One woman’s painful story of migration from Africa to Europe

Somalia, as most of us know from the news for the past two decades has experienced every human catastrophe imaginable. Wars, terrorism, diseases, and famine are just among some of the enemies of the Somali people and many who survive these foes, fall victim to equally devastating and humiliating afflictions.

Nowhere are these afflictions more pronounced than for women. Even in privileged societies like North America, where law and order is intact, women not only fall victim to sexual violence and domestic abuse, but at times are victimized twice. So one can imagine the catastrophe which befalls vulnerable groups, most specially women in a war torn society like Somalia that has no such protections in place.

(Note: Not the picture of “Marwo”.)

The phenomenon called “Tahriib” or migration exposes an already very vulnerable group to more dangers, rape often being the weapon of choice. Historically, civil unrest has always been accompanied by sexual violence.

Women are raped along the journey as they flee the conflict or extreme poverty conditions. They are raped once they reach “safety” at a refugee camp. As if that was not enough torture for a soul to endure, some contract deadly diseases like HIV. For the lucky ones who escape the wretched life at camps and end up in lands far beyond their borders, misery is never far too behind.

Below I will do my very best to translate into English one such story of a Somali woman migrant, who recently did an interview with a Somali channel about her tahriib (migration). English is the leading world language. The vast majority of people around the world, who use the internet, can read English. This is only a personal blog with minor viewership, however with the world being interconnected than ever before, it is my hope people will come across this post and have the interest to get a glimpse of a heartbreaking human story, which often goes untold.

When we read about human tragedies it rarely goes beyond headlines like “scores of Africans dead at sea attempting a voyage to Europe”, we never see names, faces, or read their intimate narratives. What were these people like? How was their childhood? What were their fears and their dreams? What made them happy, laugh, or sad?

When the tragedy concerns privileged societies or individuals we get to see the narratives beyond the headlines. They are not just numbers or “scores dead”, but people with names, faces, interests, and loved ones. But when you are both poor and black such a privilege is usually not granted.

Ultimately the weight of the responsibility to document and tell these narratives and make African lives significant on the world stage falls upon Africans themselves. Tahriib or migration of Africans out of Africa is a major area that needs to be spotlighted and documented, but this has been so far neglected.

It is my hope in my limited capabilities at this moment to at least try in this post to give English readers a sense of what it is like for a migrant, who undertakes the dangerous journey to Europe from the Horn of Africa. It will be impossible to capture the hurt, the pain, and the suffering of this woman in simply writing this post, but I’d like more people to at least hear this story outside of those who watched the interview on Somali channel. I will do my best to translate word for word or when I am unable then summarize the narrator and not project my own voice into the story. When I do so I will use brackets.

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The source for this summary is from: Somali Channel episode 10/14/2012. The video can be found here.

The segment is titled: The troubles facing women migrants.

The host of the interview begins with a prayer and welcoming her viewers to the show. In the past several segments, the show has been highlighting stories relating the troubles facing Somali women. The host tells the viewers this particular upcoming story is a story which is the most shocking story she has covered on her show. She mentions how such stories are hidden by victims because of the fear of being treated like pariahs. She admonishes the culture of Somali’s, concerning hiding shocking/painful experiences. She compares this phenomenon to having physical pain, saying if one hides the pain and does not seek treatment; the pain will continue to persist. Then a news clip is shown about 30 migrants from Ethiopia (of Somali descent), who were fleeing to Yemen, but instead were arrested by Somali authorities in the coastal city of Bososso. Recently there has been a spike of migrants from the city of Burco and other areas of Somaliland and Puntland. People are fleeing poverty and drought. The policemen being interviewed has harsh words for any would be migrants, stating they will be arrested and taken to court.

Host: Discusses the economic troubles facing young people in Somalia. No work, no livelihood. Mentions these young people are the very people, who would build the nation as the next generation, but don’t have the environment to facilitate their talents and strengths, and thus they take the dangerous journey of seeking a better life overseas. She further states, most people believe those who make these types of voyages reach their destination safely, but that is not the case and most actually lose their lives, not to mention suffer many human right abuses. (The host seems to be very anti-tahriib. She hammers at the point of the risks far outweighing any potential benefits),

(Will now go straight to the interview. To protect her identity, the host decides to call the interviewee the name “Marwo”, which is a name of endearment. I too will stick to that name. The interviewee is also wearing a niqaab, which is covering everything except the eyes).

Host: Thanks Marwo for being brave and courageous to share her story.

Marwo: Is thankful to be on the program. She was born in Burco, a major city of the breakaway region of Somaliland, and now lives in Manchester, England. It seems she is in legal trouble in England and asks for help from those watching. She further calls on mothers, women, who have suffered to not hide their suffering, but come forward and tell their stories.

Marwo: My suffering is long. For a longtime I have suffered. My suffering is a result of not having a mother, having lost my mother, and not having the love and care of a mother. I have undertaken migration to foreign lands and suffered a lot in those lands.

Host: Where did you come from?

Marwo: My birthplace is the city of Burco and I migrated from Burco. From there I came to the city of Bossoso with my husband. I was pregnant at the time. We took a boat. There were many people on this boat. There was heavy rain, which made the boat tilt from side to side. Many people on the boat were forcefully thrown off the boat. I pray for the families of those who lost their lives.

Host: How were these people thrown off the boat?

Marwo: If the person was overweight, they were told to jump off. If they are unable to jump (because of fear), then a gun was pulled on them. Before we got on the boat, they searched everyone for weapons. (She mentions all the suffering she has witnessed in the experience of being a migrant, which will forever be tattooed on her conscious. Those who are telling people to jump off into the ocean are the traffickers, who solicit money from these migrants with a promise to take them to Europe.)

Host: Tell us more about the boat experience.

Marwo: As many people were being forcefully thrown off, while others were falling off, a pregnant woman gave birth on the boat. What was most shocking and stomach turning to me was the day I saw people, who were Somalis throw their own brethren off the boat…throw off the boat a woman, who is their sister and shares the name Somali with them. The pregnant woman gave birth due to the pain of what she witnessed. They told her to jump or sharks will come for us. (I suppose the reasoning behind this statement is because of the loss of blood, the mother has undergone having given birth). The woman hesitated and couldn’t jump so they took her baby and threw the baby overboard. When her baby was thrown, the mother jumped after the baby. What was most painful to witness was the cruelty people who are brethren inflicted on each other, and their lack of mercy. I pray God guides these people and to those who died, I pray God rests their souls. Then my husband, who I loved most in the world stood up and said to the men this is inhuman and unislamic. When he said this they stabbed him, took all his money and threw him to the ocean. (the Host repeats the story: the baby being thrown overboard, then the mother jumping after the baby, Marwo’s husband protesting the inhuman action of the traffickers and he too being killed.)

Marwo: I was pregnant when I got to Yemen. (She pauses indicating a poignant memory having landed in Yemen. She repeats several times, “the country of Yemen”). In Yemen everyone else ran away from me. As I kept walking, I saw an old man with a donkey who stopped to help me. I didn’t know how to swim. I must have been saved to come ashore. When I reached the shore….. (She pauses and says the tale is too painful to tell. The host urges her to keep narrating). The old man took me, while I was in chaotic state. I kept screaming and repeating the name of my husband. He took me to his home. (The host cuts her off and redirects the conversation towards Marwo being pregnant. She asks her to talk about how she gave birth on the street. But before she does, Marwo says she stayed in the old man’s home for a period of one month then he took her to a camp called Jihiin in Yemen. There is no word if she was abused/sexually assaulted by this man, but I suspect that was highly likely). I went to the camp feeling chaotic and confused, not knowing anyone or having any clan connections. I slept in the camp. A Yemeni man who runs the camp assisted me. To survive, I became part of the people who beg on the streets. It is on the streets I would beg. It was while I was on the street begging that I gave birth. I didn’t know anything about giving birth. It is the God who made me pregnant, who helped facilitate the birth. The people covered me in a blue bag and it was on the street that I gave birth.

Marwo: Radwan Mohamed Seed (she mentions this woman, who was at the camp with her. I am most likely spelling the individual name (s) wrong). I thank you dear sister for the help and kindness you have shown me. You maybe watching this( program) as I am on the air and I thank you sister. I believe you are in Canada or America. This woman had one tent at the camp and she gave me one side of the tent to live after I gave birth. (Marwo discusses how Radwan encouraged her to live with her and to also find a job and not beg on the street. It is not clear if they leave the camp and find a home outside of the camp, but I believe it is the latter. Marwo then leaves the city Radwan lives in, after a while of staying with her and she finds a job. There is no mention of what type of job and the duration of this process. It looks like it was several years and the job most likely was maid work. Marwo finds a baby sitter, while she goes out and works. In the home of the baby sitter, her boy was raped. He was six at the time. The host asks Marwo what she did to the people who raped her child. Marwo says she filed a complaint, but nothing was done. Then other Somalis began to harass her and shame her, because her son was raped and thus she went to another city. The bus she was on with her son was involved in an accident. Her son had a head injury as a result of that accident. At the hospital she was given the option to have blood money for her son’s injuries. It is not clear if this offer came from the bus driver. She didn’t take the money and said tragedies happen outside of human control. She resolved to marry to help herself and her child, because she was poor and had nothing. She says she met a man in the hospital, it is not clear if this man is the bus driver or the owner of the bus. She marries for the sole purpose of having a roof and a safe place for her son. She marries the Arab man for that reason and for a while she lived a good life, however his family didn’t like her).

Host: Did you have children for this man?

Marwo: I gave him two children. Their names are Osama and Muctas (wrong spelling). Unluckily, my two children, he took from me and I would have loved that they come with me to the UK.

Host: The man’s relatives didn’t like you and you had trouble with them, so he took your two children from you. And now all you have left is your first son. How did you and your son manage to leave?

Marwo: (She had help from a Somali woman who assists refugees. Papers were filed with the UN on her behalf and her son. Eventually she left Yemen for Romania. She was happy on the one end of leaving Yemen and on the other end deeply saddened to leave her children behind. When she comes to Romania, she is taken to a camp for refugees. There at the camp she meets another Somali woman, who shames Marwo for her son’s rape. Marwo fights this woman, who was spreading rumors around the camp. Marwo pulls a knife on this woman and the police are called. Only Marwo is arrested and this makes her very angry. She is in a chaotic state and can’t communicate why she is protesting the arrest. She is taken to a psychiatric ward, where she is sedated with drugs. They increase the dose during the times she fails to be sedated. She says her body was lifeless, but her mind was still functioning, when the Romanian doctor raped her.

Marwo: When I was taken to the psychiatric ward, I was evaluated and was not pregnant. When it was discovered I was pregnant, everyone was shocked. I am not blaming the entire United Nations, only the office, which brought me to Romania. They knew what I suffered and how I suffered, but turned a blind eye. It reached a point where officials from this agency sought to kill me and put a pillow over my face to kill me. A Romanian woman, Mama Maryana (who works for that UN agency) told me to have an abortion, because this pregnancy will embarrass the UN. An Arab guy, I thank him so much. I won’t say his name, because I don’t want to reveal his identity and for him to lose his job, this Arab guy from one of the Arab countries told me when I get to the UK I have a case to file a complaint against the UN office. (Eventually she lands in London with her first born son and her daughter from the Romania doctor).

Marwo: I was in London for a short while. I was broken. I didn’t know the language and the people who brought me, having taught me nothing, but just brought me to a home. My son called the authorities on me and said I beat him. My son and new born child were taken from me. He said I was not his mother and didn’t give birth to him. A DNA test was taken and it showed I was his mother. (The host and Marwo discuss the trauma faced by the young boy, his rape, the head injury from the bus accident, having led to him rejecting his mother. There is no question from the host if Marwo did beat her son. Marwo says she loves her son more than anything and asks people to pray for her that her children return to her).

The host: Summarizes the story of Marwo, recalling the details she shared.

Marwo: Mentions the Romanian doctor who raped her has not been charged and the officials/UN agency has put in her personal file that is she is psychotic so that she would never file a case against them and her testimony wouldn’t be taken seriously. (It seems Marwo is listed as psychotic in her files, even the ones she has in her now new residence of Manchester. This led to her children being taken away. This interests me, but the host doesn’t ask her further questions regarding this aspect of her story, ie the legal case against the UN agency, who helped sponsor her to the UN and the Romanian Doctor…. what is being done about the cover-up Instead the host goes on a tirade about the difficulties of tahriib/migration.) Marwo cuts off the host and brings attention to the problems facing Somalis in Yemen, especially new arrivals who came seeking employment. She mentions young Somali men face the greatest difficultly; they are being raped and set on fire by the Yemenis. She signals out a place in Yemen called: Basateen.

Caller: Calls in. He thanks Marwo for telling her painful story. Mentions many people have suffered like this, but are too afraid of shame to come public with their story. The caller seems to be an informed man and is a community activist. The host finally draws attention to the case in Romania and asks the caller what Marwo can do about the case. The caller details what Marwo can do about her case, file a lawsuit and so forth.

Host: Tells the caller about the evaluation papers Marwo has from a doctor in the UK, who has outlined Marwo is not crazy and has no cognitive deficits. (Marwo comes across as very intelligent, compassionate, sincere, and sane). This doctor encourages the state to reinstate the children to their mother. The baby girl was only two months old when she was taken by the authorities. The host asks the caller to speak on this.

Caller: He says this doctor’s paper will be very helpful for Marwo’s case. He explains what she can do with the law and encourages her to fight using the laws in place. (I am not sure if the Somali community and human rights adovcates in England are assisting Marwo. There is no mention of legal help or help of any kind she is getting).

The host opens the floor to more callers, who mainly pray for Marwo. I will end the post here.

It is an ugly fact so many lives have been swallowed up by the world’s seas. How many in the last two decades, we will never know. While those who survived the overwhelming journey, so many suffered like Marwo. Most of their stories will never be known. For me, I am always ambivalent when relating the stories of victims. Even though I am not a journalist and I am simply translating an interview, I don’t wish to define Marwo solely by her suffering and thus making her a case for pity. There is a delicate balance when telling stories and obviously, Marwo is much more than the horrors she has suffered. I don’t know her story beyond this interview, therefore I am limited in what I can relate, but I do feel the need to say this just in case one were to come across this post, I would want them to also remember the importance of not seeing people through one dimension. People are much more than the unfortune fate has dealt them. Regarding tahriib, I would encourage anyone who comes across this post to read the story of Olympian Samia Omar written by Teresa Krug. It is a very personal and beautiful piece by Teresa, who I believe captured that delicate balance of relating a tragedy.

I mourn for all of those who have perished seeking a better life and those still in the struggle.

Are your lens clean?

We all judge. And sometimes those judgements are covered by our own inner foulness we carry. For example. I was in line at a local drug store. This was several years ago and I actually used a bit of that experience to write a little short story, “the train before sunset”. Anyway, the real story was that I had come back from a dinner party and was very dressed up in traditional clothing. There was a man behind me at the line. He looked to be in his twenties. Caucasian and very heavily tattooed. He looked tough and quite scary to me. In my head, I instantly boxed him into a specific category. He stared at me with unwavering intensity that also alarmed me. I immediately assumed he was a Muslim hater and intended me harm. I live in a very not so diverse part of the country, although alhamdullah I have never experienced anything beyond stares and rude comments. Anyways, I left the store in a hurry and the young man existed the store right after me. I was shocked when he called after me, but rather than the profanity that I expected, he smiled, said sorry kindly in that he didn’t want to scare me and complimented me on how beautiful he thought I was. It was also very strange how instantly the mirror in which I saw him was transformed. He no longer respresented a threat, but he looked even boyish. It’s amazing how powerful a smile can be. I’ll stop myself, before I start rambling again. I can go on about many examples about the uncleanness of our lens, but here is a short good story that I found in my old files. Not sure of the source.

“A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning, while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hang the wash outside.

That laundry is not very clean, she said, she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.

Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband:

“Look! She has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.”

The husband said: “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows!”
And so it is with life:

“What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look. Before we give any criticism, it might be a good idea to check our state of mind and ask ourselves if we are ready to see the good rather than to be looking for something in the person we are about to judge.” [Author Unknown]

The secret of happiness


I am a huge fan of author Paulo Coelho. The way he writes stories and even the type of stories he narrates is very similar to the type of stories I grew up listening to. I hope to share some of those stories someday. Stories are perhaps among the top factors that made me who I am today. For example, long before I knew what friendship, loyalty, courage, kindness, or forgiveness meant I learned it from stories or proverbs, which my family is very fond of. I can only hope that I can give that same kind of richness I got in my childhood to my own children one day inshaAllah.

The story below I read on Paulo Coelho’s blog, which has many more beautiful stories. This particular story struck a chord with me, because I have experienced it and seen people I know go through it. One of the major reasons I don’t have a liking for social networks like Facebook is for this reason. In the age of Facebook, what has happened at least in my experience is that we have turned the beautiful experiences of our journeys into projects of picture documenting. In the past, whenever I traveled to some place or had a new experience I had the mindset of being in wonder, appreciation, awe and of thankfulness. I would be in the moment of stillness and peace with just myself and my surroundings. Everything else was far away and I’d really feel the experience that I was going through.
Sure I may have taken a picture or two to capture the moment, but that was never the purpose, goal, or center of the experience.

What I have noticed occur over time has been scary. The experience has become a project to experience for the purpose of documentation. For example, coming across a wonder of nature like a spectacular scene of landscape, before would humble me into silence. I’d be in awe and feel nature. I’d take it all in. The transformation that has happened to me in the age of Facebook is that my camera pops out and I grab the buddy next to me to snap a photo. Everyone else is also snapping away to capture moments, which should be felt in the heart and really experienced in that moment. I was so shocked by this behavior in my last trip that I deleted all my albums on Facebook and decided I won’t be in the crazy business of showing off my experiences to an audience, rather I want that mindset back where I am one with nature again and everything around me is consumed inside of me. It really is a beautiful feeling to have, which I had lost. I am not saying I am against picture taking, I think it is important to capture experiences to relive again one day through pictures. It’s just I don’t like who I have become in the age of sharing moments rather than really experiencing those beautiful moments.

I promise I had planned to just post the story from Paulo Coelho, but once I start writing it’s difficult for me to be brief. This story has an important message, which I try to remind myself often. Life is just moments and one day it will all vanish. We tend to be so caught up and focused about getting things done and on work that we forget to smell the roses as the saying goes.

Here is the story:
Story taken from my book “The Alchemist”, one of the Top 20 Bestselling Books from all times

A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

With considerable patience, the Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.

“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”

The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages. “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

from the book “The Alchemist” http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2012/04/09/alchemis/

Somalia’s greatest love story

Every people have great stories, in which they pass down to future generations. We Somalis are great storytellers. Come to a place of gathering with Somalis, especially the older generation and one will surly hear many stories being told. Somali’s love to tell stories. Poetry plays a central role as a form of expression and unfortunately that role in my opinion is lessening with the younger generation like myself. Although I love listening to the stories and great poems from our elders I am just not well versed in the language at the moment to appreciate the beauty and depth they convey. They get it, while I stay at the surface never reaching the core unless it is explained to me in broken down steps. I searched very hard for these stories and poems translated into English, but to no avail for the most part. One of my favorite stories and poets is the story of Climi and Hodan, a love that never was but has inspired millions and will live on forever with their people. A background of the story and poems by the love stricken Cilmi is provided below (Copied and pasted from Google searches)

“Her name seems to you so simple.
But to me it brings grief and woe.
I shall never give her up, not till the day they tread earth into her grave”
Cilmi Bodheri

Bodheri’s poems were inspired by a tragic and true tale of “forbidden love”. While working in a bakery in the northern port city of Berbera, a young woman of exceptional beauty named Hodhan came in to buy some bread. As she said “good morning” to him, instantly he fell in love with her. He could not sleep; he could not eat or drink. He was struck by her beauty.

In a conservative society, it was forbidden for any man to contact any woman or express his feelings without permission; and besides, he was a mere baker and she was from a richer family of higher social standing.
The tradition would have been for his family to approach her family and formally meet. But this was not possible due to their relative social standing. The descendents of his family are still poor today.

“A proud grace is her body’s greatest splendour.
Yet is she gentle, womanly, soft of skin?
Her (gun’s) dark gloss is likened to blackest ink.
And a careless flicker of her slanted eyes
Begets a light as clear as the white spring moon.
My heart leaps when I see her walking by,
Infinite suppleness in her body’s sway.”

So he composed poetry to confess his love for her. In a traditional and nomadic society, his words broke with taboo and recited by heart by many Somalis today.
He finally got a chance to see her again. He heard that she would be visiting a neighbour. But he never saw Hodhan, he fell asleep and was angry at himself for missing his chance to see her.

“I have heard that other men have stepped forward to claim the girl on whom my mind was set.
Wind, swear to be by the everlasting one that you will carry my words though the air.
Tell her that stone houses and walls would have felt the pain.
Tell her that termite hills would have sprouted green grass if they had but heard these words of mine.”

Courage and stoicism were valued in Somali nomadic culture, not talk openly about love and its afflictions. His clan became worried that he was now at marrying age, but was not interested in anyone other than Hodhan. They brought four beautiful young women to him, and they uncovered the top part of their dresses to show him their breasts, then he was asked to choose one amongst the four girls as his bride. He refused.

“If eyes could capture the splendour that could soothe the heart,
Or human beings could be satisfied by beauty alone.
I have seen already that of Hodhan.
And now, young ladies you have touched once more that wound.
The heart that I have been nursing, you have broken again.
Let God not judge you, cover your chests.”

Bodheri left behind an extraordinary collection of poems of unrequited love, inspirational to this day. Musicians have used his words to create music and dance from Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and surrounding regions.
Later, he became distraught; a “different man” after learning that she was to be married to another man richer than himself and from the same social class as her. He was inconsolable. Hodhan used to cry too when she saw all these poetry and people criticizing her for not going to him.

Hodhan is said to have gone to him one day to see him, but Bodheri was sleeping. Hodhan didn’t want to wake him so she left, upon finding out he had missed Hodhan Bodheri wrote the following:

Sleeping during the day is not a wise idea
Unless I am cursed why did I miss Hodhan

Bodheri was finally persuaded to marry and leave Berbera, but he kept dreaming of Hodhan and talking to his wife as if she was her. Unable to tolerate this, she left him and Bodheri returned to Berbera. He became very emaciated and would not eat or drink. He had lost his mind.

“When the camels come back thirsty, from many nights of grazing in the pasture, they are brought to a halt just short of the well.
While a youth sings trying to keep them calm, but they want to press forward for already they hear the “hoobey! hoobey!” of the watering chant.
I am like that when I hear you say: Hodhan.
It is degrading to yearn for what you cannot have.
Alas! Alas! What disaster has befallen me?”
Cilmi Bodheri died in 1947; his body is buried in a dusty cemetery in Berbera. The tale says that Bodheri died of a broken heart, childless and still in his youth.

One poem I came across on Google:
When the camles come back thirsty,
From many nights of grazing in the Hawd,
They are brought to a halt just short of the well,
While a youth sings, trying to keep them calm.
But they want to press forward, for alrady they hear,
The “hoobay! hoobay!” of the watering-chant.
I am like that when I hear you say “hodan”!
Her name seems to you so simple,
But to me it brings grief and woe,
I shall never give her up,
Not til the day they tread earth into her grave,
Rapt in a deceitful trance,
I thought I was sleeping by her side,
But it was a jinn, not she herself,
A jinn made in the image of her sister.
I tried to catch her by the hand
But the place by my side was empty-
I found I was striving in vain,
For there was no one there.
I tossed from side to side, then suddenly awoke-
I rumpled my bed like a prowling lion,
I attacked the bedclothes and punded them,
As if it were they that had caused my loss.
Like a hero against whom men have combined
I covered my face, all but my defiant eyes.
I was humbled, like a boy who could not save from robbers,
The herd entrusted to his care.
I felt disgraced as a woman does
When the words “I divorce you” are said to her.
It is degrading to yearn for what you cannot have,
Alas Alas, what a disaster has befallen me!

Killing our dreams

The following was found on author Paulo Coelho’s blog.

The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the Good Fight.

The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the Good Fight.

And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.

When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.
We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.

And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons

The train before sunset by Me

For the past two years during the winter season Idil never missed the 6:30 train that takes her home every day. That is the last train before the sun sets. Since her parents have agreed although reluctantly but nonetheless agreed to let her take the subway from school, it was Idil’s routine to never miss the train before sunset. These precautions were taken for safety concerns. Two years have passed since the terrorist attacks in New York and now with the war in Iraq, times were difficult for visible Muslims like Idil, who wore the hijab and long dresses. Although she has never encountered any real danger, only ugly stares and xenophobic taunts, still she felt unsafe being out after dark.

This evening was the first evening she risked missing the train before sunset. Idil lifted up her long skirt and sprinted to the subway station as fast as her long athletic legs could take her. She had exactly five minutes to catch the train before sunset and a half block to go. In two minutes Idil was inside the building and running up the stairs. By four minutes Idil had set foot in her terminal. At 6:30 and on time the sliding doors of the train were shut closed on Idil. She let out a loud exasperated sigh as she watched the train leave without her. Disappointed her painstaking effort fell short, Idil found a bench to sit on to wait for the next train. Once she sat down she carefully looked to her surroundings. To her left she saw three African American men engaged in a conversation. Next to them was a young college aged Asian girl reading a book while listening to her iPod. And next to the Asian girl was a mother with a small child. Idil began to relax. Then Idil looked to her right. Immediately she sensed danger and the beating of her heart accelerated.

He looked young, in his early twenties, was of medium height and athletically built. Idil first noticed his shaved head and solid unflinching hateful expression across his white face. He wore blue jeans and a short sleeved grey t-shirt. Idil could see his heavily tattooed arms and neck from where she sat. He looked like a poster boy for skinheads, she thought. But most unsettling to Idil was his icy cold stare towards her. She could feel how much he hated her. She swallowed hard and prayed under her breath for God’s protection.

More people entered the terminal and took their seats on the empty benches. I should be safe with all these people around, Idil thought to herself. Idil pulled out a book from her bag to keep her nervous mind occupied. Several minutes of her reading passed and she glanced back to her right. The same icy cold stare was on her. Idil exhaled and went back to her reading. I am safe with all these people around, Idil reminded herself once again. Finally the train arrived and Idil walked to the most opposite side from the one who had terrified her.

Idil was not the only one terrified that evening. Abdul too was terrified, but for an entirely different reason. Six weeks ago he had taken the train before sunset and had laid eyes on Idil. Since then he has been unable to think about anything or anyone besides the most beautiful girl in his eyes. He had never in his life seen a sight as beautiful as her. He didn’t know what it was about her, but something inside of him was ignited. Perhaps I have fallen in love, Abdul wonders. Her flawless glowing black skin, her high defined cheekbones, her thin glossed lips, and her innocent eyes haunt him each second. He knows his new religion discourages lusting after a woman and encourages him to lower his gaze, but neither his mind or heart are under his control any longer. Abdul is sure this has to be love. He has never felt such intense feelings before. Each weekday he looks forward to catching the train before sunset so he could see the girl who took his soul. Seeing her brings him immense happiness. And each day he tells himself he will summon up the courage to greet her. But she took away his speech too and all he has been able to do is stare blankly at her.

Abdul watches Idil walk to the other side and he follows her without getting too close lest he frightens her. Muslims confused him for a non-Muslim at best and a skinhead at worst. But tonight felt different to Abdul. The girl of his dreams for the first time held his eye contact, a prayer he had been wishing to come true for over a month. She had finally noticed him and tonight was the night he was going to say as salaam alaikum.

As the doors slide open Idil moves swiftly to find a seat away from everyone else in the nearly empty train. She hopes no one bothers her tonight especially the racist skinhead that terrified her. Once she sits down she opens her book and begins to read. Her destination is twenty minutes away. The train starts to move and Idil gets lost in reading the fascinating story about an unlikely love. Meanwhile 6 seats away, Abdul is lost in her. At the moment he is admiring her devotion to her faith. He finds the way she covers herself incredible beautiful. She moves him and his soul yearns for her.

Ten minutes pass and Abdul has yet to make a move. He becomes restless, fidgeting in his seat and his heart begins to pound harder. He knows in ten more minutes she will get off at her stop and its Friday, which means he won’t see her until Monday. He has an urge to make his way to her, but at the last second convinces himself it’s not the right time as she is focused reading. Once she is unoccupied I will say salaamu alaikum, he tells himself.

Idil closes her book to look up at her surroundings. She is shocked when she sees no one is left on the train except the skinhead. She had been so focused on her reading that she had forgotten the danger she was in. Idil notices his cold stare, holds his gaze for longer then she had intended to and immediately looks away. She doesn’t want him to notice how much he terrifies her as that may encourage any evil actions he has in mind for her. She prays for God’s protection and pulls out her cell phone, ready to dial. In one minute she will be getting off and her brother will be waiting for her on the other side.

Abdul sees that Idil is no longer reading and is preparing to get off the train. She stands up and heads towards the door. This is your shot, Abdul thinks, so he too gets up and heads over to where she is standing.

Idil doesn’t turn to look at him, but she can feel that he is approaching her. She trembles on the inside and curses herself for having not bought pepper spray. Oh God he is going to stab me right here before I get off this train, she thinks. Oh God save me from his evil, she prays. Her hands are shaking as she pulls out her cell phone and presses speed dial number one. She begins to talk loudly to the phone well before her brother answers.

Confused, Abdul halts his step once he sees the girl of his dreams is engaged in an animated conversation. He cannot understand the language she is speaking, but assumes from her gripping expressions that it is an important call he should not interrupt. Seconds later the doors open and she runs out quickly. The doors close and Abdul sits back down frustrated. During the past six weeks he has taken the train only for her sake even though he doesn’t know her name. Tonight was his first real attempt to greet her and he felt like he had failed. When Monday comes I will most certainly greet her, Abdul vows. He gets off the next stop to find a cab to take him home; back in the same direction he had first caught the train.

On Monday before sunset, Abdul is there at the train station waiting for Idil. He had been practicing all weekend in his head what he would say to her. He waits for the train before sunset and when the train arrives Idil is not there. In the past six weeks she had missed the train before sunset only once, maybe tonight will be the same he thinks to himself. Abdul waits for the next train. When she doesn’t show up for the fourth train Abdul decides she wouldn’t be coming tonight. He goes home disappointed. Abdul follows this same routine in the next few days. Idil never shows up. Each day he goes home with a heavy heart. After weeks of going to the train station and waiting for her return Abdul comes to the painful realization she is never coming back. He doesn’t know her name or where to find her in the big city. The source of his happiness had vanished.