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How a Somali-born girl became a referee of men’s football in England – the remarkable story of Jawahir Roble

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Many people might believe their battle for respect in life is hard enough already without also trying to become a referee.

It is a thought not lost on Jawahir Roble. “Who would ever think a black, Somali-born immigrant girl with eight siblings could ref a men’s game in England with a hijab on?” she asks with a gentle shake of the head while reflecting on a remarkable personal journey.

Known as Jawahir Jewels, or JJ to her friends, the 23-year-old is sitting with Standard Sport at Wembley ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia as a guest of the Football Association, just a few weeks after winning the Match Official gong at the organisation’s 2017 Respect Awards. Eleven winners were chosen from more than 1,000 nominations, with JJ recognised for her volunteering work at education charity Football Beyond Borders (FFB) and Middlesex FA, coaching FFB’s first ever women’s team and reaching her Level Six referee qualification.

“I want to keep going with it and one day I could be refereeing here,” she says, casting an envious eye across the luscious Wembley turf. “Imagine! That would be a dream.

“To get recognised at this level it empowers all of us at grassroots level.

“There are not many people I can look up to. Of course, I can look up to Mark Clattenburg but that’s a high level. There’s nobody at grassroots like me. Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation needs to rise but with the support of the FA that is happening.”

Jawahir Roble talks to James Olley at Wembley Photo: Nigel Howard & Acirc

Scepticism of her chosen path began at primary school age and extremely close to home in north-west London. “My parents were not so keen on my involvement in football at first because they thought I was embarrassing them,” said JJ. “In my culture, you wouldn’t see many girls interested in football. But I always knew. It really started when my brother was five years old, I’d nominate myself to take him across London.

“Every Saturday and Sunday I would take him on the bus, train whatever it took. My parents accepted it as they wouldn’t then have to get up at the weekends. We’d be out for hours and come home muddy, hungry and everyone would ask if I was tired but I would just say ‘this is beautiful’. People wanted me to do something ‘girly’ but I knew this was the real deal for me.

“I was so into playing. Teachers were like ‘JJ, you aren’t getting the work done’. Early in the morning, lunchtimes, after school, Saturday and Sundays in the park without any kit just playing in our skirts. I’d do kick-ups and the boys would ask, ‘How are you running in your skirt?’ Don’t you get hot in your hijab?’ I’m like, ‘Nah, its calm.’”

‘In my culture, you wouldn’t see many girls interested in football. But I knew this was the real deal for me’
Jawahir

It becomes clear from just 20 minutes in her company that this boundless enthusiasm is at the root of her deep determination and desire, rather than any sense of inequality or injustice. Refereeing was a by-product of redirecting that energy once it became clear a playing career was unlikely.

JJ started officiating in 2012 after reluctantly agreeing to take charge of a Capital Girls League game at short notice. While also coaching and volunteering with a range of young age groups, she took a refereeing course through Middlesex FA and gradually progressed through the ranks.

“Most people either become players or if that doesn’t happen, they figure that’s the end,” she said. “Yet there are so many roles you can have in football and refereeing is one of them. I’m still coaching, volunteering and managing, too.”

But has she found it difficult to be accepted as a referee, particularly in the often unforgiving environs of amateur London football? “When I’m doing a men’s game, they probably watch the news and there are some sick-heads but almost all of them are actually supportive,” she replies. “As soon as I blow the whistle, all of the rubbish that happens in the world literally doesn’t count during that 90 minutes. Sport should be an escape. My parents give me their full support now.”

Standing just over five feet tall, the physical mismatch with some players would be daunting for many but, again, typically as it turns out, JJ takes it in her stride. “I get in the middle of it. I’m like, ‘Excuse me guys, we’re not here to fight – this is a nice game, don’t ruin it.’”

JJ currently earns around £35 per game – £20-£25 if officiating as a referee’s assistant – and could take charge of as many as five games a week. Ultimately, she wants to referee in the Women’s Super League.

“I can’t wait until I get to the top,” she said. “It is a long journey but I am going to give it my best and hopefully make my dream a reality.

“I am getting more recognition now and that’s big because I see myself as a role model. I want to help more girls get into the game. They don’t have to be footballers but there is so much else to achieve. Impossible is nothing.”

She is proving just that.

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Diaspora

Group of Walmart employees allege discrimination at Fargo store

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FARGO — Several local Walmart employees are speaking out about alleged discrimination they say they’ve suffered at their jobs, including an unfair reduction in hours and prejudicial harassment by a manager.

However, a company spokesperson said an internal investigation didn’t find any evidence of discrimination at a Fargo store, 4731 13th Ave. S.

Several employees spoke during the Fargo Human Relations Commission meeting Thursday, Feb. 15, and Chairwoman Rachel Hoffman said a total of about a dozen employees who were born in Somalia or Kenya attended the meeting.

One woman, translated by Commissioner Abdiwali Sharif-Abdinasir, said she was accused by a manager of not doing her job, when in reality she was speaking Somali to a customer who requested her help finding things she wanted around the store.

Halima Abubakar, also translated by Sharif-Abdinasir, said she’s had her hours reduced. When she’s tried to talk about it with the store manager, her concerns were brushed off or ignored. She said she’s struggled with bills and supporting her family as a result.
Walmart spokeswoman Tara Aston told The Forum that the company takes these claims “very seriously,” which is why it has already investigated the complaints about the manager at the Fargo store.

“We’ve done a thorough investigation, and we cannot find any sort of evidence that corroborates these claims,” she said Friday, Feb. 16.

The Human Relations Commission didn’t take formal action at Thursday’s meeting, and the human rights group doesn’t have enforcement authority in these matters, Hoffman said.

Instead, she said commissioners agreed to help connect employees with agencies that could take formal discrimination complaints and possibly investigate the matter, such as North Dakota’s Department of Labor and Human Rights or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sharif-Abdinasir said he plans to meet Monday, Feb. 19, with several employees to help them write down their complaints and figure out next steps.

Hoffman said the large turnout at Thursday’s meeting suggests the situation needs to be examined.

“I would just say that the amount of women who came forward with these allegations, it should definitely be reported and investigated,” she said. “If that many are speaking out now with the fear of retaliation, you don’t know how widespread it could be until it’s looked into.”

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Minnesota

Minnesota terror case shows challenge of predicting attacks

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After Tnuza Jamal Hassan was stopped from flying to Afghanistan last September, she allegedly told FBI agents that she wanted to join al-Qaida and marry a fighter, and that she might even wear a suicide belt.

She also said she was angry at U.S. military actions overseas and admitted that she tried to encourage others to “join the jihad in fighting,” but she said she had no intention of carrying out an attack on U.S. soil, according to prosecutors. Despite her alleged admissions, she was allowed to go free.

Four months later, the 19-year-old was arrested for allegedly setting small fires on her former college campus in St. Paul in what prosecutors say was a self-proclaimed act of jihad. No one was hurt by the Jan. 17 fires at St. Catherine University, but her case raises questions about why she wasn’t arrested after speaking to the agents months earlier and shows the difficulty the authorities face in identifying real threats.

“She confessed to wanting to join al-Qaida and took action to do it by traveling overseas. Unless there are other circumstances that I’m not aware of, I would have expected that she would’ve been arrested,” said Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI agent and Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisor who now works for a private security firm, the Soufan Group, and isn’t involved in Hassan’s case. “I think she would’ve met the elements of a crime.”

Authorities aren’t talking about the case and it’s not clear how closely Hassan was monitored before the fires, if at all. When asked if law enforcement should have intervened earlier, FBI spokesman Jeff Van Nest and U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tasha Zerna both said they couldn’t discuss the case.

Counterterrorism experts, though, say it seems she wasn’t watched closely after the FBI interview, as she disappeared for days before the fires. But the public record in a case doesn’t always reveal what agents and prosecutors were doing behind the scenes.
Authorities are often second-guessed when someone on their radar carries out a violent act. Some cases, including Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people, reveal missed signs of trouble. The FBI has admitted it made a mistake by failing to investigate a warning last month that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, could be plotting an attack.

U.S. officials were also warned about Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years before his 2013 attack, though a review found it was impossible to know if anything could’ve been done differently to prevent it. And the FBI extensively investigated Omar Mateen, the gunman in the June 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. As part of an internal audit, then-FBI Director James Comey reviewed the case and determined it was handled well.

Hassan, who was born in the U.S., has pleaded not guilty to federal counts of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida, lying to the FBI and arson. She also faces a state arson charge. One fire was set in a dormitory that has a day care where 33 children were present.

Although her attempts to set fires largely failed, Hassan told investigators she had expected the buildings to burn down and “she hoped people would get killed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter said in court. He added that she was “self-radicalized” and became more stringent in her beliefs and focused on jihad.

Hassan’s attorney, Robert Sicoli, declined to talk about whether the family saw warnings. Her mother and sister declined to speak to The Associated Press.

According to prosecutors, Hassan tried to travel to Afghanistan on Sept. 19, making it as far as Dubai, United Arab Emirates, before she was stopped because she lacked a visa.

Prosecutors say that when the agents interviewed Hassan on Sept. 22, she admitted she tried to join al-Qaida, saying she thought she’d probably get married, but not fight. When pressed, she allegedly told investigators she guessed she would carry out a suicide bombing if she had to do it but she wouldn’t do anything in the U.S. because she didn’t know whom to target.

Hassan admitted that she wrote a letter to her roommates in March encouraging the women to “join the jihad in fighting,” prosecutors allege. The letter was initially reported to campus security, and it’s unclear when it was given to the FBI or if the agency made contact with Hassan before the September interview.

It’s also unknown how closely U.S. authorities were monitoring Hassan between the interview and Dec. 29, when she was barred from traveling to Ethiopia with her mother. Prosecutors say at the time, Hassan had her sister’s identification and her luggage contained a coat and boots, which she wouldn’t have needed in Ethiopia’s warm climate.

Hassan later ran away from home and her family reported her missing Jan. 10. Her whereabouts were unknown until the Jan. 17 fires.

Ron Hosko, a retired assistant director of the FBI’s criminal division who has no link to Hassan’s case, said that based on an AP reporter’s description of it, “I would certainly look at this person, not knowing more, as somebody who would be of interest to the FBI.” However he cautioned that the public doesn’t know the extent of the agency’s efforts to monitor Hassan, including whether she was under surveillance, what sort of background investigation was done and how agents might have assessed her capacity to follow through on a threat. He also said the FBI might have made decisions based on her mental capacity.

“Not every subject requires 24/7 FBI surveillance,” he said. The reality is that hard decisions on resources are being made constantly, with the biggest perceived threats receiving the most attention.

“I’m sure there are plenty of days where they hope they are right and they are keeping their fingers crossed,” he added.

Stephen Vladeck, professor of law at the University of Texas, said monitoring possible threats is a delicate balance, and law enforcement can’t trample civil rights while trying to prevent violence.

“This is a circle that can’t be squared,” he said. “We are never going to keep tabs on every single person who might one day pose a threat.”

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LONDON: Crowd pickets Wormwood Scrubs demanding justice following death of inmate

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GET WEST LONDON — More than two weeks on from the fatal stabbing of a young man in his Wormwood Scrubs prison cell a large crowd gathered outside the Shepherd’s Bush institution to protest.

Khader Ahmed Sahel, 25, was of Somali origin and his sudden death on January 31 has shocked and angered a tight knit community who believe it could have been prevented.

On Thursday (February 15) Khader’s mother, Amima Duleah, and his older brother, Said Yusuf, both from Northolt, Ealing, were among those to picket the prison’s gates in Du Cane Road, demanding justice.

Following his death Khader’s 20-year-old wife Salma has been left to bring up their two-year-old son, Ahmed, alone.

Speaking to getwestlondon Mr Yusuf, 29, described the last time he visited his brother in prison, he said: “His state was a bit bad, you could see the violence from his body – he’d been in fights inside

“He was mentioning that there was no safety inside and that there was neglect from the guards.

“He was scared inside the prison – for his life.”

He added: “We want justice for him and we would like for this prison to either be closed or to be fixed so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

The protest was organised by Somali campaigning group Gaashaan, which has set up a petition asking the Ministry of Justice to combat the issue of violence in prisons and reassess the safety of inmates in institutions across the country.

Speaking to getwestlondon, Gaashaan leader Sahel Ali said: “We are coming together to protest against the brutal stabbing of an inmate of Somali ethnic background, Khader Sahel.

“Khader was 25 years old, he was at the beginning of his life, he left behind a family and a child.”
Salma Hassan, has been widowed aged 20 after her husband was fatally stabbed in Wormwood Scrubs prison on January 31 (Image: Salma Hassan)

He added: “There is nothing wrong with locking up people who commit crimes or break the law of the land but what we are unhappy, angry about and against is that people’s safety inside jails has been compromised.

“And this happened a month after a report was published highlighting a surge in prison violence – that is what people are angry about today.”

A prison inspection in December revealed a high surge in violence on top of chronic staff shortages and lack of food at Wormwood Scrubs.

Following the report Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said it painted “an extremely concerning picture.”

Wormwood Scrubs inmates Ahmed Khayre, 21, Enton Marku, 20, and Khalif Dibbassey, 21, all appeared at the Old Bailey charged with Mr Saleh’s murder on Tuesday (February 6).

The Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC, remanded all three defendants in custody.

Dutch national Mr Khayre, of HMP Belmarsh, British national Mr Marku, of HMP Wandsworth, and French national Mr Dibbassey, of HMP High Down, will return to court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on April 24.

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