A personal story of surviving war in Somalia
By Saciido Shaie, Engage Minnesota
As a young girl full of hope, I lost that hope the day I left my country of birth, Somalia. I want to share how I came to the US and left Somalia without my choice.
I remember leaving my home not looking back, not knowing what was going on. The only thing I knew was that something awful was happening and that people were dying, yet I didn’t know why. I was very scared, confused and did not know what to do.
As my family and I left with my aunt’s car, my eyes were glued to the window. I watched the people on the street. I saw injured people crying for help on the sidewalk, yet no one was helping, everyone was running. But one thing that I can’t ever forget was, as I was watching people on the sidewalk, running, carrying backpacks, and carrying their babies on their back, walking without shoes, there was a child maybe one-year-old sucking his dead mother’s breast. This made me cry for many days. I remember looking at the baby, and telling my mother to stop the car so that I can help the baby. I remember how devastated and shocked I felt. I still remember the red shirt he was wearing.
You see, it is not easy to forget such incident, how can I when I still see the sand and the dust all over his little face and the tears and the horror on his face. How can I forget the cry and the scene as if I am rewinding an old horror movie? But make no mistake, as it was, and still is a reality of my past that hunts me down up until now. I wish someone heard me when I called my mother asking her to stop the car and didn’t.
“Mom, please stop the car,” I keep repeating the same cry, and I thought maybe my mother didn’t hear me at all. Then again, I said, “mom, the baby, please let’s help him.”
And this time, I was shouting out loud thinking that maybe my mother didn’t hear me the first time. But the noise of the gunshots was so close, that it was impossible for us to stop the car, and this baby’s situation was so real to me that I still remember that moment. At one point, I remember opening the window of the car, and the smell of the gun was so powerful that I thought the tires of our car were burning.
A woman was screaming in the street: “laa hawla wa laa quwwata illa Billaah!” (There is neither progress nor might except through Allāh)
Every time that I think about the war and my motherland, this incident is so alive that I often wonder what happened to the baby. I always wonder if he is alive or did someone save him, and is he healthy, educated and all grown up.
As a result, we were forced to flee for our safety, and that is how we ended up coming to the United States of America. My brother living in Atlanta, Georgia sponsored my mother, three sisters and I. The process to come to the US was a very long and took us approximately nine months.
You see, now there are many Somalis that live in America, and there are many services that cater to their needs. Some social services and systems help them adjust to this new way of life. There are other Somalis who have been here longer, who also help the newcomers get settled in. Some social workers assist with the nitty gritty detailed of becoming an American. But, when I came, none of these security blankets existed, which meant that we were pretty much on our own. My brothers and sisters are very educated now.
Regardless, as you are aware the American melting pot was in the works since the immigrants began to arrive on the shores of America and today is not different. Every year new immigrants come to America to assimilate and become part of their new homeland with their new distinct beliefs and culture. For my family and me coming to the shores of America, the land of opportunity was one of the best things that happened to my family.
Now that I am in America, I introduce myself as an American Muslim Woman. My life story is an example of the many stories of immigrant families who are part of the American Dream, which many seek and wish to attain.
Like my sisters, I worked hard and wanted to contribute to America. I wanted to give back and help people as others helped me.
Currently, I live in Minneapolis, MN. I am an active member of the Somali and the East African community here in the Twin Cities and abroad. I have been a community advocate, organizer, leader, public speaker and a trusted member of the community for decades.
I co-founded the Somali Youth Action of Minnesota, which is now called Ummah Project Inc. Ummah Project Inc is a nonprofit organization that is established to improve the life of Somali youth in Minnesota.
I sit on various Councils, Boards, and Advisors. For Instance, I serve on the steering committee for the Parent Leadership for Child Safety and Permanency with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and PCAMN. I have been appointed by Governor Dayton to serve on the MN Juvenile Justice Advisory Council as the first Somali/Muslim women to ever serve on this council. I am also a member of the Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commissioner, as well as a Member of the cultural, ethnic communities’ leadership council.
Lastly, on June 10th 2015, I have been appointed to serve on the coalition for juvenile justice known as CJJ’s National Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Committee. Technically, I am the Midwestern regional pointed member for CJJ’s committee. Looking back, though, I think the fact that we had to fend for ourselves and make a home in a foreign land, which is now our homeland, made us stronger as individuals, family and as a community.
Saciido Shaie is the Executive Director of Ummah Project. Saciido has been a community leader and political activist for the last ten years, and recipient of the 2006 National Community Award. She sits on the steering committee for the Parent Leadership for Child Safety and Permanency with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and PCAMN. She is also a member of the Minnesota Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee appointed by the Minnesota Governor; a member of the Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission; and a member of the Cultural Ethnic Communities Leadership Council. A graduate of Metropolitan State University with a Degree in Social Science and Urban Education. She also has an Associate degree in Islamic Studies. She is currently seeking to complete her Masters in Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.
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