Category Archives: Somalia

Sixth edition of LLF starts Feb 24

So what does LLF stand for? Maybe your are thinking of of a Festival. You are right. One of the ‘L’s must be from literature. You are right for the second time. But what about the second ‘L’?

The other ‘L’ stands for Lahore, the capital city of Pakistan. Two writers from African descent, Ben Okri and Nadifa Mohamed, will be present at the LLF.  The word is spreading and you will find more here


Britain’s clampdown on FGM

Several European countries try to clamp down on FGM. But it is a difficult road to travel. Some girls are during holiday times to their country of origin where the cut is performed. Other have it done in secret in their own surroundings.

What has happened in the United Kingdom? The British / Somalian writer Nadifa Mohammed wrote about it here

Silhouette of a person

Garissa / Burning Frankincense

The name Garissa brings to my mind tales of atrocity and danger. An attack on an university by bandits from across the border. Death and sand and a scorching sun. A forgotten corner in Kenya.

The Somali poet Sadia Hassan has written a poem titled Garissa

Warsan Shire: the Somali-British poet

The Horn of Africa is a hotbed for literature. To many people the place is a field of devastation. A flatbed of sand. A stony circle of death. Water lapping at a lifeless coast of piracy.

The migrant talking back … Warsan Shire.

Literature has its roots deep in the cultures that inhabit these places and who have migrated across the swamps and seas and rivers and sandy beaches. Warsan Shire is one that taps the word rich drills of the culture. Beyoncé has noticed what she wrote.

Read about it here.

Nuruddin Farah – Maps

The British Broadcasting Corporation spends time with the Somalia born writer Nuruddin Farah, who now lives and works in South Africa, after a stint in Norway. They talk about the latest book by Farah, titled MAPS.

Listen to this conversation here. Afbeeldingsresultaat voor nuruddin farah


This is the fourth book by Waris Dirie that I have read. Waris is a former topmodel from Somalia who now fights the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She calles this practice a crime.

I found three stories in this book.

One story is the visit of her mother who is very ill to her daughter in Vienna (Austria). Mother is accompanied out of Somalia by a relative and taken to Abu Dhabi and from there Waris takes her mother to her house in Vienna. She gets a medical check in a hospital and is being opprated upon. After a visit to her son in Manchester and her other daughter in the Swiss she travels back to Somalia. 

The other story is the letter Waris writes to her mother after mother has left Vienna. In this letter she tries to get into touch with her mother again and again, for they had a serious row during their time together. A mother who disagrees with so much that Waris stands for. Her mother is pro FGM. Her mother is pro traditional role of Somali women. Waris has a coming out as a woman who struggles with the attraction of ‘bad water’ (= alcohol), in and out of rehab. It is a devilish attack on her life. At the end of the letter she hopes to restore a good relationship and she expresses her love to her mother. Waris wants to be accepted by her mother.

The third story is the story she has told in other books as well (for instance her meeting with Ayaan Hirsi Ali). It felt a bit like a micro-wave diet. This part of the book was not needed. But then, I have read her other books. 

At the end of the book you will find five speeches held by Waris Dirie in 2004. Also some statements by muslim scholars who state that FGM is contrary islamic teaching and practice. 

Due to the third story the book was a bit of a disappointment, but, still, the message of the book is a message that needs to be heard and a message that needs to be acted upon. And Waris Dirie takes action.

Waris Dirie – Brief an meine Mutter – 2007


Ayaan Hirsi Ali (or as it used to be Ayaan Hirsi Magen) is a Somalia-born former Dutch politician. In this book she tells about her background in Somalia, her ancestry (very important), the clan she belongs (very important), Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Her father is involved in Somalian politics in the days of the dictator Barrè and later on. Most of the time he spends away from his nuclear family working for the political causes of Somalia.  This work of his forces his family to stay in other countries. For Ayaan these years have been very formative, for she saw at first hand the strict ways of Islam in Saudi Arabia. During her stay in Nairobi she gets involved with the local Muslim Brotherhood (also including sisters), she even was present when people protested against Salman Rushdie after the publication of his Satanic Verses.  She decides to dress in a more traditional way. Already at a young age she shows to possess an independent mind and an inquisitive mind.

When her father has arranged a marriage with a Somali man living in Canada she decides to stop her journey to Canada in Germany, she decides to go to The Netherlands where she applies for a status a an asylumseeker. Very soon she gets permission to stay in The Netherlands. She works hard to learn the language, to get acquainted with Dutch life. She does all kinds of odd jobs to be selfsupportive. She decides to go for further studies and in the end she finishes her studies in politicology at Leiden University, the oldest university in The Netherlands. Later on she gets elected to the Dutch Parliament on a ticket from the Liberal Democrats. In parliament she raises the issues of the position of muslim women, integration of people from non-Dutch descent, the negative effects of the islam. She makes a short movie (called “Submission”) with the cineast Theo van Gogh (indeed related to the famous painter) about what the Quran says about women. When Van Gogh is killed in broad daylight in the streets of Amsterdam by a muslim, the life of Ayaan is at danger as well. Security forces keep her in hiding, even abroad. In the end she leaves Dutch parliament and moves to the United States of America to take up a position at a thinktank.

A few things that struck me in this well written book: 

  • the ‘blame it on the Jews’-attitude she encountered in Saudi Arabia and in the circles of the Muslim Brotherhood. All negative things that happen are caused by Jews. 
  • in The Netherlands she is surprised by the way society is so well organized. Should not be there total chaos (fitna) in this land of the infidels? Should not a life under Allah’s law be much better? 
  • In Dutch society she witnesses so many muslims (especially Somali) who try to stay away from mainstream society. Many have a poor grasp of the language, many are unemployed, many think their own society is better than Dutch society.
  • Her sister Haweya also moves to The Netherlands, she has a very difficult time in this country, she is even treated in a psychiatric hospital. In the end she moves back to Nairobi. Two sisters with two different stories.
  • Ayaan confronts people who say that violence and terrorism and maltreatment of women etcetera have nothing to do with islam. She does not want to look away and she is of the opinion that all these things are connected to islam. 
  • when she talks about her political work (in and out of parliament) she does not mention the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, with his strong anti-islam sentiment. They were together and worked together in parliament for the same political party. A remarkable omission. 
  • Ayaan describes her route from being an islamic believer to a more strict way of believing in her years in circles of the Brotherhood to the days that she became an infidel. To her this last step is a step into freedom. 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Infidel – 2007