A room that seemed like it was made for a family maximum of three people, now held the bodyweight of five women including mothers with their newly orphaned children.
The only light they had left was coming from a circle-shaped unbreakable window that revealed a grey sky.
Hope and peace had faded from the faces of the mothers. It seemed as if they were taking turns to pray for a quick death, instead of praying for a way out of their misery. They had given up. The only thing worse than death was happening to them. Clinging to their newly orphaned children, mothers were doing what they know best. Huuwaayaa huuwaa they sang lullabies for their children while they said a silent prayer in between… Ya Rabb, Lord have mercy on us and let us meet our end quickly, Ilaahi ease our suffering.
It was wavy and the ground was swaying making Aaliyah seasick. She would have vomited had she not done that for two days in a row.
Sweat drops formed on her forehead by the heat in the room and the clammy air.
A door far in the corridor was being banged Fur albaabka Naya “woman, open the door” a man was hitting the door in full force, shouting and ordering a woman to open the door for him.
Aaliyah could hear the screams of children and a woman begging the man to go away. And a part of her wished that someone, anyone would open a door for the man before his other friends decide to join him on this floor. Men that carry ak47, who had googly eyes like an awl, their mouths green from the khat they chewed on. They were ruthless and had no mercy nor concern for anyone. They knocked, kicked at and broke into doors. They took whatever they wanted from the people. Food, water, clothes, jewelry including women and baby girls.
Aaliyah tried to move and stretch her legs on the wet floor. Her whole body hurt and bruised but there was nothing to compare to the paralyzing stinging ache she felt from her waist down.
She opened her eyes and immediately regretted it. Across her on the floor soaked with urine, blood, and vomit, sat a woman and her four sons. Her cloths were ripped apart, her hair standing straight up with some bold spots covered in dried blood. Aaliyah shut her eyes but it was too late. She had gained her consciousness enough to feel and remember everything. Fearful and anxious she touched her bruised throat and tried to swallow her saliva. But it too had dried up. What if the horror she just had witnessed wasn’t the end of it?
Please someone else, please not us again Aaliyah was praying to be spared this time.
The door in this tiny room was closed and locked from the inside. But she knew that meant nothing. It was not going to stop robbers and killers. She could still hear the man pounding at someone’s door “If you don’t open the door I will shower you with bullets and make you wish you were never born.”
A door opened and Aaliyah sighed in relief. Now he won’t knock on other doors. And his friends had already been in every room on this floor.
Ya Rabb ya Rabb ya Rabb “oh God please don’t… Don’t please I have children” a woman was crying.
Aaliyah froze when she heard the woman’s voice this time clearer.
Hooyooo hooyoo hooyo mother Aaliyah tried to yell out to her. The only mother she knew. The only person who has shown her love and cared for her even though she hadn’t birthed her. Hooyo she tried to call out for her nothing came out of her mouth but a hissing sound.
She got shocked by how tiny and squeamish her voice sounded like. In her mind, she was screaming but her body was fading away just like the way the four boys sitting across her had faded away. One after another. And their mother still wiped their foreheads with her raggedy hijab as if they too were sweating. Do dead people sweat? Aaliyah asked and expected an answer from the only person who encouraged her curiosity. Hooyo Kimina I…am…here she tried to shout again instead she felt as if she was a tiny little ant that was thrown into a deep hole as she went back into dark oblivion. Yareey indhaha fur “open your eyes little girl don’t lose your conscious.” A woman was standing over her but to Aaliyah, it sounded like an echo coming from far away.
Ha soo biixiin “don’t you dare come out no matter what do you hear me?” Kimina squeezed her daughter’s hand hard to make herself clear. And it seemed like Maryama understood but Kimina had to make sure. She held her three and a half-year-old daughter’s wrist. “Nod if you understand Maryama nod” Kimina couldn’t control the tears running down her chin. “Do not come out even if you hear screams close your eyes and stay under the bed until I come for you haye dheh?” Maryama nodded haye hooyo “ok mamma” Kimina kissed her daughter’s cheeks and pushed her under the bed. She put clothes on her and empty jars of water to disguise her.
The war had begun in Somalia. Kimina had heard rumours about war and how destructive it is. She has lost her own mother to war when she was nine years old. “please leave us we have nothing” Kimina shouted back at the man who kept pounding at the door. She picked her crying four months old baby girl and carried her on her back. Kimina had become an expert on knotting a scarf into the perfect babycarrege.
You knew mother, you knew that war is no place for a child. Over the years growing up as an orphaned girl who single-handedly raised her baby brother until he was forcefully taken from her by his uncle. For the first time in her entire life, Kimina was grateful for not having her brother with her. Oh Fitah, my mother’s youngest child, my baby brother Alamdulilah I thank Allah that you are not here with me today.
Four months and seven days before Kimina decided to take the first ship to Yemen, she sold her only gold set, small earrings, and their necklace shaped like a leaf. She gave some of the money from it to a Yemeni couple who were related to Fitah from his father’s side. The rest of it she put in a tiny plastic bag, then lifted his shoe sole, placed the money in his shoe, then put the shoe sole over it and told him to wear his shoes as he normally did. “no matter what happens if anyone asks say you don’t have money, they have enough to feed all three of you until you get to safety. Kimina was heavily pregnant back then, she hugged him and sent him away with the couple despite his displeasure.
People were fleeing Somalia however way possible. To flee to Yemen was convenient after all her mother’s long lost relatives and siblings resided there. Now I understand why you left us umma Kimina finally understood why her mother left her behind.
“I will shower you with bullets” yelled the man that kept on pounding the door.
Kimina slowly untied the knot that kept her baby girl on her back. Her four-month-old girl had fallen asleep blissfully unaware of the war. Kimina put her on the bed and covered her with the scarf she caries her with. She looked under the bed, “don’t come out no matter what” she said in a whisper. She then hurried to the door. All happened oh so fast but for Kimina it felt like a lifetime from the moment she opened the door and the man jumped on her the way a lion jumps on its prey.