Lights in the tunnel: Syrian refugees find comfort in Somalia

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When the war broke out in Damascus and its environs, many people may have expected Syrians to take refuge in Europe. America or in the neighboring countries such as Jordan but this may not entirely be true.

Although a number of them have flown to the afore mentioned countries, a good number of them chose Somalia, another country that has been engulfed in civil war, political unrest and terrorism for many decades. Certainly, Somalia is not one of the those destinations one would think of.

if you walk around the streets of Mogadishu, there is no doubt that you will come across Ashamia restaurant, which is a popular eatery in Somalia, is owned by a Syrian refugee. It is frequently visited by both Somalis and people from other diverse backgrounds.

Zekeriye Azerkan, a Syrian who doubles as the manager of the eatery, told the VOA that he finds the country “safe” contrary to what many people think of about the country. According to him, there are many Syrian refugees in Mogadishu and across Somalia.

“Even though Somalia is emerging from conflicts of civil war, there are Syrian dentists who have opened clinics here and even other medics who operate various specialties in Somalia,” says Azerkan, who also works as a chef in the restaurant. ” I expect other Syrian refugees to find opportunities here in Somalia.

This restaurant has become an iconic meeting place for all Syrian refugees, with many of them coming for orientation. it is here that they gather before being introduced to life in Somalia, which also has its own fair share of challenges.

In fact, the restaurant is even frequently visited by Somalis, some of who are eager to learn the culture of the country and the effects of the wars. Somalia has struggled with political upheavals but lately, it is immersed in the rising of insurgency with Al – Shabaab being the leading group.

” I urge Syrian immigrants and even Somalis to visit this restaurant because the food here is natural. It makes me feel as if I am home,” says Mohamed Musa, a 13-year old refugee who visited the restaurant to meet new arrivals in town.

for Mohamud Saleh, a dental surgeon, Somalia has become more like a home having stayed there for close to five years. This has in fact helped him establish a dental clinic which enables him to work for the locals in the Horn of Africa nation.

” I now consider myself a Somali citizen having stayed here for four years with my wife and children who are attending schools in Somalia. We are following Somali lives and my family finds it cool in this place,” he notes.

Abdulwahab Sheikh, a scholar, notes that the relationship between Syria and Somalia dates back many years, adding that bilateral ties that have existed in as many years made it easier for Syrians to settle in the Somalia, which is also struggling with internal challenges.

But it is the lack of visa restrictions, he adds, that makes many Syrian choose Somalia over other destinations. The lack of visa restrictions is bolstered by the fact that the two nations share a socio-economic and political history that has lasted for decades.

” There is a long-term relationship between the two countries that began long ago. When Syria was engulfed with civil war, many of her citizens opted to come to Somalia due to lack of visa restrictions,” he notes.

Although it is considered a safe haven by Syrian refugees, Somalia still remains a bit dangerous given the frequent Al-Shabaab insurgency. The militants still wage small to large-scale sporadic attacks within the capital and other parts of the country.

the war in Syria has lasted for almost a decade now, leaving thousands of people dead and others displaced. it started with some rebels plotting to kick out Bashar al-Assad, the 20th and current president of Syria, who is the son of the former president, Hafez al-Assad.

when the Syrian Civil War began, the four main warring factions were the ISIS, Kurdish forces, the Assad government and other opposition groups. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have returned to their homes, often only to be displaced a second or third time.

The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided civil war, fought in Syria, between the Syrian Arab Republic led by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and various domestic and foreign forces that oppose both the Syrian government and each other.

Although many complicated motives led to the Syrian civil war, one event, known as the Arab Spring, stands out as perhaps the most significant trigger to the conflict. In early 2011, a series of political and economic protests in Egypt and Tunisia broke out.

The ongoing conflict in Syria is widely described as a series of overlapping proxy wars between the regional and world powers, primarily between the US and Russia as well as between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Officially, Russia is participating in an air war over Syria, with a small number of special support troops on the ground.
But the presence of the Syrians has contributed positively to the culture and economy of the Horn of Africa nation, which is also fighting the ghosts of civil war, that haunted it for almost four decades. Somalia is the least developed country in East Africa.

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