In my own words

A tale of escape

Testimony Osman*

An Aquarius volunteer looking to learn about Somalia could not find a better guide than Osman*. Happy to practice his English, he holds forth on the little-known beauty of his home country, known in the West mainly as a hotbed of instability.

“I come from Mogadishu. It’s the capital of Somalia. It’s a beautiful place. There are many resources available, like ivory and charcoal and gas. We have many fish available, and many flowers and trees, and a zoo full of animals.”

“Al-Shaabab spoils everything there. They kill young Somalis like us. But they don’t touch foreigners. You should go!” He sums up the situation in his country with the detached precision of a political analyst, and the naiveté of an eternal optimist. “The Somali people is made up of three major clans with many, many subgroups. They’re fighting among themselves because every Somali wants to be president. But later, they will reach an agreement. Once they reach an agreement, we won’t have problems anymore.”

Osman studied civil engineering in Ethiopia, and dreams of becoming an engineer or a computer science teacher in Somalia— some day, once the country is safe. The threat of al-Shabaab attacks and forcible recruitment was enough to persuade him to head north after his studies ended. “You need to pay to reach the sea.” Osman paid a lot. He spent two months in prison, one in Sudan and one in Libya. Each time, he had to pay $2000 to get out.

“Especially in Libya, there are big problems. They shoot people, they kill them. If you get sick, you die, because there is no medicine. They lock you up in a house, no food, no light, no air. They shut us all up in a house, they look for good-looking girls and they rape them. I saw them with my own eyes rape and murder an Eritrean girl from our group. And if you talk about it, they kill you.”

“The second time, my brother helped me pay the ransom. Instead of freeing me, they said ‘Get in the boat and go.’ I don’t know where I’m going. The only thing I know is that my brother helped me get out of there, and it’s my turn to help him now.”


*Name changed

Interview: Ruby Pratka
Photo: Isabelle Serro