Mother of 5 Children
Halkaan ka akhri
For a mother separated from her children no news means bad news
Fatuma Abdul Aziz Mohammed would give everything she owns to see her five children again. The problem is she owns nothing.
The 37-year-old Somali sits with her hands folded, every now and then adjusting her veil, but her equanimity belies her tragic story.
Two of her children are in Somalia living with relatives. No one knows where the other three are. They disappeared during fighting and she resolutely believes, against all odds, that they are alive somewhere. The alternative is just too terrible to bear.
She has already been through so much. One night in 2000, her husband Mohamud Abdullahi Moallin Hussein was at work at the bakery when a group of militia barged in. He tried to protect the shop but his courage was no match for their guns.
He was shot through the head and the heart. They disappeared into the darkness and neighbours, alerted by the shots, went running to break the news to Fatuma.
“I went running there and found all that blood. Blood everywhere,” she said in broken English. “They were washing away the blood. My husband was dead and they were washing away the blood…”
She went back to her children. Anisa, then seven, was really the only one old enough to understand what had happened.
Fatuma had no chance to grieve. A widow with no income, she also feared for her family’s safety. Friends and relatives rallied round and she managed to scrape by for two months. But Mogadishu in 2000 was far from safe. She got caught up in some shooting and was hit four times. She opens her shawl to show the deceptively neat round holes in her arm, shoulder and chest where the bullets passed through. Her eyes never waver.
She knew it was only a matter of time until one of them got killed. She wanted to get her children out of there but the only way would be for her to set up a new life somewhere else and then bring her children to her. The plan seemed so straightforward at the time.
She left them with relatives, clambering into a truck with other refugees, and remembers that Anisa did not cry as she waved goodbye. It was June 2001. She has not seen them since.
Her first port of refuge was Ethiopia but, after months there, she was still no closer to being settled and spent five days trekking through Sudan until she got to Libya, hoping to get onto a boat to Europe.
It cannot have been easy for a young woman on her own. She soon married Abdullah Mohamud who, like her, was waiting to slip across the Mediterranean. Over two years later they managed to raise enough money for the trip and set off in June 2005. Even though it was summer, the trip was miserable.
“It was heavy rain all the time. The sea was very rough. I was very seasick,” she recalls.
The boat never made it to Italy. They were landed in Malta and she spent a long time in detention: She knows exactly how long, four months and 10 days. She and her husband now live in Valletta but her shattered arm means she cannot work. All she has to do from morning to evening is think about her children.
Anisa, now 14, and Abdirahman, 13, are still living in a village outside Mogadishu with her relatives. When she finally managed to make contact with them, she was appalled to hear that Anisa had been disfigured by a bullet during fighting – but at least she was alive.
Her other three children, Amer, 11, Asma, nine, and Amram, eight, disappeared and were never heard of again.
Every day, Fatuma goes to Dar l-Emigrant, in Valletta, to check if there has been any news of them. She sometimes manages to make telephone contact with Anisa and Abdirahman but it leaves her emotionally distraught. She is desperate to see them again. She has temporary humanitarian protection status, which does not give her the right to be reunited with her family.
“My new husband is a very good man. He would accept them. He would help me to look after them,” she said.
Her only hope is that she might be granted refugee status and resettled somewhere. The chances are not good: Over 60 per cent of applications are rejected.
And so, she can only live from one day to the next, waiting for news – and dreading the silence.
Source: Times of Malta, November 24, 2007