(1/2) Ahmed didn’t know the English word, “hero,” until last week. But now he knows that’s the term to use when someone asks about his father.
While Ahmed was living in Somalia nine years ago, his father was still living in the village where Ahmed had grown up. Somalia’s civil war had been raging for more than 25 years, and the jihadist militant group, Al-Shabaab, had formed amid the chaos. Al-Shabaab specialized in recruiting boys and young men, but Ahmed’s father was determined that no one from his village would join the brutal guerrilla fighters who had aligned themselves with Al-Qaeda.
Ahmed says his father wasn’t a particularly powerful elder, but that didn’t stop him from mounting a one-man campaign to counsel the youth against joining Al-Shabaab. His neighbors warned Ahmed’s father that he was putting his life in danger, but he didn’t stop. When Al-Shabaab fighters came to the village, Ahmed’s father still wouldn’t back down. “Al Shabaab said to my father, ‘We are big; we do not want to kill you. Please stop what you’re doing,” Ahmed said. “My father said, ‘No! Until I die!’”
Ahmed says his father received three warnings from Al-Shabaab. They would not offer a fourth. When someone suggested that his father had died a hero, Ahmed, who speaks enough English to be interviewed without an interpreter, replied, “I was looking for the word. Hero.”
Heroism carries consequences, however. When Ahmed learned of his father’s death, he sneaked back to the village at night to pay his respects. While there, neighbors warned him not to stay.
“They said, ‘(Al-Shabaab) are looking for you, to kill you,’” Ahmed said. “’Please, run away!’”
Ahmed returned to Mogadishu and his government job, but he soon learned he wasn’t safe there, either. He came home from work one day to find that his wife, children and mother had left. Neighbors told him that Al-Shabaab fighters were tracking him. “That’s when I decided, that’s the last I’ll see all my family together,” said Ahmed. They had a quick, tearful goodbye at the outskirts of the city, and Ahmed set off on foot, alone. #WithRefugees #nobannowall #letthemin #lovearmy #huffpostgram #whatamericalookslike #unitedagainsthate