The murdering of Minnesota man Abdullahi Anshoor in Mogadishu speaks volume of the danger that awaits Somalis who dare to return. The country is no safer for ordinary citizens then it was nearly 25 years ago when it disintegrated. The heavily arm African Union troops under the auspices of the UN seems to be only source of real security and their full service is largely limited to the political class.
Returns like that of Anshoor to Somalia follow by murder are familiar pattern in the Minnesota Somali community. Many Somalis fled the chaos that engulfed Somalia and spent over two decades living in Minnesota. They work hard to build better lives. They become educated but education alone seems to be insufficient for integration into Minnesota’s economy and political life.
Somalis in Minnesota continue to hold low ranking jobs with little pay despite holding advanced degrees. Anshoor, for instance, held a master’s degree but worked as a coordinator for a property management company. The bi-product of working dead-end jobs in Minnesota and nostalgia for the lost social status they once enjoyed in Somalia compelled most people to return more than any patriotic feelings.
Those who manage to stay safe upon their return to Somalia often stay briefly. Some stay in weeks while others stay in months. Rarely anyone leaves Minnesota and stays Somalia permanently. A key differentiator is the individual's financial situation.
The common theme in the community is that Somalia is no alternative to Minnesota at the basic level. But the insurance of basics in Minnesota ultimately recedes to sense of feeling empty and lack of satisfaction with life in Minnesota. Those emotions pull Somalis back to one of the most dangerous countries despite some advertisement.
This post should not be construed as an advocacy for total prohibition of returning to Somalia. There is always great need for humanitarian workers. Those who pay the ultimate price while engaged in humanitarian work are the real heroes of this community.
Majority of the murdered have been involved the corrupt economy and violent politics of Somalia. This is what the community needs divorce from.
The alternative of engaging Somalia’s economy and politics is to work building a viable community in Minnesota who leans on each other for support. One of the greatest challenges facing the Somali community in Minnesota is how to manage the emotions that are pulling community members to Somalia.
A starting point is for the community to pull its resources together and establish centers for group therapies, where people share stories of survival and resilience.
Some of these have emerged in cyberspace. There are hundreds of virtual chat-rooms enabled by online free conference services. Participants choose topics and a facilitator leads the discussion. Most conversations revolve around fixing Somalia. There needs to be a paradigm shift from one of fixing Somalia to one of building viable community in Minnesota.
These conversations also needed to be eventually moved out of cyberspace. Cyberspace is a double-edge sword. It provides efficient and inexpensive platform but creates illusion of social bond where at times none really exist.
Anshoor’s murder in Mogadishu is not the first and sadly won’t be the last. The list of similar killings is long and includes notables like Sado Ali and many others. It’s time to leave behind the murder and the mayhem that’s Somalia and focus on Minnesota.