(The following article is the author’s reflection on the circumstances which led her to pen a piece of spoken word poetry titled ‘Samia Yusuf Omar.’ It is also a critical assessment of the conversations surrounding the ongoing refugee crisis. The author performed the piece at a Student Action for Refugees (STAR) event which took place on the 7th of December, 2017 at the University of Westminster. To read the poem click here)
On the night of our fundraiser on the 7th of December, I delivered a spoken word piece titled ‘Samia Yusuf Omar’. The poem was written in reference to the young Somali Olympian who participated in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She tragically passed away in 2012 whilst making the perilous journey from Libya to Italy. The most tragic thing I found about her story was that the vast majority of Somalis especially those in the diaspora, who fervently supported her during the Olympics, did not know where this young woman had ended up after the games. No one knew that the failures of the Somali government and the ever-looming threat of Al-Shabaab forced this young woman out of Somalia. It broke my heart that this young passionate woman who had so much to offer this world and country was let down in such an unimaginable way. I felt it on a personal level as this young woman was only mere months older than I was. Her defiance and her battles against a society that looks down on its women resonated even on a deeper lever. It’s a fact that my own life could have had a similar outcome had my parents not fled the civil war in Somalia in 1991 and sought a new home in Europe.
Her story is one among a thousand stories of mainly young men and women who believed in a better future for themselves. Her story reflects the dreams and aspirations of refugees all over. I believe that as a society which prides itself on its liberal outlook, we should prioritize the issue of refugees as it is one of the most pressing matters in the international sphere today. As students of politics and international relations, we normally study the factors that produce wars not so much the effects the wars produce. For most, our general understanding comes from what the media reports on and what other learned individuals write about. Much of these reports focus on the political and social ramifications of taking in refugees framing it around words such as ‘security concern’ and ‘cultural and religious incompatibility’. Whilst these issues alone hold merit, we find that it is wrong to conflate them with people who are fleeing war and persecution. A refugee only flees their country in extreme circumstances and this is what my spoken word sought to highlight. I sought to make it clear that it isn’t merely an option of seeking a better environment for most, it is simply a necessity to escape the clutches of death and unchecked repression and violence.