By Nur Hassan.
Mogadishu is my home and my love. But I don’t think I can live there again. People think Somalia is becoming safer but for the people living there, my family, friends and other journalists, it has never been more dangerous.
A recent attack on the city by Al Shabaab – their second that month – goes to show how fragile the city’s peace is. It’s why, when I get up each morning in my makeshift home in Nairobi, Kenya, my dream of rebuilding a life in Mogadishu grows ever weaker.
I was born in a small town just outside the capital in 1988. I was always fascinated with journalists, and looked up to the people who stood against instability and dictatorship during Siad Barre’s brutal reign. In 2006, when I started my career for a local radio in Mogadishu (aged 18) the Islamic courts Union had not yet taken over control from the warlords and there were no government killings of journalists. Warlords and clan militias ruled the streets, and the only deaths came at the hands of petty criminals.
Now the city is very different. Siad Barre may have gone but Mogadishu is still a city under siege, and its young, weak government is losing the fight to keep Al Shabaab at bay. I never thought Mogadishu would be such a horrible place for journalists but in 2007 seven of my friends and colleagues were slain.
To this day the bloodshed continues – last year 18 journalists were gunned down in Somalia whilst at the time of writing, Liban Abdullahi Farah became the fifth Somali journalist to die young. In all, 22 local and foreign media professionals have met their end in my country.
My own exodus happened when Al Shabaab started making death threats against me. They called constantly and told my parents that I should stop working or be shot. I wanted to stay and speak out against these murderers but my parents convinced me to flee the country – at least for a while.
That was in 2009. Now I live in hostels and houses in a heavily Somali-populated part of Nairobi called Eastleigh – It is a neighborhood that attracted many Somali refugees who see it as little Mogadishu. I am one of many who stay in Eastleigh as a refugee due to the increasing insecurity against journalists.
When the Islamists had been driven out of the capital in 2011, the city got a taste of peace but it remains a grave and deadly place for journalists, and me especially. Before I had to flee, I had played a major role in a project that brought together different musicians and artists from countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, Kenya, Britain and the US. They came together to promote peace in the whole country. It was the first ever international music show held in my city for more than two decades.
Naturally the music concert was seen as a challenge against the radical group Al Shabab, since we were promoting peace. They would have tried to stop us but they could not as the concerts were done under a certain degree of stealth. People in Mogadishu were used to hearing bullets, heavy machine guns and mortars but for one night we changed this and instead filled it with the sound of music. It was a great honor for me to be part of that project even though the Islamists gave me a death sentence for my role.
After the peace concert, the extremists started to repeatedly call me, threatening that they would kill me one day. It is appalling and heartbreaking to live in a city that is the only home you have but the government cannot secure ones safety. This month of Ramadan more than ten people were slain in the city whilst a series of explosions occurred killing many and seriously injuring more.
Back in 2011 I returned to Mogadishu after hearing it was getting back to normal. I decided to restart my journalistic career but found things were not quite as I had expected. Assassinations against journalists became constant in a year which became the deadliest ever for journalists. Once again I found myself on the run for my own safety.
Although there is a non-transitional government inside Mogadishu (for the first time in more than twenty years) nothing has been done about the safety and the security of the media workers and journalists who are still killed or harmed every month – In my view, to live in Mogadishu as a journalist is a suicidal choice at this time.
Al Shabab has been fighting for a long time to topple the UN and western backed government but it now seems to be losing the battle. They lost key strategic towns including the port city Kismayo and the central strategic town Beledweyne. They are defeated militarily now but they are still active and more dangerous than ever as they can bomb government buildings and UN compounds with relative ease.
Mu’awiye Ahmed Mudey, a photographer and journalist at Hatuf Radio in Mogadishu believes that it is not yet peaceful enough to work as a journalist. He himself survived an assassination attempt that killed five of his colleagues at Radio Shabelle. He lives, works and sleeps at the radio station which is guarded by security staff but he’s afraid to go outside.
Despite all advice, and the threats that I still constantly receive from extremists I have decided to form a company that helps foreigners, aid workers and journalists who want to visit Mogadishu. It is my hope that these professionals can play a part in bringing real change to Somalia.
Through my networks inside the country I’ve already hosted more than fifteen international journalists and photographers this year alone while some other guests are due to visit soon. My company name ‘Danwadaag’ means ‘mutual interest’ in English and we are the first ever tour company willing and able to show you the country as it really is.
Mogadishu is my home and my love. But as a journalist, I don’t think I can live there again. However, if you want to go let us show you the real Somalia.
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