Thursday, April 26, 2007

'The smells and sounds are unbearable. I find myself crying. It is too hard emotionally'

Sahal Abdulle in Mogadishu
Thursday April 26, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Islamic insurgents fire on Ethiopian positions in Mogadishu
Islamic insurgents fire on Ethiopian positions in Mogadishu. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Anybody with the means to leave Mogadishu has already gone. Some houses have one or two people guarding them. Many others are abandoned. The markets are open but very quiet. Even the people who carry sacks of rice are too afraid to work.

The war that we worried about has not only started but has taken a turn we never thought was possible. The latest fighting has been going on for nine days. It seems the shelling never stops. On Saturday night it was raining and we could not make out what was thunder and what was artillery. Both sides are firing indiscriminately. Even the normally quiet areas are under attack. From my house in K4 I can see branches falling where the bullets are hitting.

In other areas it is far worse. There are burned bodies in burned-out houses. People are being buried by the roadside in shallow graves.

There are so many wounded people; from babies to 90-year-olds. They are brought to the hospitals near my house in wheelbarrows and donkey carts, bleeding, missing limbs.

The smells and sounds are unbearable. I find myself crying. I need to go to the hospitals to chronicle what is happening. But it is getting too hard emotionally. As a reporter for Reuters I am an observer, but I am also a human being.

I grew up in Mogadishu and returned to the city last July with my young son Liban, who is 10. He was born in North America but I wanted him to live among his relatives and to learn to speak proper Somali.

We came because we had heard that the warlords had been defeated and that we did not need to move around with bodyguards. The beaches were open and safe.

My 64-year-old mother, who was living in Canada but struggling in the cold winters also returned to Mogadishu. So did two of my brothers who had been living abroad. For a few months we were all happy.

Even when the war with Ethiopia started we decided to stay because the Islamists said they would not fight for Mogadishu in order to spare the city from the mayhem we are seeing today.

Now I am the only one in my family left. My son and my brothers are in North America and my mother is in Kenya with my nephews and nieces.

At my home near the airport I now have five other journalists staying with me because their houses are in areas that are being heavily shelled. They joke and call themselves Internally Displaced Journalists.

We often report from the roof of my house because it is too dangerous to move around the city. We must walk a very fine line. Not only are we afraid of getting killed in fighting as innocent bystanders, but by reporting the reality you quickly create enemies.

My sons phone everyday from Toronto to ask why I am still here and doing this to them. Even local people here ask why I am staying when I could get out. I tell them that I want to show the world what is going on. But they say that the world doesn't care or this would not be happening to us.

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