Somalia

Mahamud Abdi Omar, "I am not only surviving but thriving"

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NAIROBI, 19 April 2011 (IRIN) - Mahamud Abdi Omar, 25, is a small businessman in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, which for years has been a battlefield between government troops and insurgents.

Like any other businessman in a war zone, Omar tries to make a living despite the violence. However, for hearing-impaired Omar, surviving in the war-torn city is not only tricky but dangerous.

Omar owns a small shop selling electronics, such as radios and watches, in the middle of Bakara market, the largest open-air market in the country and probably the most dangerous. Omar spoke to IRIN on 19 April about his experience:

"The shop was opened 10 years ago by my father; I started working with him when I was 15. My father passed away three years ago and I took over.

"My father knew that as a deaf person, I would have a hard time in Mogadishu but he always told me that I could do anything I wanted to. Life for someone like me is not easy in Mogadishu. It is hard for ordinary people but is doubly hard if you are physically challenged.

"I live in a city at war, so I have had to learn to read the signs when something is going to happen. It is easy when they use heavy weapons. I can feel the vibrations on the ground. My problem is when I am busy and not looking and they use small arms.

"Last week, for example, I was walking along the street when gunfire erupted and I only became aware of it when I saw a man fall in front of me bleeding; then I ran like everybody else.

"It seems we are always running from one shelter to another. Getting caught up in fighting is something every Mogadishu resident is familiar with but most are not deaf and so are immediately aware of what's going on. For me, and people like me, we have to be vigilant at all times.

"I would have liked to go to school like any other person but I could not because there were no schools for the deaf. Still, I am one of the lucky ones, thanks to my late father who instilled in me that I was as good as any other child and could do whatever I wanted.

"My wish is that younger children who are deaf or blind can get an education and lead the life of normal citizens. People are not very kind to those like me who may be different from them, but I am no longer worried about what people think.

"I know many people worried after my father passed away that I would not survive and the shop would close. But look at me now, I am not only surviving but I am thriving.

"The shop is doing well - when I can open it [constant fighting often closes the market]. Businesswise I am doing better than when my father was alive. People are used to my being deaf and I give them good service so they like me.

"I am thankful to God that I am able to take care of my mother and my two sisters."

ah/mw[END]