By Adam Coulter, Venuza Laveaux, and Kylie Jelly.
The story of Somalia is complex, disheartening and violent. It’s hard to imagine the atrocities occurring there daily. The brutality can seem unreal.
Many in the U.S., including members of the media, tend to think of things in black and white when it comes to foreign conflicts, and the subsequent news stories and conversations about Somalia reflect this way of thinking according to some native Somalis. But to a certain Somali refugee living and studying to be a journalist in this country, the almost 20-year long civil war is never far from her heart and her mind.
“I don’t feel complete. I’m here but part of me is not,” University of Massachusetts student Yasmine Farh said in a recent interview.
She is a refugee now living in America; a land she believes is not doing enough to help and is negatively contributing to the conflict. While describing her life and journey from a worn-torn country, Farh casts new insight into Somalia, including the piracy of shipping vessels in the seas off the coast of Somalia.
“Things have not improved there, actually things have [become] worse,” said Farh. “Because now there is piracy which is basically a group of men who are upset about other nations coming into the seas to dump waste or steal fish.”
In 1991, warlords overthrew a dictatorship and then turned on one another, creating the dangerous crossroads the country now is steeped in.
“Initially the piracy started when Somalis became fed up with the people coming to dump and steal, it’s now turned out to be a business for them,” Farh said. Farh believes that journalists have not asked the pertinent questions and have forgotten the initial causes behind the piracy.
“I’m very much disappointed with the media because I feel they have not been objective and forward with Somali. No one asks the question ‘why does this country not have a [legitimate] government?’”.
Farh and her mother have returned to visit her homeland, dispelling the notion of a destroyed country.
“Somalia is not as bad as the media puts it; there are people there who are living good lives and my mother and I have gone back,” said Farh. Although Farh currently resides in the U.S. and only visits Somalia, her story and her heart live back home.
“The journey of my life is English, but I still feel like a refugee,” she said. Farh’s story traces from Somalia to a “disease infested” Kenya refugee camp, to the United States. “When my family left Somalia, everything was still intact,” she said. “The houses were fine and no chaos.”
Her whole life until that point was then left behind.
“We left all our belongings thinking we’d be going back,” she added. Soon after, the president fled and then chaos erupted. “The capital fell and then all the other little cities,” said Farh. This is when her family made their way to Kenya.
“My experiences in Kenya were not very good because I felt like the U.N. failed us,” she said. The conditions in the camp were bad, rife with disease and little food and shelter.
Before leaving Somalia, the war personally affected her family, more so her mother and younger brothers.
“War was a thrill for me because during it we traveled all over Somalia to places I didn’t know existed – to beautiful waterfalls for example,” she said. But it was not all good. “I have seen blood in the streets, and the not knowing what is going to happen is the worst part.”
One positive thing that has come out of the war for Yasmine Farh is a new and pure motivation.
“I became inspired after reading U.S. articles about people who where just like me. I would say, ‘oh my goodness, they got it wrong,’” she said.
“I know how it feels to have everything you love being taken away from you.”