Somali Refugee Miraculously Escapes to Kenya after Surviving More Than Two Decades of Mayhem
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
An International Journalism Intern, Working through Cross-Continental Solutions, Recently Traveled to East Africa and Reports Shocking Experiences from Somali War Refugee.
Cross-Continental Solutions recently sent a journalism intern Maren Soendergaard to Africa to report on some of the harrowing tales experienced by Somali war refugees. The Cross-Continental intern abroad program coordinators arranged interviews between the intern and Ubah Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia. Her story illustrates the harsh reality experienced by those unfortunate people of that region.
Her face, the only uncovered part of her body, lights up when her phone rings. She answers in Somali, her mother tongue. Her eyes are kind, her persona enigmatic, but in reality, Ubah Mohamed carries an immense psychological burden. She had been held at gunpoint, kidnapped and forced into slavery, only to barely escape by a miracle, according to Ubah, that could only have come from God.
She was born in Somalia, a country that has been plagued by decades of insecurity, famine, and chronic poverty. Al-Shabaab, the Islamic military group that controls part of Southern Somalia, has a history of ruthlessly murdering and torturing their own people. Born in the capital, Mogadishu, Ubah has been living under inhuman conditions since she was five years old.
"I suffered from the bombs, because the bombs injured my psychology, injured my head, injured my feelings and emotions. If I hear a loud sound, it still affects me," says Ubah. She has lost much of her family, and has no information about the welfare of the ones still remaining in Somalia. The 36-year-old refugee escaped to Kenya in 2008 by what seems like nothing short of a miracle.
"Peace, peace, peace, and rest," says Ubah is the reason why she attempted to escape to Kenya. Her brother and sister had fled several years before, and this gave Ubah hope that there was freedom to be found. However, this was not a decision to be taken lightly, as rape, suicide attacks and roadside bombs are just a few of the many dangers that await travelers on the roads in Somalia.
In 2008, Ubah arranged to escape by car with 22 other Somalis and an experienced driver who was acquainted with the roads off the beaten path and other alternative routes to avoid potential hazards. During their journey however, the driver made the mistake of assisting some stranded Somalis, assuming they were also refugees, only to discover they were Somali rebels. They were held at gunpoint and forced to drive to a military camp. At the camp, they were forced into slavery, attending to the needs of the rebels.
After an unbearable ten days in the camp, the group decided to attempt escape. They planned a date and time to meet at the car they had used to get to the camp. Miraculously, the rebels had left the keys in the car. Despite being pursued by the rebels who had quickly discovered their disappearance, they managed to get far enough away to abandon the car and scatter. After running for what seemed like an eternity, Ubah was able to flag down another car a few miles down the road. She was transported across the border into Kenya where she found refuge at the Kakuma Camp located in Turkana, Northern Kenya.
In 2011, Ubah relocated to Likoni, south of Mombasa in Kenya. She now lives with her brother and sister in the small town. "I still fear and am skeptical," says Ubah when considering a return to her homeland in Somalia, "I never want to go back".
Her hands shake, as she attempts to write her name on a crumbled piece of paper. She succeeds after a few failed attempts. "I know how to write because I am in school now," she says. Ubah never attended school in Somalia. She is now learning Swahili and will start studying English soon.
In August 2012, the first Somali parliament in more than 20 years was sworn in, but the country still suffers from conflict and insecurity.
According to U.N. figures for March 2013 at least 2.1 million Somalis are displaced.