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  1. As goes Lewiston, so goes the country? A tightly fought mayoral contest in Maine’s second-largest city (pop. 36,299) tapped into anxieties shared by many Americans in communities hosting refugees and asylum seekers: the threat of rising poverty and welfare dependence, more crime and ugly culture clashes. But if the once-declining mill town’s upward trajectory is any indication, perhaps the biggest thing they have to fear is fear itself. For the state with the country’s oldest, whitest and slowest-growingpopulation, attracting new residents of various stripes isn't just a godsend but an economic imperative. Last week, Democratic candidate Ben Chin beat Robert Macdonald, the Republican incumbent two-term mayor, but not by enough to avert a runoff. Although issues such as a proposed pay-per-bag trash fee reared up in the campaign, one of the biggest sources of contention was public assistance for asylum seekers from Africa, who continue to join a 4,000-plus community of Somalis and other Africans who have made Lewiston their home for more than a decade. Macdonald has backed efforts to cut off public assistance to immigrants seeking asylum, and to publicly identify its recipients in order to make “people think twice about applying for welfare.” Earlier, he made headlines by urging immigrants to “accept our culture and leave your culture at the door.” In a column for a local paper, he huffed that “submissive Somali women turn into obnoxious customers at the grocery store cash register.” Complaints about the treatment of Somalis, he said, came mostly from “boo-hoo white do-gooders and their carpetbagger friends.” Chin, a Chinese-American who is the political director for the progressive Maine People’s Alliance, has campaigned for continued public assistance for asylum seekers; for his pains, a local landlord put up signs dubbing him “Ho Chi Chin” and urging people to “vote for more jobs and not more welfare.” Lewiston’s Somalis first began showing up in 2001. Originally refugees who settled near Atlanta, many moved to Maine. In a 2011 survey, the most common reason they gave for the northward trek was to improve their quality of life -- not just affordable housing, but safety, good schools, and the increased social control that came with living in a smaller community. Maine’s relatively generous welfare system also played a part -- but other Somalis moved from states with more generous benefits. When they arrived, they found a city back on its heels. Lewiston’s population had dropped by 10 percent in the 1990s, its downtown had never recovered from the closure of mills and the businesses they supported, and jobs were scarce. In a city with two of Maine's poorest census tracts, a swelling contingent of welfare-dependent non-English-speaking immigrants traumatized by war and violence didn’t exactly promise an economic miracle. Nonetheless, they brought new life to downtown -- new restaurants and shops, businesses, even a mosque. Many found jobs in and around Lewiston, and for those who didn’t, their welfare payments still helped the local economy. More importantly, they grew and rejuvenated Lewiston’s population. That’s critical for Maine, a state whose demographics are a slow-motion economic disaster. As the Maine Department of Labor’s chief economist has noted, Maine’s unenviable status as the oldest state in the union has less to do with a lot of seniors than a lot of Baby Boomers who didn’t have many kids. That affects everything from the labor force to school and university enrollments. (The University of Maine system, for instance, has been forced to gut itself as enrollments drop.) By one estimate, Maine has to attract at least 3,000 new residents annually for the next 20 years to sustain its workforce, in addition to keeping its existing youngsters from moving away. Political Asylum As a result of Lewiston’s African influx, since 2002 the number of kids in its schools has risen by 10 percent. If that’s a burden, it’s one that nearby communities might like to have: The school population for the rest of Androscoggin County has fallen by 15 percent. At one level, Maine’s zany, Tea Party-steeped governor Paul LePage understands that his state needs more people to thrive. "We have more people in Maine dying than being born," he said last year. But that was in remarks reiterating his opposition to abortion. His administration has sought to strip asylum seekers of general assistance, even though federal law prohibits them from working while their applications are pending. And he has regularly blamed "illegals" for everything from welfare fraud and crime to the spread of disease -- positions whose spirit Lewiston's current mayor has echoed. The city's immigrant influx has doubtless imposed burdens on its social services. But as one of its state legislators noted, general assistance to asylum seekers accounts for less than 1 percent of the city's budget. Lewiston's director of economic and community development told the Boston Globe this summer that the unemployment rate among Somalis is only slightly higher than the state rate of 4.7 percent. And it boasts the lowest crime rate of Maine's cities. What's real, abiding and understandable is the kind of culture shock that comes when an established, tight-knit community is deluged by newcomers. Lewiston's overwhelmingly white, Catholic, Franco-American inhabitants were themselves victims of ordinances banning French in local schools until only a few decades ago. Injecting African Muslims into their midst is a huge challenge for both sides, especially in a state with so little diversity to begin with. As Maine's former attorney general James Tierney said in a speech at Lewiston's Bates College last year, "Maine elected leaders do not want to talk about race … I have lived here all my life and the truth is that we like things the way they are." But he argued that until Maine's elected leaders and citizens start talking more about race and diversity, the state won't be able to "develop any real economic development strategy." Otherwise, it faces the worst of both worlds: expending resources to house and educate refugee newcomers, only to see the next generation leave in search of a more welcoming environment. As one Somali college graduate leaving Maine for a big-city university in another state said, "It's exhausting … being Somali and living in Lewiston because it's not just limelight, it's kind of like a shining, beaming spotlight that goes with you wherever you go." That challenge of integration and adjustment faces communities across the United States, whether Somalis, Guatemalans, or -- eventually, perhaps -- tens of thousands of Syrians. Meeting it will require not just more federal and state support, but greater understanding on all sides, from refugee organizations that take more time to consult with local stakeholders to officials who resist the political temptation to scapegoat new arrivals for old problems. It's not clear how Lewiston's mayoral runoff is going to play out. But here's some good news: Lewiston’s polyglot high school soccer team, with players like Abdi Shariff-Hassan, Maulid Abdow and Noralddin Othman, just won the State Soccer Finals. Go Blue Devils -- and don't leave Maine! This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Source:
  2. York South-Weston is going back to its Liberal roots. NDP incumbent Mike Sullivan was ousted from office once the votes were tallied in the Monday, Oct. 19 federal election with Liberal Party candidate Ahmed Hussen returning the seat to his party. “I've been pounding the pavement learning about the issues and concerns,” said the lawyer to supporters gathered inside Central Bar and Grill. "I'm humbled by the results." Ahmed also commended Sullivan for the race he ran and wished him the best. Also running in York South-Weston were John Johnson of the Green Party, Stephen Lepone of the Libertarian Party, and James Robinson of the Conservative Party. Source:
  3. Above, Idd Mohamed posting with UN General Secretary Ban K-Moon. Idd Mohamed immigrated to Canada in 1990, eager to get an education before moving back to Somalia and saving his homeland from murder and mayhem. Mohamed obtained a master’s in political economy and has enjoyed a front seat to Somalia politics ever since. Mohamed was one of the organizers of a 2000 conference in Arta, Djibouti, where Somali seculars, religious and clan leaders got together and tried to end warlordism and lawlessness by forming a government. He went on to join the Somalia mission at the UN. In this role, he became an influential person in Somalia’s interaction with rest of the world. Fifteen years later, Mohamed regrets the time he spent trying to fix Somalia politics. Mohamed told me "If I had 15 years again, I would have spent it differently. I would have spent it building a permanent life in Canada.” I caught up with Mohamed recently while he was visiting extended family in Eagan. Mohamed is finalizing a short-term plan to start a financial services business in the Middle East. In the long run, he wishes to establish a stock market for Somalia. Mohamed told me the stock market idea is more of a dream than a realistic plan. It's an entertainment of sorts, because Mohamed doesn't think Somalia will change sufficiently in the near future to make a stock market possible. "Maybe in the year 2030 Somalia will be ready for it,” he said. With this realization, Mohamed has some advice for Somalis in Minnesota: He said going back to Somalia and forgoing opportunity in America would be "foolish." He had particularly harsh words for leaders in Somalia who often encourage the return of skilled Somalis. Mohamed described Somalia leaders as "opportunists, shortsighted and self-centered.” Skilled Somalis have better opportunities to improve themselves and their community in Minnesota, he said. In order to drive home this point, Mohamed contrasted Minneapolis Council Member Abdi Warsame with Guled Kassim. Warsame, Mohamed said, focused on redistricting in Minneapolis ensuring Somali residents were concentrated in a ward he could win. Mohamed believes Somalis in Minnesota who are interested in the electrical process have similar opportunities. Kassim, on the other hand, continues to have one leg in America and another in Somalia. Kassim unsuccessfully ran for a state house seat in Maryland but went back to Somalia where he currently serves as a minister for a government which only exists in name. Mohamed attributed Ahmed's loss to his divided attentions. Voters in Maryland were parhaps suspicious of his contined political activities in Somalia. Mohamed predicts Kassim will return to America and start life again as newcomer. Warsame's electoral success, Kassim’s vacillation and the unabating political violence in Somalia since 1990 leave Mohamed wishing he could do things over again. No doubt these are powerful observations and illustrative lessons for Somalis in Minnesota. Jamal Abdulahi is an independent analyst. He writes about politics, economy and Minnesota's Somali-American community. He also blogs Source:
  4. RICHFIELD, Minn. (KMSP) - A Richfield police officer is in some hot water after a video posted to Twitter appears to show him pushing and hitting a teen on Saturday night. Richfield police released a statement Monday expressing that they've seen the video and are further investigating, but so far no comment specifically on the actions of the officer. The teen who took the video tells Fox 9 he was with a large group of friends in two cars both pulled over while leaving Adams Hill Park in Richfield. He said the officer began getting very agitated, and in the video you can hear him telling another teen to back away. The officer pushes him, and as they continue talking, the officer hits him across the head. Video: Police officer appears to push, hit teen in Richfield, Minn. “The officer was getting really aggressive like he was about to do something,” Mohamed Hayir, who recorded and posted the video, said. “I was like I might as well record this just in case something does happen.” Richfield police say this began with a call of a "suspicious person" in the park at 6:30 p.m., and the cars were pulled over as a result of that. As far as what exactly unfolded, they're still investigating. But Hayir says his friend was not being disrespectful. “He did not disrespect him. You could hear everything in the video. He was being respectful. He was telling the officer his situation; he was telling him his brother is coming to get the car.” Richfield police are not saying much besides confirming the police call. A statement released said, "the department will conduct a thorough investigation into this matter, and will be transparent throughout the process. Information will be released when it becomes available." The teen in the video that was pushed and hit by the officer wants to get a lawyer. And Somali community activist, Omar Jamal, is asking to meet with Richfield police. Source:
  5. Ilhan Omar, left, and Mohamud Noor have both announced plans to challenge state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, for the DFL endorsement. Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2014 State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, is no stranger to challenges from her own party. Over the past few election cycles, Kahn has faced either a primary and endorsement challenge in the heavily Democratic district. This year is no different. About a month ago, Mohamud Noor announced that he was going to challenge Kahn again for the DFL endorsement. Today, Ilhan Omar announced that she’ll also challenge Kahn for the endorsement. “It’s not a surprise,” Kahn said when asked about her opponents. “The district has a lot of people interested in political activism who think they could do a pretty good job as a state legislator.” Kahn said she’s seeking another term because she thinks Democrats can regain the majority in the Minnesota House and she wants to be there for Gov. Mark Dayton’s final two years in office. Her challengers, however, say it’s time for the longest serving member of the Legislature to be replaced. Both candidates say Kahn is ignoring the needs of the district, particularly people of Somali descent who are a growing segment of the district’s population. “We need someone who has fluency in all of the communities of our diverse district,” Omar said. “This is not about the last 44 years. This is about the future of the district and what the next few years will look like.” Omar is currently serving as the Director of Policy and Initiatives for the Women Organizing Women Network. She also served as a policy aide to Minneapolis City Council member Andrew Johnson. Rep. Phyllis Kahn addressed supporters after her 2014 primary win over challenger Mohamud Noor. Jennifer Simonson| MPR News 2014 In the 2014 endorsement contest, Omar backed Noor’s candidacy. She was even injured during the endorsing convention, receiving a concussion when a fight broke out between supporters of Kahn and Noor. The convention was suspended as a result of the incident. DFL delegates deadlocked on a subsequent convention. Both Kahn and Noor headed to the primary where Kahn won by nine percentage points. Omar said she intends to abide by the DFL Party endorsement and will drop out of the race if delegates back another candidate. Noor isn’t making the same pledge. He told MPR News that he’s running again because he wants the Legislature to focus on improving racial disparities in health care and education. “The disparities that I see are not being addressed,” Noor said. “Nobody wants to talk about it and that really depresses me.” Noor, who is the executive director of The Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said he took the job to “look really deep” into the issues facing the district. Kahn takes issue with the criticism that she’s not addressing the needs of the Somali community. In the last session, she said she got money for Brian Coyle Center and funding to discourage the radicalization of young Muslims in the community. She said she didn’t see Omar or Noor at the Legislature advocating for those programs. “I didn’t see any of them last time so it will be interesting to think that they can just walk in and do it,” she said. Kahn said she intends to abide by the party endorsement and will drop out of the race if she doesn’t win party backing. She also emphasized that she has significant support in the Somali community, including the backing of Minneapolis City Council member Abdi Warsame. She said a challenge by both Noor and Omar should help her in the endorsement contest. “The political philosophy is two challengers are always better than one,” she said. Source:
  6. [caption id=attachment_1934744" align="alignnone" width="800] IMAGE SOURCE: RACHEL JONES[/caption] I am an American Christian and I live in Djibouti, a predominantly Muslim nation in the Horn of Africa. In 2005, I was pregnant with my third child and my midwives were an Arab woman and a Somali woman, both Muslim. When I went into labor, the Somali midwife in the hospital, Fardousa, was by my side. My daughter was born in 26 minutes, with two pushes, and the time of birth was 9:27 p.m. She has two middle names and the first is the Somali name Deeqsan. Deeqsan means “gift from Allah.” Deeqsan was born on September 11. 9/11/2005. In a Muslim country, with the excellent help of a Muslim midwife, to American parents who believe the Bible and who thanked God that she was born healthy and who named her “a gift from Allah.” This year, Deeqsan will turn 10 and as always, of course, her birthday falls on a day of national grief and horror. But my family will celebrate. Not only will we celebrate her specific life, but we will celebrate the reality that her birth date represents to us: that there can be meaningful community and relationships between Christians and Muslims. There can be peace, there can be hope. I remember the midwife looking in on my baby and I after the birth. Deeqsan was nestled against my chest. I remember Fadousa’s gentle, knowing smile. I smiled back and there was nothing between us but the shared awe and delight of women who have brought a new life into the world. BABY DEEQSAN, IMAGE SOURCE: RACHEL JONESI remember telling Deeqsan about the events of her birthday in history. Her face tightened and her mouth dropped open at the shock of what happened on 9/11/2001. Then I told her that she was our light on a dark day, our celebration child, and she transformed. The open mouth turned into a smile and she seemed to stand up straighter, proud. I told her that her birth was like a constant reminder of the reality that, while wars rage, around the world and in all kinds of circumstances, women continue to choose life. Women continue to choose to stand together, across barriers, to find joy and hope. I TOLD HER THAT HER BIRTH WAS LIKE A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THE REALITY THAT, WHILE WARS RAGE, AROUND THE WORLD AND IN ALL KINDS OF CIRCUMSTANCES, WOMEN CONTINUE TO CHOOSE LIFE. SHARE QUOTE In Liberia, Christian and Muslim women united and forced an end to the devastating civil war by peacefully protesting together, refusing to sleep with their husbands until peace was won, and even going to the meetings between warlords and staging a sit-in, threatening to do the sit-in naked if negotiations failed. In Syria, women are negotiating ceasefires, delivering medical supplies across dangerous enemy lines, working to stabilize prices with merchants so their people won’t starve. They are doing these things across religious and cultural boundaries. In Israel and Palestine, mothers grieve together and say “Enough.” We have lost enough of our sons to war. It is time for peace. Djibouti, where Deeqsan was born and where we still live, is not even remotely in a state of religious conflict, but there are differences and these can lead to interpersonal misunderstandings. The birth of my daughter gives me something powerful to hold on to as I pray and work toward communication, trust, and relationships. My daughter has Christian friends and Muslim friends, American friends and Djiboutian friends. She sings worship songs at our French Protestant Church and she asks me about the Islamic call to prayer that sounds off five times a day around us. We celebrate Christmas and our neighbors celebrate Eid, and we join each other in these religious holidays. My husband and I have devoted ourselves to being an active part of reconciliation as we go about our work (he is a professor here). And, as Deeqsan grows and lives with part of her life in the United States and part of it in Muslim east Africa, my prayer for her is that while her birthday commemorates a day of terror, her life will demonstrate the way of peace. Rachel lives in Djibouti where she swims with whale sharks, runs in 110-degree heat, and writes about parenting and the expatriate life. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Family Fun, and Brain Child.
  7. Two refugees are requesting help from Australia after reportedly being raped on Nauru, leaving one of them pregnant. The ABC's 7.30 has obtained a harrowing video of the moment one of the victims was found by Nauruan police, several hours after the alleged assault occurred. The footage was filmed in the dark by the 26-year-old Somali woman as she hid in the bushes late at night on August 21 after allegedly being raped by two Nauruan men. In the video, the woman is heard weeping and calling for help as she phones Nauruan police. Do you know more about this story? Email "Please come help me," she pleads as sirens are heard in the background. The woman, known as Najma (not her real name) has told the ABC she feels unsafe on Nauru. "As a Somali girl, I was hoping to come to a safe place, but I have no safety," she said. "As we walk to work, Nauruan men charge us five dollars to use the road, then they follow us and harass us or touch us." The women both live in the Nauruan community. The attack is the latest in a string of sexual assaults on Nauru, both inside the immigration detention centre, and outside in the refugee community. A recent Senate inquiry uncovered the number of assaults perpetrated on asylum seekers on the island. The company responsible for running the detention centre, Transfield Services, told senators it received 67 allegations of child abuse up until May this year, 30 of them involving detention centre staff. Daniel Webb, the director of legal advocacy at Melbourne's Human Rights Law Centre, said Australia should not be settling refugees in the Nauruan community. "It's becoming clear that Nauru, both inside the detention centre and outside of it, is not a safe place for women and not a safe place for children," he said. 'Police took four hours to arrive' In a police statement obtained by 7.30, the Somali woman stated she was out walking near the Ewa settlement camp when she was dragged into the bushes by two Nauruan men and raped. She said police took four hours to arrive, and she has heard no update since on the subsequent investigation. The second woman said she was 10 weeks pregnant after also being raped. She said she wanted to come to Australia to have an abortion. A third woman, an Iranian asylum seeker, remains in a Brisbane hospital after she too was raped on the island. There are serious doubts about the capacity and ability of Nauruan police to investigate alleged crimes. The Senate inquiry revealed that of 50 incidents referred to Nauruan police by detention centre operators since 2012, just two convictions were obtained. Nauru's legal system has also deteriorated amid an assault on the rule of law and freedom of speech on the island. New Zealand's government recently suspended its aid funding for the Nauruan justice system as a result of political prosecutions, including against opposition MPs. Nauru justice system 'can't protect' victims Mr Webb said assault victims in Nauru had little hope of justice. "The reality is that the Nauruan justice system and rule of law is in complete disarray," he said. "Not only is Nauru an unsafe place for vulnerable women and children that Australia sends there, the Nauruan justice system can't protect them." The ABC sent several questions to the Nauruan police, requesting details on the number of assault cases, and the number of arrests made. A reply was received from the Nauruan government's Australian public relations agent, Lyall Mercer. "Due to continued unbalanced and inaccurate coverage of Nauru by the ABC we will not respond to this request," the email stated. "We can only assume that the ABC does not wish to report the facts and that political activism has replaced ethical journalism, therefore we will not be cooperating on this occasion." In a statement to the ABC, the Immigration Department said it worked with the government of Nauru to provide a safe environment for asylum seekers and refugees. It said in the event of sexual assault allegations, asylum seekers and refugees were provided with medical treatment and mental health support. The Department said it was aware of a sexual assault allegation involving the Somali woman. But it would not say if the two recent victims would be brought to Australia. Former case manager goes on record over threats to women The Australian Government's Border Force Act prevents detention centre staff from speaking publicly about their work on the island, at risk of two years' jail. But a former Save the Children case manager has given an interview to 7.30 to reveal information about threats to refugee women. Danielle Serrano, who worked on Nauru last year, said she was aware of local Nauruan security guards threatening single female asylum seekers at the detention centre. "Some of the local guards had said to them that they were looking forward to them being released because of what they would like to do to them," she said. "So yes, I am aware of instances where that fear was made known." About 400 refugees have been released into the Nauruan community after being granted visas by the Pacific country. Ms Serrano revealed that during her time on the island, detention centre staff were warned about safety on Nauru, and advised not to travel alone. "Immigration are aware ... that the environment is not safe," she said. "That made me quite frustrated to be thinking, 'how come you care about my safety and our safety as staff and as women, yet on this island you want to release women and children?'" Ms Serrano said she felt compelled to speak out despite the Border Force Act. "Professionally and ethically I can't know this, and not say something," she said. Source:
  8. Each of the five points of the Somali flag represent a region where ethnic Somalis live Members of one of Somaliland's best-known groups, the Horn Stars, have been arrested for allegedly waving Somalia's flag at a concert. They were performing during Eid al-Adha in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. The four musicians are accused of holding performances which oppose Somaliland's independence. Somaliland declared itself independent from the rest of Somalia in 1991 but this has not been recognised internationally. The four, Nimaan Hilaa, Hamda Queen, Mahamed Ahmed Bakaal and Abdirahman Aydiid, were arrested when they returned to Somaliland's capital, Hargeisa, from Mogadishu on Sunday. On Twitter people have started posting message of support for the musicians using the hashtag #FreeHornStars. Somaliland's Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Adarreh told the BBC Somali service that the musicians were employees of the government and therefore should not do anything that recognises the unity of Somalia. Another prominent musician, Khadra Silimo, told the BBC that the four were not government employees. The five points on the white star of Somalia's flag each represent a region where ethnic Somalis live, including Somaliland Somaliland has its own flag. Source:
  9. Notoriously gamy and easy to mess up, goat benefits most from slow cooking and a heavy hand with the spices. So when I discovered that the meat in hilib ari, a Somali dish at Safari restaurant in Harlem(219 West 116th Street, 646-964-4252), had been roasted for six hours, I ordered with confidence. Follow suit and you'll be rewarded with mostly boneless chunks of supple, sweet meat that retains little trace of the barnyard. Coriander and cumin pervade, along with the flavors of the green and red bell peppers and onions that are stir-fried with the cooked meat before serving. It's a goat dish for sheepish eaters. I'd put in my order late in the evening — Safari keeps halal, and owner Maymuuna Birjeeb tweaked her hours for the duration of Ramadan — and the kitchen had run out of rice for the goat. In the kitchen, chef Munira Musse, Birjeeb's cousin, substituted a massive pile of noodles coated in a rich basil-rosemary butter sauce, a seeming aberration that makes perfect sense once you consider that Italy controlled a sizable chunk of Somalia from the late nineteenth century through the early days of World War II. She uses the same herbs to season "Chicken Fantastic," a cream-simmered chicken hash popularized by Minnesotan Somalis, and "Pasta Saldata," a tangle of spaghetti tossed in seriously bold bolognese. (Another cousin, chef and restaurateur Jamal Hashi, came in from Minnesota to consult on the menu.) There's even a bit of Italo-African fusion in chopped steak sautéed with a combination of rosemary and mitmita, a dry rub containing ground chiles, cardamom, and clove favored in Ethiopia, Somalia's neighbor to the west. [Editor’s note: A correction ran concerning this paragraph; please see end of review.] That's just a hint of the taste-travel you're in for during a meal at Safari, a 26-seat, dome-ceilinged space on West 116th Street. Many of Safari's best recipes pulse with flavors familiar to South Asian cuisine. Musse (pronounced moo-seh) braises mango into a soft pulp for curry, strewn with Ethiopian berbere-spiced chicken (heavy on garlic and cardamom) or served on its own over a flavor-drenched pilaf decorated with raisins and sliced bell peppers. In lieu of grains and pasta, some of Safari's dishes includechapati. Musse's version of the griddled flatbread is worth the order if only to soak up any leftover basbaas (house­-made hot sauce: a pale-green and coarse cilantro-based purée) you might have lying around. The crisped rounds form the base of an open-face sandwich layered with stewed vegetables, as well as heartier wraps filled with chicken or beef heaped with onions and peppers. There's also a chapati sandwich stuffed with ground lamb "meatloaf" and diced pineapple, soaked in sauce made from the sesame-studded spice blend zaatar. The menu's lone seafood main course on our visits was Indian Ocean king mackerel. The chef tamed the oily steaks by marinating them with chiles, then broiled them and served them with a thick lime-pepper sauce and rice pilaf. The owner and her family hail from Kismaayo (pronounced keys-my-oh), and the Somali port city is well represented by "Kismaayo Chicken Suqaar": an oval platter of diced poultry stained russet with pepper sauce and mixed with bell pepper and red onion. Its heat is mild but persistent, aided by that basbaas — a versatile condiment, it emerges. Adam Ibrahim, a cousin who moved from the Bay Area to help out at the restaurant, recommends spooning the stuff over just about everything. (It's especially tasty on the goat.) Ibrahim is a former rapper who managed the family's grocery business in California. Here he helps out both at the front of the house and in the back — which helps explain the water glass that sat unfilled on my table for the duration of one of my meals. Such glitches aside, Ibrahim takes time to introduce himself to the patrons at every table, grateful that there's room for his native cuisine amid Harlem's steadfast African dining scene. Musse is still perfecting the sweets on the restaurant's dessert list (including coconut macaroons over gelato); in the meantime she's serving the light and flaky chapati with a drizzle of honey to finish off meals. "We're the first to bring this kind of food to New York," Ibrahim beams while serving us cups of ginger tea. That fact alone makes Safari worth trying. The family's hospitality and stove skills are reasons to return. Source:
  10. I first learned to construct nomadic huts with my grandmother in the summer holidays – spent, whether I liked or not, living in Dayniile, near Mogadishu. Being a Mogadishu girl, living in a comfortable villa, I hated it at first so my father sent, as a surprise, a tiny battery-run TV, which transformed our evenings at the nomadic camp. Although we never planned to live like that, later, as it happened, we became refugees and ended up internally displaced in what would have otherwise seemed like barren landscapes. But thanks to my childhood experiences we were able to construct houses on our own. It is eminently uplifting to construct your home as a way of dealing with loss We knew where to source the material, get water and even medicinal flora: we made mats of fibre and used dried and shaped acacia roots to serve as pillars. This was before aid arrived and plastic tents invaded the region. Unlike the plastic tents, which are hot during the day and cold at night, the nomadic huts are suited to the arid and hot climate: they are cool during the day and warm during the night, thanks to their natural ventilation system. It is eminently uplifting to construct your home as a way of dealing with loss in the emergency of war. Along with the ongoing conflict, Somalis also face an environmental emergency thanks to deforestation. People are consuming their future by burning the same acacia trees they need for their homes into charcoal for the international trade. These trees take years to regenerate. Soon, it might be that people won’t have any other option than to wait for plastic tents from Europe. I feel proud that the nomadic hut is, in its entirety, a result of female ingenuity and collective effort. It is a common practice that women support each other through thick and thin. But making the house is fun. Women sing and recite poems during its construction. A bride-to-be making her marital hut invites female friends and relatives and, as a reward for their hard work, offers food and drinks; but if she fails to do so they will sing about her laziness or, even worse, her stinginess. FacebookTwitterPinterest A new residential house in Hargeisa. Photograph: Photograph: Sada MireOne of my favourite objects happens to be the interior mat of the hut, the kebed, an insulating and decorative mat. A mother might help her daughter weave her bridal kebed and she may also weave a secret message to her daughter and her son-in-law through a combination of intricate patterns and colours. The experience of building huts has helped me appreciate Somali architecture. Through my archaeological work, I have come across all sorts of human dwellings, everything from rock shelters inhabited thousands of years ago, often adorned with the most spectacular paintings, to dry-stone towns on the Somali coast, and to the modern architecture in cities like Hargeisa. Mogadishu features the Shirazi Persian architecture of the Swahili houses and mosques. However, the ongoing war has caused a lot of destruction. The beautiful Islamic buildings with minarets, arches and domes, including Omani, Egyptian and Ottoman architecture, need protection and preservation. In Berbera, Somaliland, one can still enjoy some beautiful Ottoman architecture. During the European colonial era, impressive structures were erected too. Mogadishu has a cathedral built during Italian times, and hosts a number of art deco houses. The insider's cultural guide to Hargeisa: 'the mother of Somali arts' There is what could be called anti-colonial architecture too. My grandmother used to talk about Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, the Somali liberation hero of the Daraawiish (Dervish) movement; she used to recite his poetry to my siblings and me. What I didn’t know as a child, though, was that the place she called Taleh, the sheikh’s residence, was a significant maze-like fortress. The colonial British were unable to penetrate it and had to resort to air bombardment. Somalis seem to be experts in resurrection through time. After decades of peace Hargeisa, in Somaliland, is expanding and its modern architecture is booming. As I write, I am sitting admiring the hotel near my house in the city. It is inspired by the Arabian style of curvy angles and arches and big courtyards. I can’t believe that this beautiful hotel and many more have risen out of the war zone I saw just two decades ago. I also can’t believe that the ambitious owner of the hotel actually converted what was a barren hill into a lovely garden. Seeing towns like Hargeisa gives me hope for places like Mogadishu which, in times of relative calm, is enjoying new construction and reconstruction projects. What will be the future for Somali architectural heritage? Only time will tell. Dr. Sada Mire (born 1977) is a Somali archaeologist. She is the only active archaeologist working in Somaliland, a region in northern Somalia[1] where she became the Director of Antiquities in 2007.[2] Originally from the Somali capital of Mogadishu, Mire fled the ountry at the start of the civil war at the age of 14. She then traveled to Sweden seeking asylum. She has since returned to the Horn of Africa as an archaeologist, making some notable discoveries.[3]
  11. Officer Mukhtar Abdulkadir speaks with a woman who is wearing a Free Our Boys T-shirt in support of five young men recently accused of attempting to join Isis. Photograph: Arthur Nazaryan Hibaaq Osman has a glow that changes the energy in a room, or in her case, the energy of the restaurant her family owns in Karmel mall, the oldest Somali mall in Minneapolis. The cafe is right near the mosque on the top floor of the building, past rows of entrepreneurs selling wares in individual stalls, sipping hot drinks in small cups and chatting in Somali. Osman retains her glow, even in anger. And after a press conference held outside the mosque, she is upset. “I feel like we as a community need to wake up,” she said. “We need to wake up and say, ‘You know what? Enough is enough.’ We are citizens, we are taxpayers, we own businesses, we need people to understand that we also are part of this country just the way anybody else is.” Hibaaq Osman sits at her family-owned cafe at Karamel mall, one of two major malls in Minneapolis with almost entirely Somali businesses and customers. Photograph: Arthur Nazaryan With a population of at least 30,000, the Somali people are a significant presence in the Twin Cities, home to more 3.5 million people. Because they have been coming to Minnesota since the 1980s, the people who come now have family and friends who have already established a life in the midwest. They love it – besides the cold winters. Rooted as they are in Minnesota, many in the the Somali Muslim community are alarmed at a US attorney-led program that they believe singles them out as more blood thirsty than other ethnic or religious groups, and makes them vulnerable to surveillance. Led by a taskforce of 15 Somali Americans and a traditional community grant-making organization, the Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program is the brainchild of the chief federal prosecutor for Minnesota, Andrew Luger. Later this month, it will launch a number of yet-to-be-announced grants to programs aimed at creating educational and professional opportunities among the Somali Muslim community in Minnesota. The goal is to prevent youth recruitment by overseas extremist groups such as Isis or al-Shabaab. But even before any specifics of the program have been announced, the program has engendered dramatic hostility and division within the Muslim Somali community. Those opposed to the premise of the program point out that 96% of domestic terrorism is committed by white men. The exact figure is disputed, but all statistics have it at more than 90%. “The idea that this Muslim community needs help, itself for this issue is problematic,” says Jaylani Hussein the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). “Because now you’re saying that countering violent extremism is only from one community. The threat comes from one community, the threat is only identified within one community, that community needs a program. The whole premise is wrong. This program, no matter how good it is, is flawed from its principle.” Those who support the program are welcoming of new resources to their community, particularly if they will keep any brewing problem contained. The conflict derives from the perceived radicalization of several individuals from Minnesota. Between 2008 and 2013, about 40 young men left Minneapolis to join al-Shabaab, the militant, radical Islamist insurgent group at war in Somalia, between approximately 2008 and 2013. Since then, 11 people from the Twin Cities have been charged with planning to leave for Syria to join Isis. Authorities believe Isis is focusing its US recruitment efforts on Somali Muslims in Minnesota because of the state’s history, and a potential pre-existing recruitment infrastructure. Six Minnesota men charged with conspiring to support Isis in Syria Six young men charged with planning to leave Minnesota for Syria to join Isis are awaiting trial in February. The boys claim they were entrapped, but one is now expected to change his plea to guilty. “We have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota,” Luger said in April. Opponents of the CVE program point out that these 40 individuals make up less than 0.3% of Minnesota’s Somali population. Osman says that even though she is the mother of two young boys, Isis has “no relevance” to her life. “I don’t even think about [isis] – I look at the news and I’m like OK they’re just talking rubbish, and I turn it off. Because my life is already more of just trying to think about how I am going to raise my family, what is good for them, my boys are my number one priority.” Already, the CVE pilot program has been re-branded with a new name, Building Community Resilience. Luger’s office says it captures the essence of his vision: to keep teens from Minnesota from traveling to the Middle East and blowing themselves up. Luger says it will do so by providing $216,000 in federal funds – in addition to other local and private support – which will be disbursed to community groups through a grant-making organization. The social services supported by the funding serve as crime prevention, he contends. But a statement issued from a coalition protesting the program asserted: “The Minnesota Muslim community is united over its growing concerns of the CVE pilot program, which so far has only alienated the very communities it was seeking to influence. While attempting to derail the communities’ own initiative to enhance its ability to build community resilience.” Two friends walk out of the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Company after a high school graduation ceremony. Young Somali men are especially affected by stereotypes of Islamic radicalization. Two friends walk out of the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Company after a high school graduation ceremony. Young Somali men are especially affected by stereotypes of Islamic radicalization. Photograph: Arthur Nazaryan Inherent distrust When Luger became US attorney in February of 2014, he rolled up his sleeves and made it a priority to meet with Somali Muslim community leaders across the state, learning their feelings, thoughts and concerns. The CVE product was directly shaped by the issues raised to Luger, though it’s now being protested by some of the same people with whom Luger consulted. There’s distrust of the seemingly direct involvement from the attorney general’s office, as well as the funding from the federal government. Those opposed also think the pilot program’s emphasis on violent extremism does not accurately reflect the problems facing the community. “I came to America when I was a child, when I was seven years old. I have seen a lot of the issues that our kids are facing. You know, I have been to a classroom where I don’t understand anything,” remembered Saciido Shaie, a member of the Minnesota Juvenile Justice Advisory Council. “I don’t understand the language. I don’t understand what the teacher is asking me. I take my homework home and my mom doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t write the language. And I’m stuck with all this homework, no one is helping me, all these things. So for me going to school was going to hell.” Saciido Shaie works on her laptop at African Paradise, one of the most popular Somali restaurants in the area. Saciido Shaie works on her laptop at African Paradise, one of the most popular Somali restaurants in the area. Photograph: Arthur Nazaryan Shaie is one of many parents who are concerned about Somali Muslim youth. Minnesota has the worst or second-worst graduation rates among for non-white students, and the possibility of falling in with a gang or into a life of crime is high. “Many kids don’t know where they belong – Isis, al-Shabaab or a gang. They join all that is available to them,” she said. She wants more resources for the children and teens in the community, but she doesn’t want it to come with the tag of “terrorism”, or “violence”. Despite the re-branding of the campaign, her concerns remain. But the T-word carries a lot of weight for organizations seeking support, argues Fartun Abdi, a 24-year-old graduate of the University of Chicago and a current PhD student at the University of Minnesota studying the roots of radicalization. “There’s organizations in the community, and I don’t really feel comfortable to say ‘so and so and so’ but there’s organizations in the community that do make this a big issue in order to get more funding. “That doesn’t mean the funding won’t go toward social services, but it does come with the ‘terrorism’ tag. ‘Many of our kids become radicalized at some point’ – that’s what the government wants to hear, that’s what these folks want to hear. So when you give them that, of course they’re going to fund you and give you resources and connect you to the right people.” That there are imams on the taskforce is also a concern to imam Hassan Jaamici Mohamud, who believes it conflates church and state, and could cause distrust among the congregations. “For the US attorney’s office, the office that’s supposed to prosecute people, to join social service initiatives, that creates a lot of suspicion among the community,” explained Jaamici Mohamud. Thousands of Somalis showed up to pray at the Minneapolis Convention Center to mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan in July. Photograph: Arthur Nazaryan Some like Sadik Warfa think the program is a potential forum for government surveillance. He’s suspicious of the chief prosecutor’s involvement in social services. Warfa also fears the program will isolate the Somalis in the city, and further pigeonhole Muslims around the country as a problematic, violent population that requires special attention and funds. In 2012 the FBI honored Ka Joog, a group that provides free after-school and mentorship programs, with the FBI director’s community leadership award for being “an organization that goes beyond the traditional sense of community service and has a profound effect on their community”. But in partnership with the county attorney’s office, a program dubbed “be@school” tracks students who have a number of unexcused absences, and then involves their families. The FBI’s recognition of Ka Joog, and the participation of two of their staff on the CVE taskforce (one is the chair) has fueled the fear that the social services proposed are secretly mixing with surveillance and policing. Being labeled a potential violent extremist could be a self-fulfilling prophecy, some parents fear. “Imagine my son being defined as one of those, you know, at risk for Isis or whatever – it’s like setting up for a failure out there,” Shaie said. The media doesn’t help, defining her son as “Somali” and “Muslim” instead of a kid. “What I don’t want to see is an innocent child, who grew up here, who was born here, this is what they know, to be leveled by whatever ideology we have,” she said. ‘Money for soccer and basketball’ The chair of the CVE taskforce, Abdimalik Mohamed, is sensitive to the notion that Somalis – out of all Muslims – are being targeted by the CVE. But he says Somalis are in a lower financial bracket than their Arab counterparts in America, and that makes them more vulnerable to recruitment from gangs at home and abroad. That’s why they need the resources. “How is it a problem for us to get money for soccer and basketball?” he said. In fact, he’s appreciative of the government’s involvement. “How many communities [can call the US attorney] and say, hey we don’t like what you’re doing, can you do this differently?” he asked. Abdisalam Adam, a religious leader and another committee member says that many Somalis don’t trust the government enough. Abdi, the scholar who is studying the roots of radicalization, is also a member of the CVE taskforce and the decision of whether to join weighed on her heavily. “I felt like it was a responsibility to be there and at least contribute my perspective,” she said of her choice. Abdi doesn’t deny that surveillance is an issue: “People have a reason to be scared.” She went on to point out that some NGOs, even those run by Somalis, are viewed with suspicion. “When you think about Ka Joog, it’s because of the work they did with radicalization and the FBI. It’s not an after-school program.” Two Somali girls study during their lunch break at Lincoln International High School, one of a number of charter schools. Photograph: Arthur Nazaryan Mohamed, the chair of the CVE taskforce and the director of international affairs at Ka Joog, says even though the percentage might be small right now, the purpose of the CVE program is prevention. Mohamed also hates the idea of a Somali Muslim reputation for violence. That is one of the reasons he is leading the initiative. He said passionately: “We’re guiding kids toward the right path before they leave [for Syria] tomorrow and everyone says’ oh look at the Somali community’.” Fears of more departures were announced at an event in mid-August. Though he acknowledged details were hazy: “We’re now telling you that a number of Somalis, including women and men, have left in previous weeks,” said Abdirizak Bihi, a member of the CVE taskforce said to a crowd in Somali, according to a video of his remarks obtained by MPR News. “We’re also informing you that a large number is on its way to leave.” Ka Joog will be expanding its projects with the CVE funds, not inputting new anti-radicalization plans. The taskforce is frustrated, and worries that personal politics could prohibit progress. Tit-for-tat press conferences have been scheduled and nasty emails exchanged. Both sides blame the other for politicking. To assuage these fears, the US attorney’s office and the Somali American taskforce signed a memorandum of understanding that the program will not be used for surveillance or to collect intelligence. Abdirizak Bihi, a member of the taskforce said: “I would like to tell people who are scaring off resources that they should understand the risks they are creating among our community.” But Osman insists that she does not consider her sons joining Isis the predominant risk. “I’m basically afraid that the generation to come will be a target of misunderstanding or just defamation of character,” said Osman. “I’d rather think about how I’m going to pay for college.” Additional reporting by Arthur Nazaryan Source:
  12. Tuesday night at the 92nd Street Y,Iman told Fern Mallis that she was now 60 years old, and the full theater burst into applause. The latest installment of Mallis's Fashion Icons talk series delved into the legendary Somalian model's life story in all its richness, from crossing the Kenyan border as a refugee to marrying David Bowie. Read on for some of the night's highlights. On being a black model: When she first started, "there was an unsaid but written rule: One black model at a time." Inviting Beverly Johnson to join her on a shoot forVogue in Italy was her first move to change that. Though Johnson couldn’t make it, she was touched, and Iman says she responded: “That was a first. Let’s keep that up.” Iman also refused to accept the lower pay rate for black models: "People would tell me, 'You work for me.' No, I didn't work for you. You hired my services ... Somebody had to say it, and thank God I was the person to say it." It wasn't even until she got to New York that she considered herself black — in Somalia, she took it for granted. But she embraced her identity as a black woman proudly, and when Essence called her a "white woman dipped in chocolate," she was deeply offended and confronted editor-in-chief Marcia Gillespie in her office. On refugees and immigration: Her family had to cross the Kenyan border on foot at night when the life of her father, a diplomat, was in danger. They left behind all of their belongings, and Iman only has two photos of herself as a young girl. "I am the face of the refugee," she said Tuesday. "Refugees are 99 percent most of the time people who have left their countries for fear of their lives. It’s not people who just want to come to other people’s countries and just be polite." As for Donald Trump: "Don't get me started." On her successors: Tyra Banks has said she used to have photos of Iman all over her room, Mallis mentioned. That prompted Iman to say, "That's what people say to me nowadays, they don't read anything. They see me on the street, Tyra, Tyra, Tyra! I say, no, I'm not Tyra. But you look like her. No, I don't. Shelooks like me." Source:
  13. Mo Farah, born in the East African country of Somali, told Piers Morgan in a an episode of Life Stories to be aired Friday that in 2003, when visiting the county, he used the then-legal drug khat. It was banned five months later by WADA and in 2014 outlawed as a class-C drug in the United Kingdom. The drug was and remains legal in Somalia. Khat is a plant grown in the Horn of Africa which is eaten as a stimulant, generally recreationally. It was banned when WADA published it’s first list of prohibited substances on Jan. 1, 2004. Farah says he used the drug in August of 2003 after his season was over. “I just wanted to test it. It’s a natural plant. It’s different. You chew it and it is like drinking ten cups of coffee,” Farah told Morgan in the interview. Farah is the defending Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion and in August defended his 5,000m and 10,000m world championships titles in Beijing. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Earlier this year Farah came under fire for being a member of the Nike Oregon Project, a professional training group based in the United States. The Oregon Project’s coach, Alberto Salazar, has faced accusations he skirted doping laws, pushed athletes to use PEDs and circumvented therapeutic use exemptions. Source:
  14. Bulbulo Mohamud lifted a piece of malawax (similar to a pancake) for a customer at her cafe. A tax preparer in a shirt and tie dropped in on Bulbulo Mohamud’s cafe last week and said he believes it’s better for women to stay home and take care of children. Mohamud, a mother of three in a red and black headscarf whose husband travels for work, poured a drink and looked at the man sideways. He was half-grinning, goading her. A European soccer game droned on a TV in the corner. “You’re trying to make me mad,” she said. It was an odd venue to argue for stay-at-home motherhood. Women who own businesses are driving the growth of Karmel Square at the corner of Pillsbury Avenue and Lake Street. The mall is probably the largest collection of Somali businesses in the U.S. What began as a warren of stalls and storefronts in an old machine shop has grown into a second, four-story building along the Midtown Greenway. Inside are 175 clothing shops, hair salons, henna shops, restaurants and even a mosque. All but 25 are owned by women. The mall is the scene of a rich paradox in Somali culture. The women who run the shops cover their heads, and many of them believe it is a man’s responsibility to pay bills for the family. Yet they are aggressive businesspeople, cherish financial independence and preside over a microeconomy at the core of the Twin Cities’ Somali community. Ubah Diriye creates her own clothing designs that aim to blend modesty and fashion and has them manufactured in China. “I’m after the American dream,” she says. Ubah Diriye creates her own clothing designs that aim to blend modesty and fashion and has them manufactured in China. “I’m after the American dream,” she says. More “Our man does not control us as people think. It’s not like that. We are free to do anything,” said Mohamud, who opened her cafe there four months ago. “If we decide to achieve something and make it clear, we can.” Ubah Diriye grew up in Seattle from age 4, where her family settled in public housing in the 1990s. “It was very hard for my mother and father,” she said. “We started from the bottom.” She dressed like a Westerner before moving to Minneapolis three years ago. Now she wears a headscarf and designs and sells clothes that aim to blend modesty and fashion. It’s a small shop and she has no regular employees, but she creates her own designs and has them manufactured in China. She supports herself with the shop and is looking for other businesses to start. “I’m after the American dream,” she said. A business mind-set The owner of Karmel Square, Basim Sabri, barged through the maze of corridors spilling over with dresses, shoes and fabric, and proudly announced the owner’s gender at each shop he passed. “Woman, woman, woman, woman, woman!” Sabri said. He charmed his way past tenants and their customers, pressing shoulders, dishing out compliments, always moving. He told a father his young daughter was beautiful, called older women “Mama” and fended off conversations with shop owners. “They’re very aggressive,” he whispered. Ubah Diriye was looking at a new space for her clothing shop in Karmel Square, where there are 175 shops, salons, restaurants and even a mosque — all but 25 of which are owned by women. Ubah Diriye was looking at a new space for her clothing shop in Karmel Square, where there are 175 shops, salons, restaurants and even a mosque — all but 25 of which are owned by women. More A woman stopped him outside her clothing store and asked for another window onto the corridor. “OK, sister, it’s on the list,” Sabri said. “It’s not a top priority. Look, you got a beautiful glass, you need a little more glass? We’ll take care of it. Don’t worry. Insha’Allah.” “OK, OK,” she said. When Sabri first bought the building 15 years ago, a young Somali man walked in and asked Sabri if he could open a coffee shop there. Sabri liked the man’s face and said yes. The next day, a group of women showed up seeking to open stalls to sell clothing to other Somalis. So many women were interested that he had them draw numbers out of a bucket to decide who went where. Most of the original tenants remain in their spots. “In my opinion, they’re the smartest businesspeople in Africa, probably the smartest in the Middle East,” Sabri said. “Women play a big role in Somali business doing.” An entrepreneurial culture The state’s strong job market and the self-reinforcing attraction of the Twin Cities area as home to one-fourth of the U.S. Somali population have created a cycle of population growth. More Somalis, like Diriye, arrive from other U.S. cities each year. Census estimates put Minnesota’s Somali population at 39,000 in 2013, but that figure is probably low, because the Somali diaspora in the U.S. is still so new and fluid. In 2012, few had been in Minnesota for more than 10 years, many didn’t speak English well and the population was growing fast. Nearly half — around 16,000 — of the estimated population depended on welfare of some kind, according to the Minnesota demographer’s office. But that was a small fraction of the 1.2 million Minnesotans who receive public assistance, and the Somali job picture is improving. Unemployment dropped from about 20 percent in 2010 to 6 percent in 2013, according to Susan Brower, the state demographer. Somali women have turned en masse to entrepreneurship in part out of necessity, said Osman Ahmed, who manages the Riverside Mall — where 37 of 44 businesses are owned by women — in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside area. Some feel they can’t get hired by others because of cultural barriers. Others picked up skills going into business on their own before they moved to the U.S., during turmoil in Somalia in the 1990s. “After the civil war, there were no jobs, the government collapsed, there was no money,” Ahmed said. “Somali women started helping the men more.” The roots of female Somali entrepreneurship run deeper than the civil war, said Amallina Ali, the owner of a beauty salon that just moved into new space at Karmel Square. In Somalia, women have long performed many of the same jobs as men — raising livestock, cultivating crops — even while caring for their children, she said. And a culture where polygamy was widely accepted has, for generations, pounded into women the need to be financially self-sufficient, she said. “That’s in our head. We want to depend on ourselves,” Ali said. “Mothers will teach their daughters to do everything.” Starting up without a bank To do it, like business owners anywhere, they need money and they need to balance work and home. Even a small clothing shop requires $20,000 in start-up cash, said Ahmed at the Riverside Mall, the building with the leopards painted on it next to a light-rail station. Because of Islamic strictures against paying or earning interest, Somali entrepreneurs must find ways to raise start-up capital other than from a bank loan. Many rely on family members and their community. Ali’s husband gave her some of the money she needed to start her business, and Sabri gave her a good deal after his own sister told him Ali’s concept was promising. “I got a break for rent, designing the whole place on his expense, everything,” said Ali. “I know he’s a big guy now and he owns everything, but when things go heated, I always remember the beginnings. I’m always appreciative of that.” Ali believes local banks are missing an opportunity by not tailoring finance to Muslim businesses. Views on what constitutes an acceptable financial product vary across the Muslim world, but to Ali it’s simple. “If you have a fixed-rate loan, you can charge me whatever you want and precalculate it, and say because of this, this is how much money I’m making on this deal,” she said. “The banks could sell anything they want, at any price, just precalculate your thing and let me know.” Mohamud, the new cafe owner in Karmel Square, came to the U.S. as a 13-year-old and landed in Memphis. She moved to Minneapolis in 2000, married and had children, and opened a clothing accessories store at the 24th Street Mall. She learned how to make customers feel welcome, but the business was not successful. She let her mother take over, and she opened her own coffee shop instead. The business did better and, after Karmel Square expanded, she moved to a corner space in its new wing. Managing all of her responsibilities is a challenge, she said, but her family helps by watching her children. “If you don’t have a support group, you’re not going to succeed,” she said. “Every business you see has a support group of family.” Somali in America Mohamud is happy to run a business, and is protective of that. Still, she considers her husband the breadwinner and is happy to bow to that expectation of Somali life. “It’s different in our culture and you guys’ culture. You guys, if you bring money to the house and she does, you pay things together, right?” she said. “Ours, no, unless he’s really broke. If there is a financial problem, he can’t provide, she will help him out, but always he’s the breadwinner. Always. It’s a good responsibility. It’s good to have that, because when he married you he took that responsibility.” Ali, the salon owner at Karmel Square, said Somali businesses are growing in Minnesota because the state has been good to Somalis. A few years ago she flew for a visit to Egypt, where her family first settled after fleeing Somalia. She shed tears of joy when the plane landed. But then something funny happened: Egyptian culture kept rubbing against her American expectations. “The American in me is inside,” she said. “I want good customer service. I want justice.” As she landed back in the U.S. on the return flight, her first thought was “thank God I’m home.” When she hears complaints about the unfairness of American society, it strikes her as odd, given the unfairness and injustice she has witnessed elsewhere. “Why we are a superpower is the justice, equality. It does not exist anywhere. That’s why we do well here,” she said. “It might not be 100 percent, but we have the best on this planet. I don’t care what anyone says.” Source:
  15. A young Somali man at a store in Islamabad | Taveer Shahzad, White Star Laughing and chattering teenagers walk past Somali Specialist, a nondescript hair salon in a nondescript neighbourhood in Islamabad. Their raucous cackle earns them a glaring look from an elderly man walking by. This is ‘Somalistan’ or ‘Somali Street’ in the federal capital’s G-10 sector. The street’s unofficial name has an exotic ring to it. In reality, it is like any other collection of mostly small two-storey houses in this lower middle-class area. Its only distinctive feature is the nationality of its residents — they are all from Somalia, a small country in the Horn of Africa, where a civil war has been going on since the late 1980s. Most of the inhabitants of ‘Somalistan’, are students who have come to Pakistan on valid study visas, and are enrolled in public and private educational institutions in Islamabad. The main reason why they choose to live in this particular street is that it is close to a number of universities and colleges in the city. Many more living here are asylum seekers — mostly young people who have escaped the war back in Somalia and are awaiting relocation to some country in the West. ‘Somali Street’ is a purgatory for them, a transit lounge for further travel to a safe place. It is not home. ‘Somali Street’ is a purgatory for them, a transit lounge for further travel to a safe place. It is not home. After Afghans, Somalis form the largest refugee population in Pakistan. There are 411 registered Somali asylum seekers in Islamabad and Karachi, according to the data collected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A few hundred more are said to be living in Lahore, though their exact number is hard to come by. The role of the Somali Students Union is central in providing these refugees temporary shelter and food, in the same small flats where the students themselves live as tenants. Abdi Fataah, a former general secretary of the union, tells the Herald in a telephone interview that the original purpose of creating this organisation was to facilitate and help Somalis studying in Pakistan. Gradually, as the refugees started pouring in, the Union also became their primary caregiver, offering them all possible help — most crucially giving them information to navigate the refugee registration process and negotiate their presence within a society that they know little about, says Fataah who spent seven years in Islamabad and now lives in the United States. Unless Somali asylum seekers get the Proof of Registrations from the UNHCR, they are not eligible to receive any money from anywhere, even from their relatives living elsewhere in the world. This makes them totally dependent on the help from students, explains Fataah. These refugees usually belong to some minority tribe in Somalia which has been facing persistent hostility and discrimination at the hands of the majority tribe in the deeply-tribal Somali society. Many of them have seen a lot of bloodshed during their young lives. Ahmed Mukhtar emerges from the shadows of multistorey buildings in F-10 Markaz, a commercial neighbourhood in a posh part of Islamabad. He heads straight to a nearby mosque to offer his prayers before heading out for a meeting with journalists. His calm demeanour betrays little of the horrors he has been through. Mukhtar was only 16 when he fled Somalia via Kenya and landed in Pakistan in 1996. Four years before that, Islamic Courts Union – an informal coalition of local clerics who decided disputes within and among clans under the Islamic laws – had started recruiting young men to organise them into a militia, which eventually became Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia. “They came to our house looking for recruits. My father refused to let his sons join the militants. They killed him along with three of my brothers. They also raped my ten-year-old sister and killed her,” says Mukhtar. Having somehow survived this massacre, he decided to run away along with his mother, who was suffering from multiple health problems, and his younger brother. They were lucky to land in Pakistan on valid visas. Somali refugees playing football in a community ground | Tanveer Shahzad, White Star Ahmed Farah, the head of the Somali Forum | Taveer Shahzad White Star A year later, Mukhtar’s brother went back to his native country but was killed there soon afterwards. He also lost his mother in the subsequent years. “Now I have no family at all.” When he had first landed in Pakistan, Mukhtar neither understood the local language nor did he know anyone here. All he could do was to have himself and his family registered with the UNHCR, and find out Somali students living in the city so that he could get some place to stay. Over the years, he has learnt some Urdu and has become quite familiar with Pakistani customs and culture. Yet, he does not know what to do with his life. He cannot attend a college or university because his status as a refugee does not allow him to do that; he cannot do a job because of the same reason. If he ever goes around looking for employment as a labourer, he gets the same response everywhere. “Our own people can’t get jobs. Who will employ a foreigner like you?” Dressed in a neatly ironed kameez over jeans, Ahmed Farah lights up as he talks about his plans to make the most of his stay in Pakistan. As the head of the Somali Forum – an informal network of his compatriots living in Islamabad – he has been at the forefront of many protest demonstrations in front of the local UNHCR office. Farah left the southern part of his native country back in 2008 as a wiry 19-year-old just out of school. Coming from war-wrecked Somalia, Pakistan looked peaceful to him, even when it had, by then, acquired the dubious distinction of being the second-most dangerous country in the world according to some international surveys. The number of Somalis landing in Pakistan spiked in 2001 when another round of violence broke out between the Islamic Courts Union and the Somali government of the time. The numbers have been rising every year since then, mainly because of the proliferation of death and destruction in Somalia in the wake of violence perpetrated by the highly-radicalised extremist members of the Al-Shabaab militia. Somalis living in Pakistan have limited rights mainly because Pakistan has not ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. They are not eligible to take up permanent residence here; they cannot do any business or move around the country freely. Unless they are registered as refugees with UNHCR, their stay in Pakistan remains illegal and could invite immediate repatriation — though so far this has happened in rare cases, if at all. Ahmed Farah working from home | Tanveer Shahzad, White Star The Pakistani government takes no responsibility for arranging boarding, lodging and other amenities, including food and education, for these Somali refugees. Only a few local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work along with UNHCR for their welfare. “Due to my status as a refugee, I was not allowed to join any university when I first came to Pakistan,” says soft-spoken Farah. “So, I started to make space for my studies away from universities.” But then he wrote an article on the Somali education system that brought him to the notice of some Pakistani academics. Thereafter, a private university in Islamabad allowed him to attend classes without having to properly enroll there, and also without having to pay any tuition fee. After he passed his graduation examination, International Islamic University admitted him in its master’s programme, giving him some legal exemptions to pursue his studies and providing him a scholarship. Others are not as fortunate and face much greater hardships while trying to survive in Pakistan. But almost everyone of them accuses the local UNHCR officials of creating hurdles in the way of financial aid and other assistance they deem themselves eligible to receive. They also allege that UNHCR creates unnecessary hurdles in their resettlements. In the last few months alone, Somali refugees have held several protest demonstrations to press for their demands. The office of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in Islamabad is empty after Eid holidays in July this year. A residential building converted into an office, it houses a pharmacy and a medical centre where two doctors provide medical treatment to any ailing refugees. The organisation provides a monthly stipend, health care, primary education and other basic amenities to refugees who are awaiting resettlement. It is part of an alliance of NGOs which have been affiliated with UNHCR since 1998 for providing emergency aid to refugees. Nergis Ameer Khan, a case manager at ICMC, says UNHCR means everything to the refugees since Somali embassy in Islamabad and Pakistani authorities do not want to have anything to do with them. She says her organisation, therefore, understands the struggles and challenges the refugees faces during their stay in Pakistan. Yet there is palpable tension between the Somalis and ICMC. For one, Khan says the refugees develop a dependency syndrome due to the regular financial assistance that they receive from the UNHCR and they refuse to learn any skills which may help their case for resettlement. “At times, they become aggressive,” she says, “especially when their demands for financial assistance get turned down for some reason”. She talks about a Somali woman who used to sit outside the ICMC office in protest for days after she lost the right to receive subsistence allowance due to the fact that her two adult sons were also receiving the assistance. “I told the guards to ignore her,” says Khan. Coming from war-wrecked Somalia, Pakistan looked peaceful to him, even when it had, by then, acquired the dubious distinction of being the second-most dangerous country in the world. She claims that her organisation does not prefer one set of refugees over others. “We try to give equal attention to all the refugees but sometimes they lodge complaints to UNHCR against us, accusing us of mistreating them,” she says and then adds: “These complaints are unwarranted.” Officials at UNHCR say some complaints arise because the refugees want exemptions from certain rules and a speedier processing of their resettlement applications. Many of them insist that their applications be processed under the old rules which allowed whole families, including all those under the age of 21, to be resettled. These rules, however, have been changed after 2012 as authorities in countries like the US realised that mass resettlements were becoming a pull factor for creating more young and adult refugees from places such as Somalia. With the changed rules, a large number of young refugees cannot be resettled elsewhere and have been left stranded in Pakistan. Farah is one such stranded Somali. “My wife has been resettled to the US. I am now waiting for my turn,” he says, uncertain if that will ever happen. He has been leading protests to get the rules changed back to what they were a couple of years ago. Some of his fellow protesters, however, feel that demonstrations are not helpful any longer so they must take some other steps. People such as Mukhtar are now planning a hunger strike in front of the National Press Club in Islamabad. Their objective is straightforward — something must be done to speed up the process of their resettlement. “We are tired of waiting,” says Mukhtar angrily. Source:
  16. When you are in Mogadishu and the television crew you are with asks whether you’d love to go to a wedding, while warning you that weddings here drag on, genders are separated and food takes ages before it’s served; you say a resounding yes, because you are here in search of stories such as these, and if anything, you’d love the whole nine yards. Amira Hotel is a fitting venue for this wedding, with an African ambiance that draws you in, the minute you arrive. The shape of one of the buildings coupled with the bamboo stick exterior as well as the palm trees with ripe fruits hanging, loops me in. We join the groups already milling around and strike conversation. I am asked a few minutes later if I’d like to eat and immediately whisked upstairs where I find plates already arranged and Somali ladies seated patiently. The ladies are elaborately garbed in wedding attendance attire; a kaleidoscope of colourful abayas and hijabs, with lots of jewelry on -gold rings, bangles, necklaces and beautifully decorated hennaed hands. The melange of strong perfume oils give out a heady mix of fragrances in the air. Uniformed waiters surface from the kitchen bearing jugs of fresh lemonade and watermelon juice which they swiftly place on each of the tables. Hardly a minute goes by before they return with platters of rice and macaroni which they serve the guests according to how much each desires to eat. The waiters return to the kitchen and now come out balancing meat platters consisting of grilled chicken and mutton, as well as different salads which they leave at the centre of each table. Everything tastes so good and in a few minutes, plates are cleared and we all troop downstairs to a separate hall where the performers are getting prepared. Somali music comes on and the performers dressed in bright red costumes dance in with their umbrellas. I enjoy their singing and dancing, but the arrival of bride Aniisa, electrifies the atmosphere. She dances in happily just behind her bridesmaids who are adorned in animal print dresses with their long black hair bouncing down to their shoulders in beautiful waves. We all follow the bride to the front of the room and dance with her. Its laughter and merriment, and after the bride and her maids sit down, the lead singer doles out beautiful tunes kicking up the performance a notch higher. The singer cum poet I’m told, is praising the families of the bride and groom, as she goes on for a few hours in rich oral tradition narrating their background and ancestry. The older ladies have so much fun that they often get up, dance to the front and spray the artistes with dollars and Somali shillings to show pleasure with their singing. After sometime, the bride and her entourage walk out to get changed, and get back to the hall with the groom. They are all dressed up in white and march slowly and purposefully under a white sheet held up for them by the bridesmaids and groomsmen. The oral tradition continues with the dance revolving around the concept of village activities; there’s the churning of milk, sifting of maize and pounding of grains. The poet takes the bowl of milk which she hands over to the groom. The groom and bride hold the bowl together and lovingly take sips from it, each helping the other. They are now man and wife in this symbolic act. Congratulations to the bride and groom: Abdinuur and Aniisa. I wish you many years of happily wedded bliss! Source:
  17. Book lovers from around the world gathered in Somaliland’s capital city of Hargeysa early August for the eighth edition of the Hargeysa International Book Fair. From its humble origins, the book fair has grown into the premiere cultural event in the country. This year’s fair on the theme “space” also featured a new partnership, as international organization Women of the World (WOW) partnered with the book fair to incorporate several women-centered panels into the event. Hargeysa Book Fair has evolved into a unique cultural space where visitors sample both classic and contemporary Somali culture—books, music, and artefacts—yet intended primarily for a local audience. The 5,000 capacity main hall at the Guleid Hotel was regularly packed to the rafters with local book lovers queuing up to purchase copies of their favourite books in Somali, English and even French, and listen to some of the authors discuss their experiences and processes. A selection of Somali language books on sale at the Hargeysa International Book Fair.(Nyabola, H. Nanjala)Nigerian writing and writers both made a strong showing at Hargeysa International Book Fair(Nyabola, H. Nanjala) For the people of Hargeysa, the fair represents an opportunity to showcase the best of their culture without the shadow of the conflict that has defined international perceptions of the Horn of Africa for nearly 30 years. The fair represents a moment of defiance against the negative narrative that usually frames stories about the region. Nimo Jirdeh from Oxfam Somalia and Kenyan writer Ciku Kimeria(Nyabola, H. Nanjala) The main attraction for outsiders is the legendary Somali passion for the spoken word. The rockstar welcome given to legendary poets Hadrawi and Hassan Ganay testifies to how highly Somali culture esteems poetry especially. Hadrawi simply turned up and it was enough to bring the large hall to a standstill and then to rapturous applause. It hints at what is perhaps the Book Fair’s greatest success—an ability to reach beyond age, gender or political categories and bring together passionate artists and their admirers for a week of hearty intellectual exchange. Somali poet Hadrawi enjoying poetry presented by one of his successor’s, Hasan Ganay(Nyabola, H. Nanjala) Although the fair is nominally apolitical, with a young population in a country where politics remains fraught and highly contested, political discussions inevitably seep in. Visitors witnessed passionate exchanges about the relationship between Hargeysa and Mogadishu; about the status of women in public and private life; about the role of the writer in defining and propagating an idea of “Somali-ness”. The fair thus creates a controlled space where these difficult conversations can be had. The book fair also featured photography from local and diaspora photographers(Nyabola, H. Nanjala) It would be naïve to suggest that the book fair did not have its problems. There was some complaint amongst local people that the English sessions should have been translated to be more accessible to the local audience, even though it’s unclear how this could be achieved without the massive expense of simultaneous translation. There was also one key demographic visibly absent in the audience – older women or mothers – who perhaps would have benefitted especially from the Oxfam-led discussion on the role of women in peace-building in Somaliland. Traditional Somaliland musicians brought guests to their feet early at the book fair with stirring renditions of classic songs(Nyabola, H. Nanjala) Limitations notwithstanding, the eighth edition of the Hargeysa International Book Fair was a triumphant testament to what passion and courage can do in the face of difficult odds. Ayan Mahamoud and Jama Musa Jama, the festival founders and executive directors, probably had no idea that when they set out to bring a book fair to Hargeysa they would become a vanguard of one of Africa’s most fascinating and complex cultures, bringing it to the world on it’s own terms and despite the Somali Civil war’s momentum of erasure. But that is exactly what they’ve done: true to this year’s book fair theme, they’ve created a space where Somali culture can be celebrated. For many of Hargeysa’s residents, the book fair is also a social space – a chance to interact freely in a city with few dedicated public spaces.(Nyabola, H. Nanjala) Sign up for the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief — the most important and interesting news from across the continent, in your inbox. Source:
  18. an online classifieds platform that provides a marketplace for buyers and sellers to exchange their items has employed over 100 Nigerians within its first 3 months of operation in the country. This was stated at the official launch of the company at a media conference held recently in Protea Hotel ikeja. According to Mr. Babak Tighnavard, Chief Operating Officer Saltside Technologies, Saltside Technologies the parent company of was founded to build leading online marketplaces in underserved markets, creating sustainable value for the community. Saltside started in 2011 with just 4 employees but in 2015 they are now 500 employees in Bangladesh, Ghana, Sri Lanka and now in Nigeria with over 100 employees. Their success story in each market is hinged on doing things locally and employing quality staff.” Mr. Zakaria Hersi informed that part of their success story of doing things locally in each market gave rise to the name ‘’ meaning ‘Everything’ in pidgin language. He further said that Efritin is focused on providing a safer platform for buyers and sellers to meet and exchange their items. Efritin focuses on used items because of the trading culture of Nigerians, the high volume of offline marketplaces and the large economy around unused goods. He added that the team at Efritin places high value on offering a safer platform, which is why all sellers must be physically verified on their platform within 48hours of posting an advert before it goes live. The verification is a one-time process and the ads go live within 4 hours after verification. Mr. Zakaria also said that Efritin has taken into consideration the stress and traffic level for moving from one location to the other and has gone a step further to provide convenience for their customers by offering a delivery service for buyers and sellers who have agreed on a transaction. The Efritin Delivers services have started operations and are delivering items under 3kg within Lagos. Ms. Uche Ajene, the Marketing Manager at further added that Efritin has added value to the lives of Nigerians by creating job opportunities across all demographics and expanding sales channels for many shop owners in popular markets across Nigeria. Efritin does not specify in any particular category – you can buy and sell items in more than 50 different categories. Efritin aims to disrupt how classifieds are done in Nigeria by addressing a key issue of trust in online transactions with their verification process and the tenacious and growing team is well poised to make the number 1 classified site in Nigeria. Source:
  19. Okay, this was during Ramadan. Muslim month of abstinence kinda like the Christian Lent. I knew there’d be basically no eating till sunset. So no surprise that Coffee Time Daily was empty. This is where all the Somali taxi drivers gather to drink tea, usually, and eat goat meat, and argue Somali politics. This day, just one Somali guy in traditional white robes sits fingering his beads and watching a mullah on the TV deliver a sermon. This is on University, east of the Tower by Euclid. Coffee Time Daily is a little corner place usually concealed behind a barricade of yellow and blue and white and red cabs. But right now, I guess everyone’s waiting for evening when you can end the fast for another day. “Even then, most people don’t eat here,” says the lady behind the counter inside. “After prayers, the mosque gives out free food. Why pay for it here?” She’s dressed in flowing, bright-colored Somali-style robes. Name’s Asha. “Or Sara,” she says. She has a face that totally lights up when she laughs. Me, I’m thinking food of the last time I came. Swear it was here that the owner, Mr. Mohammed Ali, had some camel meat in. A rare treat. Tasted like a combo of lamb and buffalo. A little gamey, but good. Had come from Australia, where feral camel herds have roamed since pioneers imported herds to be ships of the desert in Oz’s Empty Heart. Yes. That was great. But right now, things look a little, well, empty right here too. “But we do have what’s called ‘breakfast,’ for eating in the evening after prayers, breaking the fast,” Asha says. “I can heat some up for you.” It’s called “iftar,” and it has lots of little snacks to revive your appetite. The “asariyoquartet” is the four basic ingredients for Somali afternoon (“asariyo”) tea, which is a big deal. Tea, plus at least three of what the French call “amuse-bouches,” mouth-amusers, which says it all. Nafaqo, potato wrapped around hard-boiled eggs and deep-fried So here’s what Asha brings out from the kitchen: a sweet pastry called “bur saliid,” ($1 each) which are like really sweet breads, dunked in the deep fryer. Then “Bajiya,” deep-fried donut-shaped snacks made from black-eyed peas, with onion, garlic, jalapeño pepper, turmeric, coriander, plus a spicy sauce (50 cents each, and worth it. These are totally delicious). Next, “mashmash,” or “bishbishi” (50 cents), which are sweet fried dough disks that make you think of wontons, but sweet, and then a couple of beef sambusas ($1 each). Plus, wow, a scarlet ball of fried dough. “This is ‘nafaqo,’” says Asha. “We just stain it red.” Canjeero also called anjero with chicken dish and sweet and savory breads Turns out “nafaqo” means “food,” or “nutrition.” Like “nafaqo daro” means “malnutrition,” a feared word in Somalia. I can see why they call it “nafaqo,” because it looks filling. It’s basically potato wrapped around a hard-boiled egg, all crumbed and deep-fried. Makes you think of the British Scotch egg. Costs $1 and man it’s filling, and way more peppery than the British cousin. Wow. And so far I must have spent all of six, seven bucks. Guess I should have the traditional hot tea, but it’s so hot outside I go get a can of Brisk lemon tea from the cooler under the TV. Deep fried donuts of black-eyed peas The real wow moment comes when Asha brings out a small pile of Somali canjeero, the round sourdough flatbread. “It’s different from the Ethiopian injera,” says Asha. “That’s huge and thick, and they let it ferment for three days. We eat ours on the first day, straight from the oven. And it’s thin and savory.” And now she brings out a pan of tiny cubes of beef. “This is odka,” she says, “or ‘muqmad.’ It means preserved meat. It is very traditional Somali food.” Turns out this is the beef jerky of the Somali world. Desert nomads could survive on milk from their camels, and meat from this diced, sun-dried beef that could last up to a year without going off. Asha says here they just fry and dice it. There’s no need to dry and preserve it. But it keeps the look, and most important, the flavor of the staple that you can see must have always made the difference between life and death over there, just as jerky often did in the American West back in the day. Dropping the odka, cubes of marinated beef, onto the canjeero But the basic thing for me is this flavor is just totally scrumptious. With the canjeera – which I think I like better than the thick Ethiopian version – it really is a combo to remember. Specially with the banana Asha brings. “Somalis like bananas with everything,” she says. “And we don’t just have your one banana, we have maybe fifty different kinds to choose from, back home.” I ask how much she misses it. “It is so beautiful,” she says, “but crazy people have taken over. Children can’t graduate. There was fighting again today. It is so hard. I have two sisters. I try to talk to my father on the phone, but he is sick. He can’t speak to me anymore.” Coffee Time Daily's odka And suddenly tears sprout from her eyes. She has to turn away to gather herself. I end up taking an $8 plate of rice with two chicken drumsticks back to share with Carla. “Kentucky chicken Somali-style,” says Asha. She’s right. It’s covered in wicked batter, but comes with plenty of basmati rice and veggies, and a hot sauce that could evaporate you in 10 seconds if you took more than a drop. ’Course I would have gone for the goat with basmati rice, or spaghetti chicken steak, or rice with fish, each $8, along with some gringo choices like Philly chicken steak with cheese for $3.99, and chopped beef cheese ($4.99), and falafel sandwich at $2.99, but hey, stack any of these against my new love, the odka? Fuggeddaboutit. Prices: Bur Saliid (sweet pastry), $1; Bajiya (savory snack made from black-eyed peas), 50 cents; beef sambusa, $1; nafaqo (potato wrapped around a hard-boiled egg, $1; rice with goat meat, $8; spaghetti chicken steak, $8; rice with fish, $8; Philly chicken steak, cheese, $3.99; chopped beef cheese ($4.99), chicken salad, $3.99; falafel sandwich, $2.99 Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily Bus: 7, 10 Nearest bus stop: University at Euclid Source:
  20. Since Saudi Arabia lifted an export ban on Somaliland’s livestock in 2009, the breakaway state has seen a boom in the trade of livestock, particularly goats The autonomous region of Somaliland in north-western Somalia, is a long way from being an independent state. But while the country’s politicians wait for a seat at the United Nations, the region has become a modest economic superpower in one commodity – goats. The country’s wealth is livestock, with 90 per cent of export earnings coming from cattle, sheep, and the all-important goat. Last year, Somaliland exported over three million goats, according to the Ministry of National Planning and Development. Almost as an afterthought it shipped around 250,000 cattle as well. Demand in the Middle East, especially during the Hajj, stimulates production by ensuring a ready market for goats, according to Nadhem Mtimet, an agricultural economist at the International Livestock Research Institute. ‘On the supply side, the climatic conditions in Somalia leave producers with few possible alternative activities apart from livestock keeping,’ he says. There is a down side. ‘The negative implications could be in terms of the dependency of the Somaliland economy on livestock production and exports.’ Trade bans could also severely damage the Somaliland economy. During the 1990s and 2000s, Saudi Arabia refused to buy goats from Somaliland due to a Rift Valley Fever outbreak. There’s also an environmental aspect to be mindful of. ‘Overgrazing leading to land [and] environmental degradation could also be considered another negative externality of sheep and goat production,’ adds Mtimet. He also cites severe drought as another risk factor that can cause losses of livestock. ‘Climate change and overgrazing have negative impacts on the availability of feed, which in turn threatens sheep and goat survival.’ This article was published in the August 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine
  21. For me being politically engaged is incredibly important. I come from a country where the majority of the population are below the age of 54, according to the World Bank. With approximately 1.5 million Somalis living abroad - due to the civil war - it is clear that the diaspora play an important role to the country's survival, with remittances paying for education, healthcare, public infrastructure and much more. As a young Somali woman living in the UK, I have a strong sense of responsibility to give back to a community that has already lost so much. It's important that young people are involved with social issues, we now make up overhalf of the world's population. The role of young people has never been more vital. The theme of this year's International Youth Day is 'youth civic engagement' - in other words it's about young people getting involved in politics and social issues - a topic which is close to my heart. I consider myself to be a young person and an active citizen (I'm 23 years old) because I have gone to Africa as a volunteer and I have become involved in a Somali Women's Network here in the UK. Volunteering in Ghana Two summers ago I volunteered for three months in Ghana as part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) scheme, a UK Government funded scheme led by VSO. I worked on the LIFE Project (Local Integration for Empowerment), which encourages people living with disabilities to be involved in their community. People with disabilities in Ghana are often considered spiritually sick. There can be a perception that children are born with disabilities because somebody was jealous of their mother. Some say that the way to get the disability out is through a process of fasting, chaining and denying them of their most basic human rights, as a recent BBC documentary explored. I was shocked that just a six -hour flight away from the UK, someone - probably the same age as me - didn't have basic human rights. I had the opportunity to lead my own project called Story-Telling, which shares the stories of Disabled People's Organisations (DPO) on the radio. One powerful story that really resonated with me was that of an elderly man who was born blind. He explained that for the majority of his life he was hidden away from society and wasn't able to go to school, work or even play with the kids his own age because his family were so ashamed of him. He had to rely on his older brother for daily tasks and if it weren't for the kindness of his brother, he wouldn't be alive today. We found story-telling to be a powerful tool for reducing stigma. Sharing stories is a way to communicate, inspire and motivate people. It is also a way to increase dialogue between contrasting groups. A young man in his mid-twenties from the local community called a radio station to congratulate the DPO for sharing their brave stories. He said that it encouraged him to be more mindful of people living with disabilities. Having this experience gave me a confidence boost and newfound self-belief that I can help change the world in however small a way. Back home - Somali women's groups Somali women are the backbone of Somalia as they are involved in every aspect of our community: economy, family life, healthcare, education and much more. It is so important for Somali women to be united, as they are a symbol of hope in a country torn apart by over 24 years of war. I got involved with the Somali Women's Network here in the UK through my friend and fellow ICS volunteer Ladan Takow. Following her volunteering stint in India she set up the Somali Women's Network to engage young women in a discussion about education, career choices, politics, justice and other important issues. I got involved with the project by talking to the women about the power of active citizenship and encouraging them to be active in their communities. I'm an active citizen Both of these experiences have been really important in my becoming a citizen who is active in shaping her own views and those of her community, as they helped me to learn about different perspectives. Being active is more than just giving back, it's about leaving a footprint behind that can have a HUGE impact and make a significant difference to future generations. I believe that we all have a responsibility for bettering our community so I encourage other young people to find whatever way they can to make a contribution beyond themselves. Waris Mahad is a Sociology graduate from the University of Roehampton. She has worked in many different NGOs on Human Rights, Disability Rights and Gender equality with a particular interest in East Africa (Somalia) and the UK.
  22. [caption id=attachment_1934059" align="alignnone" width="660] Yahya Samatar, refugee claimant from Somalia who swam across the Red River to get to Canada, stands by the river in Winnipeg on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press[/caption] Saturday August 9, 2015 Two Somali refugee claimants crossed the border into Canada the hard way this week — in the Red River. On Wednesday, Yahya Samatar, who was shivering and soaking wet, climbed out of the Red River in Emerson, and into the pickup truck of a Good Samaritan who cranked up the heat, gave him a sweater and called 911. “I didn’t know where to go,” said Samatar, a 32-year-old English-speaking aid worker from Somalia. In an interview with the Free Press Thursday, he said he and a companion were dropped off just south of the Canadian border crossing after midnight Tuesday. “I saw the lights of the port” at Emerson, he said. They were both afraid U.S. border patrols would pick them up and send them back to Somalia, so they headed for the bush. “I crossed the farms and saw the bushes. I went in the bushes and saw the river.” Disoriented and in the dark, they figured the river ran east to west rather than south to north and, if they waded across it, they’d be safe in Canada, he said. His companion entered the river with a backpack containing Samatar’s wallet and phone. He was quickly swept up by the current and carried downstream, he said. “I wasn’t seeing him,” Samatar said. He thought his friend had drowned. “I didn’t hear him calling my name.” By that time, Samatar had already taken three steps into the mighty Red. Realizing it wasn’t a lazy river they could just wade across, he scrambled back up on the bank. “I slept in the bush.” In the morning, he took a chance. “I thought I could cross if I left my trousers and shoes behind.” He learned to swim as a kid growing up in Kismaayo, a port city south of Mogadishu on the Indian Ocean, but he was not prepared for the cold, fast-moving river. After two or three terrifying minutes in the water, Samatar said he swam back to shore and pulled himself out of the river. Shivering and shoeless, wearing nothing but shorts and a T-shirt, he walked into Emerson. “I didn’t know if I’m in Canadian territory,” Samatar said. “I met a guy parking a truck… He was shocked by me when he saw my condition… He was a very nice guy.” He told Samatar he was in Canada, gave him a sweater, put him in the cab of his truck with the heater running full blast and called 911. Paramedics and RCMP arrived. After determining he wasn’t hypothermic, Samatar was arrested, handcuffed, draped in a blanket and taken to the Canada Border Services Agency office nearby. “They gave me food and trousers and a sweatshirt — they gave me what they had.” The refugee claimant was interviewed, photographed, fingerprinted and given an October date for an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing. Then he was released. But with no money, no one to call to pick him up, and nowhere to go, Canada Border Services Agency officials called Welcome Place in Winnipeg to get help for Samatar. Their offices had already closed, so they called Hospitality House Refugee Ministry. It handles private sponsorships of refugees, not refugee claimants, but their settlement manager jumped in her car and drove south to Emerson to get Samatar and put him up at Hospitality House residence in Winnipeg. On Friday, Samatar learned his friend made it out of the river, hitchhiked to Winnipeg and was on his way to Toronto to make a refugee claim there. Hospitality House settlement manager Karin Gordin took him to Welcome Place to fill out paper work for his refugee claim and to check in with the Canada Border Services Agency at The Forks. “They were impressed with his English,” Gordon said. “They told him he might have a future as an interpreter working for them.” Samatar hopes he’s at the end of what has been a year-long survival odyssey. He fled Somalia in August of last year when he became a target because he does aid work with a non-governmental organization and had no one to protect him. “There’s no functioning government,” Samatar said. “As long as your clan has not a lot of power, you’re at risk.” Militia groups and Al Shabaab are active and night-time attacks are common, he said. Samatar said he and his family scraped together US$12,000 to pay smugglers to get him to Ethiopia, then Brazil, and help him make his way by land through Central America to the U.S. border at Matamoros, Mexico. “I took buses and walked in the jungle for one month,” he said. In the U.S., he was apprehended as an illegal alien and spent six months in a detention centre in Texas and another 10 weeks in a centre in Louisiana. After his refugee claim was formally rejected, he was released to await deportation back to Somalia. Desperate to set down roots in some place safe, he headed north. A contact in Minneapolis’s huge Somali community rented a car and drove Samatar and his companion close to the border crossing at Pembina, N.D., he said. In Canada, the kindness of strangers has been a shock to his system, he said. He feels welcome and hopes to make this his home. “I want to upgrade my education and get a job to support my family,” said Samatar, who is married to a journalist who also fled Somalia. She is in Kenya with their baby and their three older children are with Samatar’s mother. “Hopefully, my asylum is accepted, and I can sponsor them.” REFUGEE CLAIMS MADE IN WINNIPEG April 2014 to March 2015: 57 April 1, 2015 until now: 56 Welcome Place is the only agency helping refugee claimants in Manitoba complete their paperwork and file the documents necessary to make a claim to stay in Canada. A refugee claimant has 15 days from the time they arrive in Canada to complete and file complicated paperwork. They usually get a hearing within two to three months. On one day this week, the agency received eight refugee claims — most by Somalis. “There’s a spike in the number of people coming from Africa making refugee claims,” said Ruth Magnuson, chairwoman of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council that runs Welcome Place. “They’re clearly an indication people are making desperate attempts at finding a place to live,” Magnuson said Friday. “It’s not often we get people coming by crossing a river.” Manitoba ports of entry don’t see anywhere near the number of refugee claims that cities such as Vancouver and Toronto do with flights arriving from all over the world, she said. But the Manitoba agency has handled as many refugee claims in the last three months as it handled in the entire previous year. The federal government no longer funds the service but Canada Border Services Agency depends on them to provide it, Magnuson said. “These are the world’s most vulnerable people coming to our doorstep,” she said. “They have a right to a fair hearing in Canada. In order to do that, you have to have the people who will provide them with assistance.” It’s a complicated process and even more so for applicants who struggle with English, she said. Welcome Place is struggling to raise funds to keep providing the service, she said. “We are underfunded and have been for the last couple of years,” said Magnuson. “We feel that this is a vital service and the government depends on us to provide it. We’re squeezed to make it happen,” she said. “Even if a person has to be deported, at least they’ve had a fair, welcoming process in Manitoba.” Source:
  23. A concerned 16-year-old Somali girl has taken to Reddit to share her concerns over a planned family trip to Somalia. The heartbreaking post explains that her father will be taking her and her siblings on a trip to experience their native heritage, but the anonymous poster is concerned about her safety in a country that is "currently in a civil war with a terror group calling the shots." User Throwawayyyyy1738 wrote: "Long story short, in 10 days my dad will be taking my sis and brothers to a country in Africa where 98% of women have suffered from FGM. As a 16 year old who doesn't want their vagina mutilated, I'm sooooooo effing scared." "My mom had it done and I wouldn't be surprised if she ok'd this. My only shining light is that both my parents work in health care so i'm hoping that they see the negatives in doing this. "I haven't asked my parents about this and I'm not sure how to go about it. I don't want them to be offended of me asking if they are against it, but I also don't want to find out if it is in their plans because I don't know what I would do." Hundreds of Reddit users rallied together to offer the teen advice, with one sharing her experience of travelling to Somalia for FGM, but managing to avoid it after her parents disagreed on the issue. Others shared tips and advice for how to get authorities involved without rousing her parents' suspicions. The poster returned to the Reddit thread to update users, confirming that her parents are "super religious" followers of Islam, but further elaborated upon the reasons for her concern. She wrote: "If my parents want something to be done, they would stop at nothing and the law wouldn't deter them. I'm sure they love me, but Somalis have been brainwashed to think that FGM makes a girl pure for her husband. It's sick, but it's the culture." The worried teen also returned to the thread to say she'd spoken to her mother, but still had concerns about the trip. "She told me that we have never visited their home and that my dad so desperately wants to visit relatives he hasn't seen in years. I then casually brought up the fact that many of our relatives support FGM and I asked whether she feared one of my aunts would have me get it done. "She started to say that no woman has the right to do anything to me without their consent and that my dad would never allow it to happen. I pushed on this and asked why and the truth came out. When my mom got it when she was young, her vagina became infected and she only had isopropyl alcohol and anaesthesia. "She explained that her case was more severe, but she has no ill-will towards her mother for making her do it because of how the culture is. I finally asked her why she said it's wasn't a big deal when it came on the news and she said she didn't mean that FGM is not a big deal, but the news is making it a bigger deal than it seems. "She explained that nowadays it only happens in the rural parts of Somalia and so she figured the news was sensationalising it." The teenager hasn't returned to the thread with an update since. In the UK, it is estimated that 23,000 girls under 15 could be at risk of FGM according to the NSPCC. Since June 2013, they have received over 700 contacts about FGM. Plan, a charity whose 'Because I am a Girl' campaign is committed to ended FHM by 2030, reported that more than 130 million girls and woman alive today have undergone FGM. Their chief executive, Tanya Barron, said: ""The growing realisation of the scale of FGM in the UK is a reminder of the need to ensure that we continue to work hard at every level to tackle the problem. "But in doing so, we must remember that FGM is not exclusively a UK problem. It is a global problem – and it needs a global solution. The complex causes of a practice like this are not specific to this country, and so we simply won't end FGM in the UK without it ending across the world." Source:
  24. Watch the interview on Daily Vice Robin Banks is a 20-year-old musician from Toronto’s Driftwood neighborhood around the the North-West Toronto intersection of Jane and Finch, which has been dubbed “Up Top” by the young rapper and his friends. “Jane and Finch is the border,” he explains to me. “The ‘Down Bottom’ is the south side of [that intersection], and we’re up north, ‘Up Top.’” He represents not only his own area but for all Somali citizens, something that has helped his fan base stretch as far as the midwest of the United States. “One place that’s really fucking with me is Minnesota though. I have a big fan base out there.” When asked why he thinks that might be, the lanky rapper shrugs his shoulders and smiles to reveal a signature gap tooth, “I don’t even know to be honest, I guess it’s because there are a lot of Somalian rappers in the world, but I guess I’m that one different Somalian rapper. They feel like I’m putting us all on and everything.” If there’s one thing that Robin Banks is able to do, it’s craft hits. His style is reminiscent of the late Chicago artist Speaker Knockerz, his blend of rapping and singing making almost everything he says anthemic. He’s also the person who created the term “TT right now,” which is short for “too turnt,” a phrase that has been adopted by Drake for an Instagram caption, and is apparently in the process of being copyrighted. “I came up with that one day because I was just turning up at a hotel, and I was just way too turnt and I just kept saying ‘I’m TT,’ and it just caught on.” Considering he only started taking music seriously in June of 2014, Banks's star has risen considerably quickly if YouTube plays and Soundcloud clicks are the metrics on which success is judged. He plans on releasing the mixtape while it’s still warm out, seeing as how his music has a “summertime” feel to it, but the closest he has to a hard date as of right now is “maybe the end of August.” While you wait for it, read our interview with the young artist below. Noisey: Why do you think that it’s now that you, Top 5, and Layla Hendrix are all coming up and are from the Somali community? Robin Banks: Because when I really look at other Somali rappers out here, like in the city, they didn’t make a buzz. We’re dropping things that people want to hear, that party sound. Layla has the trap sound, and she’s a female so for her to be singing and rapping on that trap type of sound, people like to listen to that. K’Naan was more of like a motivational kind of guy, there’s people that would listen to it, but if you’re going to a party or riding downtown with your windows down and you’re smoking, obviously you’re gonna bump something that knocks your bass. The thing is with me, why I think I’m so big, is because I started using some of the Somali terms in my songs and stuff. Like what? Like I have a single called “Entertainment,” and the whole second verse is just, I’m ending all my lines with a Somali term. And then I mainly rap about my Somali homies, like my song Mali is a short term for Somali so I just attached it to the Somali community and they were really feeling me. I’m not trying to sound all cocky and shit, but I feel like the turn up genre, I brought that to Toronto. What do you think it was about your music that made people gravitate towards it? I think it’s just that, knowing where I’m from and how hard we have it, we’re still able to turn up, show people that we still turn up, we still live a regular life even though we’re going through a lot with the cops, all the street stuff and all of that. Did Drake shouting out “TT” help you see more success? Yeah definitely. Do you know how he found out about it? To be honest I can’t even tell you, but the point is he found out about it. What kind of advice do you give to artists? If someone needs help with their music, how do you help them? To be honest, I say that when it comes to the music, it’s not even about if you have talent or not, it’s just about how hard you’re willing to work. That’s what I think, like some people are just gifted with it, and some people worked hard to become who they are. Because obviously not everybody woke up one day and said I’m gonna be a rapper. You need to take in different types of music, too, so I think that’s what will help you to become better at what you want to do. What do your parents think about you wanting to be a rapper? It’s not something they would want me to go for—obviously they want me to be in school and stuff—but they’re supporting me 100 percent. What do you look for in a beat? What’s the type of thing that makes a beat “TT?” It’s all about the bass and the little snares. It’s just everything, the beat has to be something you can ride to, that you can smoke to, that you can party to no matter what mood you’re in and no matter what you’re doing, it’s something that you’ll enjoy listening to. What do you think of Toronto’s music scene as a whole right now? I think it’s good still, there are a lot of artists coming out and dropping a lot of fire. I think it’s good, the more rappers the better right? The more chances of everybody getting noticed and everything because you don’t really hear too many rappers making it out of Toronto. Jane and Finch has a pretty rich musical history, too, right? Do you think growing up where you grew up influenced the music you make somehow? Um, like sometimes I’d watch the old videos and see how like they used to do shows, be on Much Music and stuff like that, that kind of motivates me too because Jane and Finch has a bad history right? So for those guys to be able to go on Much Music, sell out shows and everything, that motivates me you know? No matter where you’re from you can still do what you want to do. What are you trying to do next year? I’m just trying to get rich to be honest, but like I want to live the rapper life you know? I want to wake up, make music, go to sleep in the studio, get up and make music, do shows in front of millions, tour bus, parties, all of that stuff. Slava Pastuk is the Editor of Noisey Canada. Follow him on Twitter. Source:
  25. As part of my daily routine, I read the local daily news clips every morning. I often find more than one article about the Somali community in Minnesota. Though some articles are positive, many frame the community negatively. For example, on Monday, July 13, 2015, there were two articles about the community: one, titled “Minnesota’s Somali-Americans urge new treatment for would-be terrorists,” appeared in the Pioneer Press, and “Study: African immigrants’ economic impact untapped in Minnesota” appeared on ABC Eyewitness News Channel 5. Surprisingly, the article with the term “terrorist” attracted the attention of many fellow Minnesotans, many of whom chose to post negative, un-American, unpatriotic, and clearly racist comments. One commenter asserted, “The only way to deradicalize (Somalis) is to not let them in here.” Another commenter stated, “Send them all back to the craphole from which they originated in Africa. These people are completely alien to Western Society and don’t belong here. They are a violent threat shoved into our midst by those whom (sic) would destroy us all.” And another commenter wrote, “Somalis have learned how to game the system and take advantage of the lefty dim wits in Minneapolis. These guys are no different than any street gang members. Do the crime, do the time.” Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any reasonable comments in response to this article. I have been reading, reviewing, and tracking these negative posts for some time and feel it’s my moral obligation to intervene positively. What my fellow Minnesotans need to know about Somalis: Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the United States. The majority of Somali Americans came to the United States as a result of a civil war and armed conflicts in their home country. Precise population numbers are difficult to determine for this community because many members do not participate in the census due to some historical and cultural barriers. However, community members estimate that there are roughly 120,000 Somalis who call Minnesota their home. Minneapolis has the largest concentration with an estimated community of 50,000 Somalis. The Somali community in Minnesota has a significant political, economic, and cultural presence in the state. According to a study by economist Dr. Bruce Corrie at Concordia University in St. Paul, the Somali population in Minnesota has buying power of $500 million and pays $75 million annually in state and local taxes; moreover, Somalis are “significant players in the housing rental market.” Somalis are well known for their entrepreneurial and hardworking culture as can be seen from their booming and thriving businesses in Minneapolis. With their rising political and economic power, the community has become active in politics. Economically, Somalis have been very effective in owning and operating small-, medium-, and large-sized businesses. The number of Somali professionals — such as professors, engineers, medical doctors, economists, policy analysts, and entrepreneurs — is increasing. In addition, the number of college graduates is at an all-time high. The United States is the land of opportunity and a key destination for those emigrating from other countries. Some communities migrated to the United States long ago, while other communities, including Somalis, are part of the current wave of migration. According to the law of the land, those who came to the United States a century ago and those who arrived a decade ago all have the same rights and responsibilities once they become citizens of the United States. No community or individual can decide who can become a citizen of the United States; that is the job of the Constitution. Thus, Somalis, like any other community, are part and parcel of U.S. society. Somalis are a vibrant, law-obeying, peaceful, civilized, and tax-paying community. They have transformed many neighborhoods, created jobs, increased local and state tax revenues, and spent thousands of volunteer hours for the good of local public causes. Despite many challenges and barriers, this community has assimilated well. They are proud Americans who also take pride in their Somali ethnicity, culture, and background. Somalis are resilient Americans and not terrorists. They are an asset to the state of Minnesota. Abdirashid S. Ahmed of Maplewood currently works for the City of Minneapolis as its East African community specialist. A public policy analyst, he has previously worked with public assistance programs in Ramsey, Hennepin and Dakota Counties. He has also worked with Metropolitan Council and Lutheran Social Services. He has a master’s degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree in human services administration from Metropolitan State University.