People seldom motivate girls to go to school or be educated
In Sahra Jaamac’s home country, girls marry at a very young age – her younger sister got married at 16. But this fall, Sahra is headed back to Brandeis University to start her sophomore year studying Neuroscience.
A former student of the Abaarso School that was founded by an ex-hedge-fund analyst to prepare kids in Somaliland to study in the US, Sahra shared her story with us.
Tell me about your background.
I’m from a town near Hargeisa called Gabilay. My family is very large as I have seven half-siblings from my father and six siblings from both my parents. My oldest sister is married and has five children and my younger sister is also married (she is 18 now but got married at 16). I’m not married because of education. I’m pretty lucky though because my family gave me the choice. Both my parents are not educated, they didn’t go to school. My dad knows Arabic because he studied the Quran but that’s it. He was the one who motivated me to go to school. When I was young my mom didn’t want me to go to school, not because she didn’t want me to be educated but at that time it was a bad thing to send your daughter to school. She was just following the norms. My dad convinced her and that’s how I went to school. Even when I didn’t know Abaarso, I still had hopes to go to college. My goal was to do very very well in school to go to college outside of Somaliland.
How did you end up at Abaarso? Did any of your siblings go to college?
I had to take the 8th-grade national examination, those who fail do not go to high school. Basically, the exam determines if you are qualified for high school or not. I had the best scores in all of Somaliland, it was the first time a girl was a number one student. I wanted to go to a boarding school that was much better known than Abaarso at the time but in the ended up selected to Abaarso.
I am the first of my family to leave the country and study. My older half-brother went to college but dropped out so as of now I am the only one of my siblings who is going to college. I am hoping that two of my younger siblings will go to Abaarso. I have to consider the financial situation though. There are people that are much worse off than us so I want to make sure that the people who really need a scholarship are able to get it and I will help my sisters as much as I can.
When did you first come to the Unites States? What surprised you the most when you came here?
I went to the US before I went to Brandeis. During senior year of high school thanks to an Abaarso program, I went to an all-girls school in Virginia called Chatham Hall and I applied to college from there.
As to what I found most surprising, I’d say: using forks. Honestly, before I came to the US I used a fork once when I got into the program when there was an event for students going to the US. In fancy hotels in Somaliland, they have forks but I never practiced how to use it, because it requires skill. I always ate with my hands, no one uses forks. I would go to a formal dinner and everyone would be quiet and I would try to use the fork and it would fall on my plate and make a very loud noise. People who were eating with me couldn’t believe I didn’t know how to use a fork. It was so embarrassing but at the same time so shocking.
You mentioned your sister got married very young. Is that very common in Somaliland?
Yes, it is very common. The reason is that no one motivates girls to go to school or be educated even if they have the option to, still, no one is going to bother. If you are a girl who grew up in a family where her mom is not educated and neither are her friends, their biggest goal is getting married. It’s the only thing they can aspire to in my society. When you grow up in an environment like that, it affects you. It is easy to drop out because no one sees girls going to school as an important thing. For boys, it’s something that they have to do. Parents will always insist that boys go to school and they will make sure they attend every class. For example, if one day your family needs help at home to take care of a kid or clean it’s ok for the girl to stay home and miss class and the family won’t see it as a big deal but for the boy he’s not allowed to skip class, even if he wants to. They think that for the boy it will damage his future.
What would you say to girls back home? What did Abaarso teach you?
Believe in yourself. Whatever you do, do it for YOU. As a young girl, I wanted to be educated although I grew up in a society in which women are not educated. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to stand out and to do something girls hadn’t done before. Most of the time, men misuse religion so that women can be oppressed. Sometimes when I argue with men or point out my opinion they will say I am a bad Muslim. It doesn’t change what I believe and the relationship I have with God.
To be honest, girls who went to Abaarso are so lucky, including myself. We learned so much there, we could compete with boys and can always determine our future. I have so many friends who have gone through so much to get educated, it’s unbelievable. I am lucky I was born in a family who believed it was important to respect their children’s choice.
Group of Walmart employees allege discrimination at Fargo store
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.”
Minnesota terror case shows challenge of predicting attacks
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.”
LONDON: Crowd pickets Wormwood Scrubs demanding justice following death of inmate
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.