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“We have that Somalinimo- The best of both Worlds’: In conversation with British Somali voters




There has been a Somali community in Britain since 1914, when men were recruited under the British empire to fight in WW1.

Between the 1940s and 1960s, “seamen” returned to work on British docks before a mass exodus of Somalis took place between the 80s and early 2000s due to the Somali Civil War.

Today, Britain boasts the second largest Somali diaspora community in the world: as of 2015, around 110,000 Somalis were living in the UK. The British-Somali community have traditionally given their votes to the Labour party, but political apathy is a huge problem. Prior to 2015, many community members voiced Labour sentiments but failed to turn up to polling stations to vote. As a result, two years ago during the general election, task-forces were set up in Bristol.

I interviewed Hanad Darwish of the Somali Conservatives, Abdul-Rahman Mohamed of the Somali Youth for Labour and Nimco Ali of the Women’s Equality Party to find out why they are campaigning for their respective parties during the upcoming general election.

Hanad Darwish – Somali Conservatives

“In the Somali community we have this innate sense of a collective everything. All Somalis vote the same way.”

I meet Hanad Darwish at Russell Square station and head over to the park for our interview. Darwish is a member of the Somali Conservatives, a group whose aim is to increase Somali representation in the Conservative party. I sit down with him not knowing what to expect.

Hanad tells me that he initially joined the Labour Party “as a joke” in his teens since it was “the only visible party” in his hometown of Birmingham. He knew that his uncle – a staunch Conservative – hated the Labour party, and just wanted to “piss him off”. Hanad later joined the Conservative party around 2011 – adopting his uncle’s disdain for those campaigning on the left.

“At home, you have your dad and uncles around and they only discuss politics. On my mum’s side of the family . . . that’s where I was more connected to politics back home.”

A Somali, and a Birmingham lad –with two generations of Conservatism present in his family – is almost unheard of with the British Somali community. A glimpse into Hanad’s childhood showcases a politically engaged household where discussions with his father “opened him up to a wider view of society and the world”.

Is Conservatism aligned with Somali culture? The answer, in some senses, is yes since many Somali families place considerable emphasis on working hard, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and “making it”. Hanad deems Jeremy Corbyn’s policies incompatible with Somali interests, and unable to attract lucrative investment and business to the UK.

“You have a lot of Somalis who own small businesses and know a lot about these policies… Somalis are very enterprising, entrepreneurial… it’s like you go out there and get what you want.”

On the EU, Hanad (a Brexiteer) admonishes the EU as “one of the most disgusting bureaucratic systems in existence” and “the only economic block in the world that’s been in constant decline”.

There’s a case to be made however about the importance of political education in schools. We talk about Generation Y, or “millennials” – born between 1980-2000 – and why the majority of this group distrust politicians. Hanad is well-versed in politics and thanks his A-Level Politics teacher for encouraging his interest after his first trip to parliament; something he valued, and would like all students to have the opportunity to engage with.

Abdul-Rahman Mohamed – Somali Youth for Labour

I meet Abdul-Rahman, chairman of the Somali Youth for Labour in leafy Chiswick, West London. Hanad Darwish and Abdul-Rahman are not only the same age but both had a similar path into politics at a young age:

“My journey into politics really started in 2013 during my final year of A-Levels. My teacher was very proactive and she took us to debates and to the Houses of Parliament. It took 16 years of my life to learn a bit about British politics.”

Abdul comes from the other side: from a family who have always voted Labour and a local Somali community, around Acton and Ealing that also have voted the same way. He however, accepts elements of conservatism in his upbringing and the idea of “being dependent on yourself, the individual.” He maintains that his community will still overwhelmingly vote Labour because Labour politics impacts the community in a positive way.

I wanted to know what it means to be Labour, Black, British, Muslim and Somali. Abdul-Rahman told me:

“I think being British and Somali is really appreciating both identities at the same time. We’ve grown up here but at the same time we have that Somalinimo – the best of both worlds.”

He maintains that our community is here to stay and needs to “contribute to British society” and raise its voice.

Abdul was also a Remain voter in the EU referendum and proudly calls himself a European despite receiving negative comments from some and being called “brainwashed” or a “coconut”. Infrastructure is a big issue for him as he compares the progress of the U.K which still looks like the 1960s to him, to the development of other countries in Europe. Abdul spoke about the social housing in countries such as Scandinavia, where income doesn’t define whether you have a decent, liveable home. In contrast, Abdul felt that capital cities were witnessing a rise in great homes for high earners and declining quality for low income families.

Abdul is a fan of Blair’s Labour – as is Hanad – but not so sure about Corbyn. Both abhor the Iraq war; it’s the reason why Abdul says he could never call himself a Blairite. He is certain however, about the policies outlined in the current Labour manifesto, such as nationalising water companies and taxation of high earners. Again, these are policies he believes benefits both him, his wider community, and are policies that present a resistance to the seven years of austerity the UK has faced.

Nimco Ali – The Women’s Equality Party

“I’d never been a member of any political party until I joined the Women’s Equality Party. I was basically the first of 11 people around a kitchen table when this idea came about with Catherine Mayer, who is the co-founder.”

Nimco Ali is a household name in the U.K for her groundbreaking campaigning against female genital mutilation (FGM) and gender-based violence. She is now running as an MP for the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) in the North London constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green. The WEP formed out of an entrenched disillusionment with major parties to commit to issues such as equal pay, equal representation and child-care in party policy.

Nimco’s journey into politics had a powerful beginning: she tells me that was “politicised by seeing the war in Somaliland”. Nimco recalls how aged six her awoowo (grandfather) was arrested for standing against Siad Barre – a crime which could have resulted in death back then. This experience of injustice made Nimco “realise how powerful politics is”.

This feels like an incredibly compelling trajectory into politics,and I ask the obvious question: why not stand for women’s issues with a major political party? Nimco’s answer is scathing and frank. On the Conservatives, Nimco states that she despises policies that make women “fill in all these pages to prove that they’ve been raped”– referring to the child tax credit “rape clause”, a policy she says she could never support. On Labour, Corbyn is the epitome of “entitled lefty politics that comes with a very toxic misogyny” and the Lib-Dems “believe that prostitution is work; that women’s bodies are there to be sold”.

Nimco aligns herself neither with the left or right but admits that her party’s politics are more on the left-libertarian side of the spectrum. Nimco points out that the policies on gender outlined in the latest Conservative manifesto were, on the surface, very similar to those present in the WEP’s manifesto. Nimco says she welcomes this, as the WEP released their manifesto a week before the other political parties in a bid to have their policies adopted.

The U.K has seen a growing populist trend, against the establishment, which has allowed more parties to become a part of the political dialogue.
The same is true on a microscopic level for the Somali community, where generational shifts in voting are taking place and people are voting differently. Do I think the Somali community will start voting for the Conservatives or WEP in droves this election? No, but I am proud of how the Somali community is lending their political voice during these elections.

This could perhaps even be a marker of identities being developed outside of the 2D prism of being a “Somali Muslim” – but also being a woman, disabled, a student etc. Difference has encouraged more of us to get active, speak and debate policies that we care about – which I embrace as a positive step for our community.


Spy poisoning: How could the UK retaliate against Russia?



BBC — UK Prime Minister Theresa May is braced to take “extensive measures” against Russia should it not offer a credible explanation of how an ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned on British soil with a military-grade nerve agent.

“Should there be no credible response,” Mrs May told parliament, “we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”.

But what could the UK actually do – both on its own, and with the help of allies? And how likely are the US, EU and others to be on board?

Direct action

Britain could expel Russian diplomats, as it did after the poisoning of former Russian Federal Security Service operative Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 with radioactive polonium.
But many argue that this, and the other measures that were taken after that killing – including visa restrictions on Russian officials – did not go far enough. The man identified as the main suspect, Andrei Lugovoi, is not just at large, he is now a Russian MP.

So what else could the UK do?

  • Expel senior diplomats, perhaps even the Russian ambassador, and known Russian intelligence agents
  • Take some sort of action to bar wealthy Russian oligarchs from accessing their mansions and other luxuries in London, as suggested by Tory MP and House of Commons foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat. One way this could happen is through the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders, which allow government officials to seize assets including property until they have been properly accounted for
  • A boycott of the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year by officials and dignitaries – a symbolic move that UK allies are unlikely to emulate
  • Taking Russian broadcasters such as RT (formerly Russia Today) off the air – broadcasting regulator Ofcom has said it will “consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licences” after Mrs May speaks on Wednesday.
  • Pass a British version of the 2012 US Magnitsky act, which punishes Russians involved in corruption and human rights violations with asset freezes and travel bans. It is named after a Russian lawyer who died in custody after revealing alleged fraud by state officials. MPs have been pushing for a Magnitsky amendment to be added to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill now going through Parliament

More EU sanctions?

Current sanctions on Russia that Britain supports are imposed via the European Union. They were first passed after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and backed rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine. Some 150 individuals and 38 companies have been targeted with visa bans and asset freezes.

EU countries are already divided on the sanctions, with diverging views among members states as to how Russia should be treated. States like Hungary, Italy and Greece have all supported the weakening of sanctions.

Some doubt whether Britain could convince the bloc to further toughen its measures against Moscow, especially with the UK on its way out of the Union.

Could Nato act?
By framing the poisoning as a possible “unlawful use of force” by Russia against the UK, Theresa May prompted questions as to whether this could be a matter for Nato, the military alliance of 29 countries.

The alliance’s policy of collective defence – under Article 5 – states that an attack on any one ally is seen as an attack on all.

It was invoked for the first and only time by the United States after the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Lord Ricketts, a former UK national security adviser, told the BBC that such an “unlawful act” warranted the involvement of Nato.

Any action “will be much more effective if there can be a broader, Nato-EU solidarity behind us”, he said.

But Downing Street has played down suggestions that this is an Article 5 matter.

For its part, Nato has called the attack “horrendous and completely unacceptable”. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the incident was of “great concern” to the alliance, which has moved in recent years to deter Russia by sending troops to Poland and the three Baltic states.

Lord Ricketts suggested one option involving Nato could be a reinforcement of resources on the group’s eastern flank.

Are UK’s allies showing support?
The UK could also seek to bring the issue to the UN – and seek to gather international support for action against Russia.

Theresa May has already spoken to France’s President Macron and the two leaders “agreed that it would be important to continue to act in concert with allies”, according to Downing Street. Although Mrs May has not yet spoken to President Trump about the case – there have been “conversations at a senior official level”.

The UK has already internationalised the matter by asking Russia to provide a “full and complete disclosure” of the Novichok nerve agent programme to an international agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Indeed, the magnitude of the response that may be announced on Wednesday will depend on the scale of international co-operation that Mrs May can secure, says BBC Diplomatic Correspondent James Landale.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called the attack an “outrage” and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went further, saying the attack “clearly came from Russia”. President Donald Trump himself has not spoken out.

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Royal welcome and noisy protests await Saudi crown prince on UK trip



LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s grand welcome for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will begin on Wednesday with a lunch with Queen Elizabeth, as the two countries seek to widen longstanding defence ties into a far-reaching partnership.

Both sense an opportunity to broaden their existing relationship: Britain is looking for trading partners as it exits the European Union, and Saudi Arabia needs to convince sceptical investors about its domestic reforms.

But as Prince Mohammed and Prime Minister Theresa May meet, demonstrators will protest both countries’ roles in Yemen where war has killed an estimated 10,000 people and where 8.3 million people depend on food aid and 400,000 children have life-threatening levels of malnutrition.

Inside May’s Downing Street offices the two leaders will launch a “UK-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council” – an initiative to encourage Saudi Arabia’s economic reforms and foster more cooperation on issues such as education and culture, as well as defence and security.

“It will usher in a new era of bilateral relations, focused on a partnership that delivers wide-ranging benefits for both of us,” May’s spokesman told reporters.

Britain is vying to land the stock market listing of state oil firm Saudi Aramco, but no decision is expected this week.

Later this month Prince Mohammed visits the United States, which also wants the lucrative listing, although sources said both countries may miss out.

British officials were privately delighted at the decision by Prince Mohammed, 32, to choose Britain as the major western destination on his first foreign trip since becoming heir to the Saudi throne last year.

The British government is keen to transform its historic defence relationship into two-way trade and investment, eyeing both an expanded market in Saudi Arabia for service sector exports, and attracting Saudi cash to finance domestic projects.

Business deals are possible with British defence group BAE Systems and European weapons maker MBDA, and initial agreements could be concluded on gas exploration, petrochemicals and other industries, according to British and Saudi sources.


The three-day visit will include two audiences with the British Royal family, a briefing with national security officials, and a prestigious visit to the prime minister’s country residence.

May intends to use the private dinner at Chequers, a 16th-century manor house 40 miles (60 km) northwest of London, to bring up concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, her spokesman said.

A Saudi-led military coalition is fighting the Houthi movement in Yemen, generating what the United Nation said in January was the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Demonstrators drive a van with a large protest poster on it during a protest against the visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in central London, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

“You can expect them to discuss Yemen, and the prime minister to raise deep concerns at the humanitarian situation,” May’s spokesman said. “She will also reiterate how seriously we take allegations of violations against international humanitarian law.”

Speaking to reporters in London on Monday, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said his country had failed to effectively communicate the reasons behind its involvement in Yemen, but that they had not chosen to start the war.

Protestors are planning to target the Saudi officials over Yemen and other human rights issues, and Britain for licensing 4.6 billion pounds of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

Buses have spent two days touring London with banners accusing Prince Mohammed of war crimes, with more planned for Wednesday ahead of the main rally.

“It is vital that people show up to the protest tomorrow outside Downing Street to make clear that the UK government’s complicity in the war on Yemen is not supported by the public and that we demand a peaceful and humane foreign policy,” said Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition.

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LONDON: Man ‘deliberately drove’ at Somali woman days after Parsons Green terror attack, court hears



THE TELEGRAPH — A man deliberately tried to kill a Muslim woman by driving his car into her, just days after the Parsons Green terror attack, a court has heard.

Paul Moore is accused of targeting Zaynab Hussein because of the colour of her skin and the fact she was wearing a hijab, five days after the attempted attack in London last September.

The 21-year-old allegedly drove his Volkswagen Up! into Ms Hussein – a Somali national – after spotting her in a Leicester street shortly after 8am on September 20. Witnesses claimed he was laughing at the time.

Just moments later he is accused driving the same vehicle at a 12-year-old schoolgirl, a short distance away in an attempt to cause her serious harm.

The jury was told how Ms Hussein, a Somali national, was struck once and subsequently driven over again moments later during the incident which took place in Leicester.

A jury of seven men and five women at Nottingham Crown Court were told Mr Moore had tried to kill Ms Hussein “purely because of the colour of her skin” and her “perceived Islamic faith”.

The prosecution said four other people were in the car with Moore during the incident and they had begged him to let them out afterwards.

Opening the case against Mr Moore, prosecutor Jonathan Straw said: “(Moore) carefully and deliberately, in an act of calculated evil, aligned his wheels so the front and back wheels were over her (Ms Hussein).

“He did not know her. He tried to kill her purely because of the colour of her skin and because of her perceived Islamic faith as she was wearing a hijab.

“It is no coincidence, we say, that there had been a bomb at Parsons Green Tube station in London, said to have been carried out by sympathisers of Islamic State.”

Mr Straw said it was only thanks to members of the public and medical professionals that Ms Hussein’s life was saved.

He continued: “She had received severe fractures to her pelvis, her spine, and one of the bones in her leg was broken.

“Having deliberately, we say, tried to kill Zaynab Hussein, the defendant then drove at a second victim – a 12-year-old schoolgirl.

“He did not hit her, he brushed her, but it is only by the grace of God and nothing more that she was saved.”

Mr Straw said Moore intended to offer no defence, adding: “It may well be he has no defence. He admits he was the driver.”

In a recorded interview played to the court, Reece Bishop, a passenger in the car at the time of the alleged attack on Ms Hussein, told police: “He was just driving like a maniac. I thought we were going to be dead. He said ‘I feel like running someone over. Anyone.’

“It all happened so fast. He turned the steering wheel and he just hits her out of the blue.”

On the recorded interview with police, Mr Bishop said Moore was laughing as he drove at Ms Hussein.

Mr Moore denies attempted murder, causing grievous bodily harm with intent and dangerous driving.

The trial continues.

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