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Arale's story: 'Wherever I go in Somalia, people haunt me'

Friday November 17, 2023

From file: Somali children run in an area covered by sand as inhabitants struggle with the sandstorm at Kolob town located in Puntland, Somalia on October 23, 2022 | Photo: Picture-alliance

Arale* was born and raised in Somalia and says he has been facing discrimination his whole life for being an illegitimate child. In Somali culture, people like him are marginalized, abused, and sometimes even killed, he told InfoMigrants.

"I was born and raised in Somalia, I am a father of six children. I have been facing socio-cultural problems since the day I was born.

My mother was a Habesha maid from Ethiopia. She used to work for Somali families to earn her living. My mother was secretly married to my father, who was in the Somali army; at least that is what she used to tell those who asked her. No other details are known about him: Neither his tribe, his background, his real name or where he had lived.

My mother gave birth to me in a small town in northern Somalia while she was still a maid. She raised me until I was seven years old. She passed away while I was still a child. I was then raised by the same family whom my mom worked for as a maid.

During these times, I was beaten, starved, insulted and traumatized by that family. They called me "wacal" which in the Somali language means an illegitimate child.

Children who are considered illegitimate have no rights whatsoever in Somalia. They are outcast, marginalized, oppressed, abused and sometimes killed.

I was humiliated in every way.

I, my wife and my children became unwanted refugees in the country we were born in.
I ran away when I turned 14 to educate myself. I was working as a shoe shine boy and I enrolled in a school.

I graduated from school, but the whole Somali community around me turned against me, calling me wacal all the time.

People treat me like I am not a real human being. I cannot get a job, I cannot own land or a car. I cannot get a passport because the officer will ask me my tribal chief – but I do not have a tribe and no known relatives.

When I got secretly married to my wife, her whole tribe fought against me. I was arrested 10 times over my marriage. Lastly, my wife was disowned by her family because of me.

I, my wife and my children became unwanted refugees in the country we were born in.

I currently live in a small town where we hide our identity so that we cannot be targeted. I used to work as a teacher in another town, but after they noticed my story, they fired me. I am currently jobless.

I cry day and night over my situation. I feel like I am living in an open-air prison. I am constantly thinking of a way in which I can leave this country altogether. I do not want my children to live the way I did. Because they need to live in a country where they have a right to go to school, to work, and to have property ownership once they grow up."

*name changed to protect identity


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