By Dr. Ali Said Faqi
Thursday October 26, 2023
Khalid’s dream of finding a life in Europe had been shattered by the harsh realities he had faced on his way. It all started when Khalid was smuggled to Libya, across the scorching desert in 2015. The journey was difficult, fraught with danger and uncertainty. In Sudan, he was crammed in the back of a truck, surrounded by strangers who shared the same desperate hope for a better life. They endured the unforgiving desert heat, surviving on limited food and water, while constantly fearing for their lives. Upon reaching Libya, Khalid found himself in a holding camp in the city of Bin Walid for migrants crossing Libya. It soon became apparent that this was not what he had imagined. Instead, it was a place of despair, where dreams went to die. The camp was a breeding ground for violence and abuse, and Khalid became a victim of its cruel reality. He was beaten and mistreated, stripped of his dignity, and treated like nothing more than a commodity. Khalid's tormentors demanded a ransom of 5,000 dollars. He was obliged to call his mother, heartbroken, as he begged her to find a way to save him. Tears streamed down his face as he heard his mother's voice, promising to do whatever she could to pay the ransom money. His mother managed to secure the money to help release her son. Khalid was then set free by the Libyan coyotes, the ruthless human smugglers who had held him captive. But his newfound freedom was short-lived. He was captured once again, this time by Libyan migration officers who detained him in a grim detention center in Tripoli. As fate would have it, in 2018, I as a special envoy of the President of Somalia went to Libya on a mission to rescue stranded Somalis. Khalid was among the few fortunate who decided to voluntarily return to Somalia, his homeland. Khalid's heart pounded in his chest as he stood in front of his small home in Mogadishu, Somalia. It had been years since he had left his mother, his wife, and his infant daughter behind, embarking on a treacherous journey that seemed like the only hope for a better future. It was a bittersweet homecoming, as he reunited with his family but was burdened with the memories of his harrowing experiences.
Determined to channel his pain and experiences into positive change, Khalid made a life-altering decision. In the summer of 2019, he joined the Somali army. Drawn to the idea of serving his country. Khalid was sent to Eritrea for rigorous training. There, he was transformed into a formidable force, honing his skills as a special forces soldier and later as a marine cadet. The grueling training regimen was nothing like he had ever experienced before. He was pushed to his limits physically and mentally, and yet he persevered, fueled by his undying determination to succeed. Months turned into years, and Khalid transformed into a formidable marine cadet. He learnt the art of combat, tactical strategies, and the importance of discipline in every aspect of his life. His training was not limited to the battlefield. Khalid also learned valuable lessons in leadership, compassion, and selflessness. After 3 years of intense training, Khalid returned to Mogadishu a few weeks ago with a newfound sense of purpose. Few Days after his arrival to Mogadishu, I received a call from Khalid to inform me about his arrival to Somalia and the passing away of his mother in his absence. I was extremely happy to hear his voice, but at the same time deeply saddened by the news of the death of his mother.
Khalid brought his extensive training and experience from Eritrea, instilling the importance of unity, service, and sacrifice in each cadet. He is a symbol of resilience and hope for the war-torn, Somalia. Now, as a marine cadet, Khalid serves his country with unwavering dedication.
As Khalid walks the streets of Mogadishu, he knows his journey is far from over. He carries the scars of his past, a constant reminder of the sacrifices he has made. But every step he takes with his head held high is a testament to the indomitable spirit of a boy who left everything behind to become a soldier. And now, Khalid not only serves his country but also inspires others to never give up, to fight against adversity, and to hold on to the hope that a better tomorrow is possible.
Khalid had fulfilled his dreams of becoming a marine cadet, but more importantly, together with his teammate, they are going to reshape the security of our seas. In a country that had been torn apart by conflict and despair, Khalid's story served as an inspiration for countless others. His unwavering determination, resilience, and leadership skills will make him a hero to be celebrated. Khalid's legacy lives on, reminding generations to come that even amidst the harshest circumstances, there are always opportunities for change.