Reconnected from Minnesota to Mogadishu

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I don’t have a frame of reference for what happened to Abdiaziz Warsame, above, his wife Ayan Mohamed and their son seven years ago.

No one has ever confronted me demanding that I give them my home, and then starting a gun battle.

Warsame says that’s the gist of what happened in his Mogadishu neighborhood when a militia showed up telling them to get out.

Warsame’s command of English is commendable but limited so it’s a challenge connecting all the dots and understanding the details.

His account is that the gunfight corresponded with the wounding and abduction of his wife Ayan, and in the ensuing chaos he lost track of her and began to consider the possibility she had been killed.

Warsame never stopped trying various means to locate Ayan. But two decades of civil war in Somalia have taken a heavy toll. Communication is difficult, people are scattered.

A chance meeting with a neighborhood acquaintance at a refugee camp in Egypt, Warsame says, brought new information his wife had been wounded, maybe she survived.

There is a very compelling parallel narrative to the family’s ordeal that anyone with physically and mentally challenged children can appreciate: Their son, now ten years old, is autistic and has physical disabilities as well.

The son’s medical condition and need for surgery, Warsame told the Red Cross, expedited his relocation to the United States where he has family. And that is where he resumed the search for Ayan, this time with the help of the Red Cross’ family tracing service.

The entire process took about eight months because the backlog of thousands of family tracing requests is large compared to staff available to handle them.

The end of the story is gratifying but not without some sadness.

Warsame’s request for help involved the Red Cross Twin Cities’ chapter, the national Red Cross office in Washington, D. C., the International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva and their sister agency in Mogadishu, the Red Crescent. Ironically they found Ayan rather easily, back in the family’s home, and the Red Crescent volunteer reports she was joyful at being reconnected with her husband and son.

Reconnected. Not reunited.

Warsame obviously has the option of returning to Mogadishu to be with his wife. But think about it. The news from the beleaguered city is not good, and life there, Ayan reports in words translated through a telephone conversation, is iffy. Others report life there as chaotic, life threatening.

Instead, Warsame is starting the process of trying to get a visa for Ayan to come to the United States. The prediction from experts is the process will take, “several years.”

In the meantime Abdiaziz Warsame speaks with his wife Ayan Mohamed frequently by phone, obviously delighted they are reconnected if not yet reunited.