Least camera shy children on the planet. These mischievous cherubs are are one of 22 members of the family living in a big house (two bathrooms – one not so good) after taking the 24 hour boat ride across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen to Somaliland, fleeing the violence at home. The boat is normally used to ferry livestock. This photo was taken with permission from an adult family member. The adult in question is Nazir Foazi, formerly the head of the math and science department at the prestigious British Embassy School, Nazir led his family, his aunt’s family and his brother’s children across continents to meet his brother who had been working as an engineer in Somaliland for the past few years. When a rocket hit close to Nazir’s home in Sana’a, “We were all terrified because the walls were shaking, the windows were broken and my wife said we should leave immediately.” Upon arrival in Hargeisa Nazir noticed “kids just playing in the street,” so he a established a project to connect the newly arrived children to schools. Nazir offers his services as an education consultant in exchange for tuition discounts. The students’ overwhelmed parents who are navigating a new city in a language they don’t speak with limited finances and facilitating housing and organizing paperwork to legitimize their stay (they left Yemen in a hurry) and other more immediate concerns (food and security, to name a few) are grateful for his help.
Amira, her Grandpa’s princess and the namesake of his new restaurant. Mohammed Abu Bokar had a successful eatery back home in Yemen, and his new shop in Hargeisa is already a hit. Somalilanders appreciate the Yemeni take on the sweets and snacks he sells – the merits of each area’s cuisine is the regular topic of heated debate at the new spot.
Salim didn’t talk or eat for four days after he saw his friend blow up in front of his eyes. The two thirteen year olds had been goofing off in Zinzjibar, their home town on the coast of south-central Yemen, when his friend picked up a grenade and it exploded. Salim hasn’t been the same since, said his mother, Daifa Jama, who cried silently when she talked about what her young son had been through. Lina, the oldest, (pictured on the right) is the pride of the family. She recently scored 91% on her final exams and wants to go to university to study accounting. The family is trying to raise the $835 she’ll need to attend. Salim and Lina are two of Daifa Jama’s nine children. The family boated from Yemen to Somaliland in early July, escaping the bombing and snipers at home. They want to go back as soon as possible. “Life here is very difficult for us. We are just here for security reasons,” Lina explained.
Oldest and youngest members of the Salim family: Fatima doesn’t know her exact age, but she’s between 75 and 80 years old. Mariam is seven, for sure. After fleeing the war in Yemen by boat, they’re living in the port city of Berbera, in Somaliland with 16 other relatives. Most refugees travel to the capital, Hargeisa, after docking in Somaliland, but the Salim family is one of two that chose to stay in Berbera. In Yemen, they lived in Dubab, a village near the Babal Mandab seaport, and made their money on the water. The Salim’s thought they might have a better shot at making a living staying in Berbera and fishing, but they don’t have the money for a boat yet. Though they did make the exhausting and expensive trip down to Hargeisa and register as refugees with UNHCR and apply for aid, they haven’t received any assistance from either the well funded UN body or the cash poor Somaliland government. Their house in Berbera is hot and full of flies. Family friends in Yemen are helping with rent.