A conversation with Aden Hassan Tarah from Somalia, who happened to be reassigned to the ‘Land of the Free,’ just before Donald Trump was elected president.
By: DAAF BORREN
Ever since ‘the Donald’ tries to hermetically seal the borders of the United States (US) and increasingly points out refugees as culprits, life has become more and more difficult for migrants living in a country, historically built by migrants. One of the seven ‘Muslim countries’ (a slightly painful and incorrect description of these countries), targeted by the newly elected president’s travel ban, is Somalia. The home country of Aden Tarah, who happened to be reassigned to Atlanta, just before Trump’s election. “Life is though in the US,” Aden assures me.
I first spoke with Aden in November last year, when he was a resident of Dadaab, world’s largest refugee camp, situated at the Kenyan border with Somalia. This is what happened then:
Back in 2016, the Kenyan government threatened to unplug the camp and made plans to send the estimated 200.000 – mostly Somali – refugees back to their war thorn homes. According to Kenyan officials, the camp formed a threat to national security, as it was pointed out as a refuge for fighters of Al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization. For many years, Kenya’s Dadaab has been home to hundreds of thousands of refugees, who fled their homeland in search for safety, stability and food. Due to the fact that the camp recently celebrated its 25th annual anniversary, many youngsters have never set foot outside the ‘refugee city’, calling Dadaab their home.
In order to further understand and substantiate the differing stories heard and read about Dadaab, The Bright Continent (TBC) spoke with Aden Hassan Tarah, who, at that time, was a prolonged inhabitant of the camp. In our extensive conversations, he repeatedly underlined the distressing situation in Dadaab, where Kenyan police officers continuously intimidate and mistreat refugees. Even further, Aden spoke about excessive violence, rape and murder, leaving Somali’s with no choice but to return to their anarchic homeland. Eventually, while tens of thousands of Somalis were already deported, back to war thorn and ‘famine affected’ Somalia, a Kenyan higher court declared the closure of the camp as unlawful and against international law.
“Many Americans seem suspicious and increasingly perceive me as a direct threat to their security.”
During these turbulent times, which affected the lives of many, Aden sounded combatable and determined, inexhaustibly trying to draw attention to a humanitarian disaster in the making. When we hung up, we decided to keep in touch, in order to be on top of developments concerning Dadaab. After an estimated two weeks, we received an email from Aden wherein he surprisingly mentioned he was in Atlanta, Georgia (USA). As if he won the lottery, he explained that he was awarded a scholarship to study in the United States. Many young refugees in Dadaab are enrolled on lists concerning scholarships abroad. Like others, Aden enrolled many years ago, wishfully awaiting to become ‘the chosen one’. He appeared to be lucky and a few days after his ‘election’ he was put on a plane to ‘The Land of the Free.’
All of this happened, right before the American presidential elections, scheduled on the 8th of November last year. Like many others, it felt like as he woke up in a nightmare November 9th, when he found himself in xenophobic and isolationist Trumpland. Soon after his inauguration the 20th of January this year, ‘the Donald’ started his efforts to impose a travel ban on seven so-called ‘Muslim countries’. Aside from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Yemen, Somalia was also put on the ‘terrorism-list’ of America’s newly elected president. Immediately I checked-in with Aden. Although he did not have to worry about retroactive deportation, I was wondering how the repeatedly failed travel bans of Trump might affect his daily life in Atlanta.
“I’m doing great, thank you”, were his first words after picking-up the phone. “Taking into account the circumstances” Aden directly added to his first, encouraging message. He was still very closely connected to his family and friends in Kenya’s Dadaab, and worried about the deteriorating situation in the camp. Without asking he continued by emphasizing how Trump’s foreign policy creates unrest, not only in Dadaab, but also in the Somali community of Atlanta. “Despite the fact that justice prevailed in both Kenya and the United States, Trump’s controversial travel ban stirs up social unrest and consequently results in uncertainty among refugees and migrants in the US.”
The uncertainty about how his environment responds to a president who indirectly contributes to islamophobic hatred, makes life tough, Aden continues. “Life is difficult in Atlanta, as I am completely on my own, without the support of family or friends. Normally in complex situations, like now, we highly depend on our community (clan) based system.” Further, he explains how Trump’s travel and migration policies affect his daily life. “I am struggling to cope, and since Donald Trump’s approach of Somalia as a terrorist-state, it has become increasingly difficult to integrate and become a part of Atlanta’s community. American citizens seem suspicious and increasingly perceive me as a direct threat to their security.”
“Parents are unable to find work, while children are continuously confronted with their backgrounds in a destructive manner.”
When I ask him whether he misses his life in Dadaab, he firmly states that the situation in Atlanta is much better. “In general, life is less stressful in the US, which can be especially attributed to the relatively safe and stable situation, together with better basic facilities. However, mentally, life is considerably more though here. I am extremely lonely, miss my family, and any forms of help or social assistance are hard to find.” Aden seems sure; people in Atlanta are affected by the relatively unexperienced president. “In particular, young displaced families, originating from one of the seven appointed countries, are encountering obstacles. Parents are unable to find work, while children are continuously confronted with their backgrounds in a destructive manner.”
While our conversation comes to an end, Aden firmly emphasizes that he is determined to successfully integrate and graduate from college in the United States. “I am grateful for the opportunity I am given, but when I graduate, I sincerely hope Somalia has become significantly more stable and secure, which enables me to return home and serve the needs of my country and fellow citizens.”
[First signs of slight optimism are noticeable in Somalia at the moment, since the little ‘democratic’ progress the country has made by electing Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as their president several months ago.]