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Returning to Somalia - Samira Hashi

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Growing up in a city like London and working as a model, I've almost never seen extreme poverty. So returning to Somalia for this documentary (Monday 9pm) after 18 years was one of the hardest and most shocking experiences I have ever been through. The media had played a small role in keeping me up-to-date with what was going on in the country, but all I really knew of was the malnutrition, famine, drought, terrorists, pirates and bloodshed. 

My journey began with a reunion with my dad who I hadn’t seen in 18 years. He wasn’t there when my family and I spent time in the refugee camps nor was he around when we moved to London. I had mixed thoughts when it came to meeting him. Thousands of questions were going through my head. Why did he leave? Why didn’t he come back? What had he been doing for the past 18 years? It was a very awkward and weird situation and I hardly recognised him.

Samira Hashi at 'Dolo Ado' refugee camp in Ethiopia.

I then travelled to the overcrowded 'Dolo Ado' refugee camp in Ethiopia which is home to more than 120,000 people. I remember crying as I couldn't bear to sleep in the tents. I was so embarrassed when I realised Somali refugees have no choice but to share the same tent with 20 other people. The conditions were devastating to see. Uprooted Somali's wait weeks - sometimes months - just for basic equipment. Millions of lives have already been lost and millions more are in danger because of poor healthcare, insufficient distribution of food and lack of clean water.

I was appalled to discover that the level of sexual abuse taking place in the refugee camp was extraordinarily high in comparison to the number of rapes recorded. Women approached me personally to tell me about their endless battle against sexual abuse. I interviewed two young Somali women who had been gang raped by a group of men who lived locally in the area when they’d gone to collect firewood. Both women were released on the condition that they didn’t return to the area or their lives would be at risk.

With a daily battle for survival, they have no chance to complain; they have no choice but to deal with it. It’s spurred me to create an online petition to help protect Somali refugees from rape. I’m humbled by how amazingly the refugees cope with unbearable situations.

Samira   Hashi

I also visited one of the most dangerous places in the world, the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, where I was born. The minute we stepped off the plane I could hear gun fire in the background; it’s so common they call it 'the music' of Mogadishu. We couldn’t go anywhere without extreme security, and the severity of the situation hit home when I was introduced to a Somali girl the same age as me called Shukri.  

Unfortunately Shukri wasn’t given the opportunity to escape like us so she spent all her life knowing nothing but war, violence, destruction and bloodshed. Three of her children – aged just 2, 3 and 7 months -  died in 2010 after a bomb attack by terrorist group Al’Shabab. I could see she was heartbroken and the trauma of the war was written all over her face. 

My trip ended in Hargeysa in Somaliland, an area that is seen as safer than the rest of the country but where Female Genital Mutilation remains so common that 98% of women have had the procedure done to them. I can’t accept the procedure and what it stands for; it’s one thing that’s part of my Somali culture that I refuse to accept.

My journey back to Somalia was mind blowing – I now feel a connection with my motherland as well as having a better understanding of what’s really going on there.

Escape from the World's Most Dangerous Place is on Monday at 9pm and is narrated by Scarlett Johansson.


  • Comment number 1.

    Extremely moving documentary. I am a legal caseworker for asylum seekers and refugees and these are the experiences I hear about daily. Well done Samira for going back and telling it like it is. I wake up every day knowing the blessing of being born in the West - whatever happens, I'm not living in a war zone.

  • Comment number 2.

    I never usually comment on things but this documentary affected me so much, not least due to the apparent apathy to this dire situation by wealthier more influential countries. I'm sure there are many people that are doing amazing work but it is clearly not enough...the fact is people...children are dying. We need to do something now before we are judged by our childrens children in years to come for not responding sooner!...rant over! Well done samira for being so courageous and honest.

  • Comment number 3.

    Samira has created an amazing documentary- not least of which because of its simplicity and honesty, without compromising depth. When she cried, I cried with her. Her pain, her frustrations and deep-rooted respect and love for her home country are plain to see, the emotions are raw and as such it's a captivating viewing. Thank you Samira for sharing this phase in your life with us- we're truly moved.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have just watched this and it is the most shocking thing i have seen in my life this is a CRIME going on and NOTHING is being done ,Its ok to spend up over 30 million on one person to kick a ball and pay them 200k a week ,spend 100s millions on war planes and ships ,go to other countries for OIL you see on the news about people going to a war crime court for war crimes the UN should go and tell the world why they are letting people die for the sake of it children who are helpless are dieing of lack of food water and first aid young women and children are being raped and if thats not painful enough for them to understand why its happening to them then they have children to watch get blown up in front of them and you wounder why they are so angry you would be as well you hear all the time about human rights yet the people with power sit back and feed them guns shame on you this a crime you all are doing to them, and its people with no power are the ones helping them go and tell them poor helpless children your happy to do nothing for them same as the children all over Ethiopia and Africa just look how long the people in Syria have to put up with out help . Im sorry if you find it hard to understand this but understand this STOP THIS WAR CRIME NOW AND HELP THEM

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't know what motivated Samira to make this journey (i.e. was she approached by a production company or did she involve them in her plans) but the outcome was worthwhile. The level of ignorance about world events in general is remarkable - particularly since the internet has made the spreading of information readily available - so anything which helps to generate interest in important issues is to be applauded. It was ironic, given Samira's occupation, to hear in the camps (as a throwaway line) that mothers have been known to trade the life-saving food packs they receive to feed their starving children to buy clothes! The distortion of Islam (re. polygamy without responsibility and genital mutilation) are well-known but these abominations should be constantly highlighted. Heartening to learn that Samira is now involving herself in important issues - and please don't get too bogged down in the "modest clothing" issues. In a small way it echoes the views of the cutting women she spoke to who claim that FGM is necessary to make the girls less available to men. Men must take responsibility for their thoughts and their actions and not constantly blame women for "leading them astray".

  • Comment number 6.

    Thank you to Samira Hashi and to all concerned with the making of this truly incredible documentary.

  • Comment number 7.

    Thats my home all i've khown and i was there since i was 15 now i'm 25 and live in London too, you had remained me what i have been through once again thank you for that. And i used to watched football at the stadium but now its ruined i can see it on my own eyes.( my people die day and nigth they day dreaming for the peace to arrive)


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