Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author

Unpredictable Haven - Somalia

  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    "I came here not because I feared death, but only out of moral support for my children and grandchildren, so they wouldn't worry about leaving me behind", explained 80 years old Aicha Mohammed Abdelkader, who suffers from severe rheumatism.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    "If it were for me, I would have stayed and had my last breath in Yemen. At my age and given my health condition, that would have been the most dignified decision. But I am here now, so all I can wish for is to get slightly better and become less of a burden of my already struggling family ", added Aicha, who is unable to walk, and since fleeing in June 2015, has been suffering from urinary incontinence.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Not all the elderly are accompanied. In Digaale camp outside Hargeisa, Fatma Ali, 73, lives as an internally displaced person. She had spent 40 years in Yemen after fleeing a clan conflict in Somalia, to find herself back to her native country running away from another war.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    The visit Fatma received from her neighbour in the camp was at first quiet, then the faint chatter grew rapidly into silence. "They call us internally displaced persons, we can't be refugees and access the aid they receive. Why? just because we had to flee both Somalia and Yemen. We are refugees twice, displaced twice, and broken forever. Beyond this, there isn't anything else to say", murmured Fatma before sinking into silence again.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    When Fatma first fled Somalia for Yemen, her husband and children stayed behind. "The plan was for them to join, but one of my children died in the civil war, and everything fell apart. By now, they have all passed away due to violence or natural causes", she explained. "I am old, and some think I've gone mad when I tell them I want to head back to Yemen despite the war. They don't understand it is too hurtful to live in a camp around where I was born while not a single member of my family is alive. In Yemen, the place is familiar and I can at least tell myself I am just a lone foreigner", she added.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Yemeni refugee Hamza Sufi Noor, 25, also had to flee to the foreign land that is Somalia. As he holds his chest to ease breathing, Hamza explained how a stray bullet hit him in 2013 when conflict begun to deteriorate in his city Taiz. Unable to carry the recommended surgery, Hamza fled with his family to Somaliland in 2015 hoping to treat his injury.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Hamza shows where he was shot in the chest. The untreated injury has affected his ability to carry extensive labour work, subsequently limiting his options to provide for his wife, child and mother. The three had fled with him, and continue to economically depend on his income.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    The stray bullet which hit Hamza left through the rear of his shoulder causing bone defection. He used to be a tailor in Yemen, but he is now unemployed. “I feel like a burden on my self. I am the man in the family, but unable to provide”
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    For Yemeni refugee, Fatma Aboubakr Ahmed, 56, the blood vessels inflammation she had suffered in her hands and feet has become more acute. Due to colder climate and labour work as a cook to assist her family, her condition has been aggravating since she fled in June 2015.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Fatma, and her husband Mohammed Aboubakr El Hindi, 57, work together on a new cafeteria business. Fatma cooks and Mohammed sells at the shop. Despite their deteriorating health, the couple provides with the help of their children for an extended family of 16.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Mustafa Aboubakr, 26, son of Fatma and Mohammed, managed to find this new house for the big family to move into at a relatively quiet quarter of Hargeisa. As he watches his two years old niece Amira run about the place for the first time, he is grateful for this safe shelter, "it is temporary, we hope the landlord won't increase rent, and we can still afford it until we go back to Yemen. But for now, at least Amira and other children do not cry or hide when they hear planes or any motors. Somalia isn't ideal, but the conflict here is currently less intense than the one in Yemen"
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Tucked away in a semi-desert valley which runs through Ogo Mountains, Hargeisa has been a vital transit point for almost two centuries. Somali sultanates were succeeded by Italian and British protectorates before the city emerged as the second largest urban centre in the federal republic of Somalia. While Yemen is known to Somalis from this Northern region who have historically travelled and traded across the gulf of Aden, the vast majority of Yemenis feel very foreign in Hargeisa. Not speaking Somali language is a barrier, but also adapting to the 1,300m above-sea elevation and the consequent substantially different climate
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    So begins the Mustafa's day. Despite disorientation and unfamiliar whereabouts in a low-intensity conflict area, Mustafa decided to become a taxi driver. He benefited from a UN-financed livelihood programme to assist urban refugees in launching businesses. "It is very difficult to compete with local taxi drivers, not only due to language, but to trust because I am a foreigner in a place which has known war. I therefore work mostly with Yemenis", explained Mustafa. "After all, driving around Hargeisa and getting to know the city better makes me feel somehow safer and more confident to get things done here, so I am satisfied with this job for now", he added
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    And so begins another day for Taiz restaurant, an eatery lanunched by four Yemeni refugees who also benefited from a UN-financed livelihood programme. This business was up and running only within months of arrival to Hargeisa as refugees. "Imagine the conditions in which we arrived, we had to settle, study the local market needs, assess different quarters of town, apply for funding, invest our savings, rent a space and get going, all in a matter of few months. We are no heroes, we just want to live with dignity even in a difficult place like Somalia", said one of the co-managers.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Ahmed Yamin Kayed, 26, prepares sandwiches at Taiz Restaurant ahead of the busy lunch hour. "I take some pride in how humanitarian organisations and local host community salute what we've achieved so far. I wish however I could say that it is all working out. This country is volatile, ours too, so sometimes it feels like an illusion of normality. Meanwhile, we need to keep working hard regardless of the near or far future, we got no choice", explained Ahmed
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Handling management and accounting is Riad Seif, 36, one of the four Yemeni refugees who launched the business. "We've called Taiz, after the city three of us come from. Life there turned so impossible, that the idea to flee to a problematic place like Somalia became envisageable", said Riad as narrating the circumstances under which he left." Here we are today, it is bittersweet to see the word Taiz all over this restaurant, but we all agree on it. It is important to accept things as they are in order to move on", he added.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    In a matter of weeks, fresh juices of Taiz restaurant became very popular with high school and university students, as well as the local youth of neighbourhood. "It is not only business, part of survival in foreign difficult land like Somalia is to mingle as much as possible with locals, and build trust. There are so many stereotypes Somalis have towards us, and vice versa. But a place like this allows direct interaction and less paranoia", conclude Riad.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Not everyone however has the chance to get out there in Hargeisa, establish a business and reestablish a minimum of ordinary life. Somali returnee, Zeinab Omar Abdelah (second from left), lived in Yemen for 25 years until war drove her back to Somaliland with her three Yemen-born daughters, Fayza, Nejma and Djamila. They al live in this room, paying $50 a month, "it is so much money for us, I lost track of my husband as we fled, we don't know even if he is alive. All I hope for at this stage is for my girls to remain strong, get over this difficulty and succeed in life, they are smart and well-educated, and I will not give up pushing to have them three continue their studies", said Zeinab defyingly.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Some however are all by themselves. Yemeni refugee, Khayria Abdel Wahab Yahi, 17, is in a secure women-only safe house. She fled her home region Aden when her neighbourhood came under bombardment in early November 2015. Unable to find her family members amidst the chaos, she took the boat to Somaliland alone. “I am so scared of being alone, of the future, of not knowing what happened to my family in Yemen,” she says. “I am entirely in the dark about what’s next. My body and eyes are so tired of constant crying and sleepless nights. I am very young, but I fear this war might have destroyed my life for good”.
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    For Yemeni refugee, Mohamed Ahmed Nasser, 19, finding himself alone and unaccompanied was due to his family's decision to send him to explore living conditions in Somaliland. "In the part of Taiz where I come from, intensity of fighting and bombing reached another level around April 2015. Out of despair, my parents and siblings said there are some people fleeing to Somalia, go with them and tell us whether it is possible to join and survive there as a big family", explained Mohamed. "It's been months I am here in Hargeisa, and I can't tell them much. We are poor back home, so we have no capital to start something with here anyways. So most likely they are not coming, and I am stuck here, it is too dangerous to go back", he added
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    "I never thought I would have to do such a thing at my age", said Yemeni refugee, Alawi Sherif Ahmed, 68, who fled alone his home town of Taiz, leaving behind his wife and five children. In 2015 November, a stray bullet hit less than a metre away from his head, causing him constant anxiety and insomnia. "I am an experienced merchant, so I thought I come here , find a house and raise enough money so that my family can join. Deep down, I also run away because that stray bullet haunted me, and I simply couldn't sleep nor think straight"
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    If lucky enough to flee with the family, "there is always something very precious you'd leave behind. Since primary school, I was looking forward to pursuing my studies all the way until university graduation", said Yemeni refugee, Adel Mohammed Aboubakr, 20, who a runs a new cafeteria with his father. Adel was one exam away from finishing high school, but had to flee in June 2015 as fighting intensified in his home town Taiz. "This is not what I saw myself doing at this point in life. I often get carried away with thoughts, I gaze in the emptiness, and tell myself this cannot be real, it's too messy, how did we get to this situation? ... but then the voice of my dad or a customer brings me back to reality, I breath and tell myself you are alive and with your family, so carry on working and don't complain too much"
  • Unpredictable Haven - Somalia - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    "If only work wasn't so difficult to find here, if only Somalia was a bit less poor and unstable", said Yemeni refugee, Tarek Aboubakr Ahmed, 42, during his visit to his 3 years old daughter Haifa. After fleeing their home town Taiz, Tarek has not been able to find a job to provide for his family since June 2015, which led to divorce and separation from his six children. "I am not well, I admit it, I am under so much pressure, but I will not give up. I will do whatever it takes to generate an income and get my wife and children back", insisted Tarek