would be someone to change lives.”


    Along with the traditional importance of family loyalty and respect, their Somalian community also practices illegal female circumcision. This at-home procedure is protocol for all women, regardless of whether it is wanted. Ahmed was the only one out of her nine sisters who was fortunate enough to escape genital mutilation.


    “This topic breaks my heart. The reason they practice this is to ensure that women remain chaste, and that satisfaction is to be experienced for males and not for females,” she said. “It’s a form of oppression; a form of oppression that not everyone notices. It doesn’t take a high level of education to see that this isn’t right. I see it, you should see it and they should all see it. It’s wrong and I don’t support it.”


    Ahmed said that she is extremely thankful, but is often consumed with guilt and sadness when realizing others close to her weren’t as fortunate as she was. She returned home one year after spending time away at school to discover that her 7-year-old sister had bled out during an at-home procedure and passed away.


    “I never even got to know her. Maybe she would have been another flower in my family. Maybe she would have felt just the way I do. Maybe she would have been motivated to make a change,” she said. “That really pains me ... that she never got that chance to choose.”


    According to Ahmed, a 20-year-old African woman like herself typically would be preparing for marriage and conforming to all community standards. Therefore, she believes that the opportunity to be studying at Gonzaga as a sophomore is a triumph in itself. Ahmed speaks with her parents frequently, and said that her mother and father continually question when she will return from the United States to marry and live a life true to her culture.


    “That can wait. My education comes before anything. I will always be thankful for education,” Ahmed said. “Education is the reason I could escape my home when I was little and never had to experience female circumcision for myself. Education is the reason I will be able to return to my community and change the life of many women as an OB/GYN doctor.”


    Her parents are reluctant to approve the educational path she has chosen to pursue. Ahmed says her mother and father attempt to convince her that this rebellion against her culture is incredibly disrespectful to her community, family and herself.


    “They ask me ‘If you chose to defy your culture, then who are you?’ Well, I’m Somali,” Ahmed said. “I can talk in Somali, I can wear Somalian clothes and I can cook Somalian food. I am Somali. So do not tell me that I have left my culture just because I do not support robbing women of a part of who they are.”


    Ahmed is hopeful that one day she will have the opportunity to return to Somalia as a gynecologist and educate her community about the harmful effects of female circumcision. As the only woman in her family to avoid this procedure, she feels an obligation to make a difference and act on the behalf of her biological sisters as well as her sisters by community. She is determined to change these traditional practices and does not believe she has bloomed to her full potential until she does.


    “I am passionate about this because the women who are affected do not have a choice. How is it fair that I escaped this cruelty? How is it fair that others didn’t? Sometimes I think I’m just lucky, and other times I think that God is using me as a vessel to stop this act in my community and beyond,” she said.


    Ahmed is confident that she will live up to the name that her father gave her. The seed of passion has been planted within her, and her education continues to help her bloom into the flower she, and her family, always knew she would be.


    “I  look forward to the day when I am a hero in a cape for these women and their lives,” Ahmed said.







  19. Tim Cook has emailed all of Apple's staff worldwide to comment on the 'unacceptable incident' where a group of black teens were asked to leave an Apple Store.

    The teens were told by security staff 'they're just a bit worried you might steal something,' leading to an outcry online.

    Cook today told Apple's staff 'What people have seen and heard from watching the video on the web does not represent our values' and revealed store bosses around the world, starting in Australia, will be 'refreshing their training on inclusion and customer engagement.'

    Scroll down for video



    Six black students were asked to leave an Apple store in Highpoint shopping centre in north-west Melbourne over concerns they 'might steal something'. Today, Tim Cook apologised in an email to staff.

    Six black students were asked to leave an Apple store in Highpoint shopping centre in north-west Melbourne over concerns they 'might steal something'. Today, Tim Cook apologised in an email to staff.


     'I'm sure you are all aware of the unacceptable incident which took place at our store at the Highpoint shopping center in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday,' Cook said, according to Buzzfeed.

    'Several young men, who are students at a nearby school, had been asked by a security guard to leave the store. In an attempt to address the situation, one of our store employees gave an answer which shocked many of us.'

    'It is not a message we would ever want to deliver to a customer or hear ourselves. Our employee immediately expressed his regret and apologized to the students.'

    The African-born students at the centre of a 'racial profiling' scandal have since recounted the moment they were asked to leave an Apple store over concerns they 'might steal something'.

    The Year 10 students are now pushing for a formal apology after they had been asked to leave an Apple store in Highpoint shopping centre, north-west Melbourne, around 4.30pm on Tuesday.

    '[it happened] because we were a group of black males, teenagers - and teenagers do a lot of stupid stuff, but you still can't give black people that stereotype,' one of the Year 10 students, Abdulahi Haji Ali, told Nine News.

    The students, who attend Maribyrnong College in Melbourne's inner-west, are all originally from Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea and Egypt.

    Cook revealed that the manager of the store had since met the teens.


    Cook deswcribed the incident as 'unacceptable' in an email to staff.

    Cook described the incident as 'unacceptable' in an email to staff.


     'None of us are happy with the way this was handled. But we can all be proud of Kate, one of the senior managers at the Highpoint store.

    'On Wednesday, she greeted the same group of students to express a heartfelt apology on behalf of our store and our company.

    'She reassured these young men that they and their fellow classmates would always be welcome at our store.

    'The school's principal later told a reporter that she delivered her message 'with good grace,' and one of the students said, 'It feels like we have justice now.'

    The students caught the incident on camera on Tuesday afternoon and uploaded it to Facebook that night.

    The 19 second clip has since gone viral, with almost 100,000 views on one of the student's private account.


    The Year 10 students (pictured) are pushing for a formal apology after they had been asked to leave an Apple store in Highpoint shopping centre, north-west Melbourne, around 4.30pm on Tuesday

    The Year 10 students (pictured) are pushing for a formal apology after they had been asked to leave an Apple store in Highpoint shopping centre, north-west Melbourne, around 4.30pm on Tuesday


    Pictured is the Apple store at Highpoint shopping centre in north-west Melbourne where the incident took place on Tuesday

    Pictured is the Apple store at Highpoint shopping centre in north-west Melbourne where the incident took place on Tuesday


    'These guys are just a bit worried about your presence in our store,' security at the Apple store is heard saying in the footage.

    When the boys, taken aback, asked for what reason they were being asked to leave, security responded: 'They're just a bit worried you might steal something.'

    The six boys gasped: 'Why would we steal something?'

    'Guys, end of discussion, I need to ask you to leave our store.'

    Cook pointed out the Apple Store Highpoint is staffed by people from Australia, as well as Egypt, Italy, India and five other nations.

    'Collectively they speak 15 languages, including Urdu, Portuguese, Arabic and Mandarin,' he said.

    Cook said the firm had 'a simple pledge we all make to our customers and to ourselves: Apple is open.


    '[it happened] because we were a group of black males, teenagers - and teenagers do a lot of stupid stuff, but you still can't give black people that stereotype,' one of the students, Abdulahi Haji Ali (pictured), said

    '[it happened] because we were a group of black males, teenagers - and teenagers do a lot of stupid stuff, but you still can't give black people that stereotype,' one of the students, Abdulahi Haji Ali (pictured), said


    Mabior Atar said ‘it’s not fair’. ‘Not everybody is a bad person because of what they look like,’ he said

    Mabior Atar said 'it's not fair'. 'Not everybody is a bad person because of what they look like,' he said


    'Our stores and our hearts are open to people from all walks of life, regardless of race or religion, gender or sexual orientation, age, disability, income, language or point of view.

    'All across our company, being inclusive and embracing our differences makes our products better and our stores stronger.'


    ‘We have the right to go in and look around like anyone else,’ Gereng Dere (pictured) said

    'We have the right to go in and look around like anyone else,' Gereng Dere (pictured) said


    Each of the boys said they owned Apple products. Though they said they don't blame the whole company for one employee's actions, they are asking for a formal apology

    Each of the boys said they owned Apple products. Though they said they don't blame the whole company for one employee's actions, they are asking for a formal apology


    Abdulahi said that although it was only one employee behind the incident, the group want a formal apology from the company, according to SBS.

    Mabior Atar said 'it's not fair'.

    'Not everybody is a bad person because of what they look like,' he told Nine News.

    'We have the right to go in and look around like anyone else,' Gereng Dere said.

    Despite the negative encounter, the students have taken the opportunity to ensure it changes attitudes across Australia.

    'I'd just like to thank everybody that supported us and just hope that we raised awareness for racial profiling,' Mabior said.

    'People have to see this. So that people are aware [so] that this never happens again,' Ese Oseghale told SBS News.

    'I was just really shocked, I was in disbelief. I didn't believe the employee said that, I thought I was daydreaming,' Abdulahi told SBS.

    Each of the boys said they owned Apple products.


    Accompanied by the Maribyrnong College principal Nick Scott, the boys returned to the Apple store on Wednesday afternoon and a senior manager apologised

    Accompanied by the Maribyrnong College principal Nick Scott, the boys returned to the Apple store on Wednesday afternoon and a senior manager apologised


    ‘It’s clear to me they’ve experienced this kind of thing before,’ Mr Scott (left) said. ‘They know it for what it is and they certainly felt they wanted to record this incident and I congratulate them for it'

    'It's clear to me they've experienced this kind of thing before,' Mr Scott (left) said. 'They know it for what it is and they certainly felt they wanted to record this incident and I congratulate them for it'


    Accompanied by the Maribyrnong College principal Nick Scott, the boys returned to the Apple store on Wednesday afternoon and a senior manager apologised, according to Sydney Morning Herald.

    'It's clear to me they've experienced this kind of thing before,' Mr Scott told SBS.

    'They know it for what it is and they certainly felt they wanted to record this incident and I congratulate them for it.'



    ‘These guys are just a bit worried about your presence in our store,’ security at the Apple store is heard saying in the footage


    When the boys asked for what reason, security responded: ‘They’re just a bit worried you might steal something'

    'These guys are just a bit worried about your presence in our store,' security at the Apple store is heard saying in the footage. When the boys asked for what reason, security responded: 'They're just a bit worried you might steal something'

    The six boys all gasped when they were told to leave over concerns they 'might steal something'

    ‘Guys, end of discussion, I need to ask you to leave our store,' the Apple security responded

    The six boys all gasped when they were told to leave over concerns they 'might steal something'. 'Guys, end of discussion, I need to ask you to leave our store,' the Apple security responded

    Most viewers call the incident 'blatant racism', though others are sceptical of what happened prior to the video recording.

    A manager at the Highpoint Apple store reportedly told Nine News that the boys 'were being silly, rowdy, and were touching a number of items.'

    However, the boys rejected that.

    It was reportedly a private security guard hired by Apple who first raised concerns about the teenagers, and an Apple employee shown in the video speaking with the boys.


  20. abdisabrie


    MANKATO –  Abdi Sabrie knocked on a lot of doors over the past few weeks as a candidate for one of four open Mankato Area Public Schools Board seats. His daughter, Sarah Sabrie, 8, went with him through several neighborhoods.


    Abdi was on his third campaign for a school board seat and really didn’t want to disappoint Sarah.


    “I wouldn’t be able to live with her,” he said with a laugh Tuesday night at the district’s election gathering inside the Intergovernmental Center. “She door-knocked with me a lot and she had to deal with some dogs.”


    Dad came through in the Sabrie family — Abdi joins Ann Hendricks, Judi Brandon and Sara Hansen as Mankato’s newest school board members. Abdi was the only non-incumbent to be elected to a board seat Tuesday, and is the first Somali immigrant elected to Mankato’s school board.


    “Being an immigrant is not a barrier,” Sabrie said. “That point has been proven tonight.”


    The race’s final results were reported shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday. Hendricks led the pack with 1,009 votes, followed by Brandon with 867, Hansen with 838 and Sabrie with 778.


    Darren Wacker received 587 votes, while Ben Braswell garnered 686 votes and Baxter received 361.


    Abdi has become a well-known leader within the community since he first moved to Mankato seven years ago. He’s the executive director of African Family and Education Center, an education nonprofit he started soon after he arrived here.


    Abdi also serves on a variety of committees and boards, including the Blue Earth County Child Protection Services Board. In addition, he has been an outspoken supporter of the district and has worked with school officials to better serve refugee and immigrant students in Mankato.


    Now that he is elected, Abdi hopes to make good on his campaign promises to push for an education collaboration with nearby districts, a nine-week program to teach parents how to be more involved in their children’s education, and potential changes to how the district serves students who speak English as a second language.


    Hendricks continued her streak as the school board member with the longest tenure and secured her sixth term on the board Tuesday.


    “That’s gratifying,” she said of her re-election. “To be the top vote-getter, it’s very gratifying. And I think when we see three incumbents come back, that means the good work of the board is being recognized.”


    Hendricks has lived in Mankato for more than four decades and worked as a special education instructor for St. Peter Public Schools and Minnesota Security Hospital. She has also served as board chairwoman since 2007.


    Brandon has secured her third full term on the board since she was appointed nine years ago. She has 15 years of experience on the board — she served in the early 1980s as well — and also worked as an educator and principal in Mankato for decades.


    “I’m just so grateful to the community for recognizing my commitment and re-electing me,” she said.


    Both Brandon and Hendricks are looking forward to tackling new topics on the board as well, including the repercussions behind Mankato’s continued student population growth.


    “Everything we do, I find some joy or excitement in — even in the financial stuff, I’ve learned,” Brandon said with a laugh.


    This article was written by Trey Mewes and appeared in the Mankato Free Press 



  21. [caption id=attachment_1934958" align="alignnone" width="900]Nasri Sugal Jaamac aus Somalia sitzt am 26.03.2015 in Stuttgart (Baden-Württemberg) im seinem Zimmer in der Wohngruppe des Jugendamtes an seinem Schreibtisch, auf dem Lernmaterialien liegen. Jaamac floh aus Somalia und kam, weil er noch nicht volljährig ist, in ein Wohnheim des Jugendschutzes. Foto: Marijan Murat/dpa (zu dpa «Auf der Flucht: Ein 16-jähriger Somali landet in Stuttgart» vom 29.03.2015) Nasri Sugal Jaamac aus Somalia sitzt am 26.03.2015 in Stuttgart (Baden-Württemberg) im seinem Zimmer in der Wohngruppe des Jugendamtes an seinem Schreibtisch, auf dem Lernmaterialien liegen. Jaamac floh aus Somalia und kam, weil er noch nicht volljährig ist, in ein Wohnheim des Jugendschutzes. Foto: Marijan Murat/dpa (zu dpa «Auf der Flucht: Ein 16-jähriger Somali landet in Stuttgart» vom 29.03.2015)[/caption]


    On average, an asylum application in Germany takes five months to process. But not for everyone. Ali Mohamed Sharif is from Somalia and has been waiting two years to get the green light to stay in Germany. For two years now, Ali Mohamed Sharif has been living in Osnabrueck in north-western Germany - without any indication as to how much longer he'll be allowed to stay.


    Asked what is taking so long with his application for asylum, the 20-year-old Somalian just shrugs his shoulders.


    "No clue," he says in fluent German, a language he learned through a course paid for out of his own pocket.


    He has also taken the German government's so-called integration course, which he passed with 32 out of a possible 33 points, as stated on his school certificate.


    Soon, he hopes to marry.


    But he still hasn't heard back on the asylum application that he filed in November 2013. Ali has initially been granted "tolerated" stay, meaning that German officialdom will refrain from expelling him from the country for the time being.


    His lawyer, Andreas Neuhoff, explains that the young man's case is complicated. Because he entered Germany via Hungary, after first spending some two years in Turkey, his claim for asylum was immediately rejected under the so-called Dublin rule, which stipulate that an asylum bid must be processed in the European Union country in which the person first set foot.


    In Ali's case, that was Hungary, but the deadline for returning him there has passed without any action being taken.


    On December 2, Ali is to appear before a caseworker at Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and explain his reasons for fleeing Somalia - his first chance to do so since he arrived two years ago.


    On average, BAMF decides on asylum application process in just over five months. But amid the recent surge in migrant numbers, officials are having to prioritize cases from the western Balkans and Syria.


    Ali, and the thousands of other asylum seekers fleeing conflict and misery in Africa, find themselves at the bottom of the pile.


    For a number of weeks now, Ali has been a trainee painter and varnisher at a local company.


    "You can make old things look new and pretty again," he says.


    And he makes a "super impression," according to company boss Stefan Schmidtwilken, who has also taken on a 40-year-old Syrian refugee as an apprentice.


    By taking on the two further apprentices, he now actually has too many working in his 18-man outfit, Schmidtwilken says.


    "But in the end we decided in favour of the two. The Syrian would otherwise have no chances on the job market."


    Schmidtwilken foresees that not everyone will be so accepting of a refugee on the construction site. Ali has asked if he could pray during working hours.


    "I can imagine that there might be some complaints when he spreads out his prayer rug," the 52-year-old tradesman says.


    He says he hasn't discussed the question yet: "We'll have to see how we're going to handle it."


    "I am Catholic and also on the local church board," Schmidtwilken says, adding that people with different religions must get along with each other as the world gets smaller.


    "This is 'multi-kulti'," he says, using one of German media's buzzwords for a multicultural society.


    Thinking about other possible cultural differences, he also asks about Ali's attitudes towards women, since there are also female employees in his company.


    "At some point they will all have to work together," Schmidtwilken says. But so far his apprentice has proven himself to be friendly, outgoing and good with the customers.


    The tradesman wants to send a signal in his efforts on behalf of the two refugees. "For me it is important that we in Germany should also take in refugees and not build fences," says Schmidtwilken, a father of three daughters.


    Even if Germany can't take in the estimated 800,000 migrants expected to apply for asylum this year, he wants to contribute to making them feel welcome.


    Ali already has plans for the future. He wants to marry. He met his fiancee, a German of Turkish ethnic background, through his local mosque. The marriage can take place in two to three months, he says.


    His future in-laws support him as much as they can.


    "They are very nice people and are very, very good to me. I come from another country, am a foreigner, asylum seeker and initially was without any work or training," he says.


    "And still, they gave me their daughter's hand."


    He hopes to hear soon from the civil registration office on a wedding date.


    But his lawyer Neuhoff has cautioned him: even with the language, the job and the girl, he needs the green light from the authorities before he can start a new life in Germany.