By Mohamed F Yabarag
Over the years, Amoud Foundation’s annual Achievement Award was presented to many, many deserved winners for their continuing dedication and hard work to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Professor Sulaiman Ahmed Guled, the chairman of Amoud University, was the first winner of this locally prestigious award followed by many distinguished individuals including my one-time teacher, Dr. Nimco Xaaji Abokor, who left behind a comfortable lifestyle in Canada to serve her country of origin as a surgeon with little or no resources. Another worthy recipient of the award is Dr. Hawa Abdi who, when all her beers have left the country following the collapse of the Somali state, set up a medical facility in southern Somalia not only to provide necessary healthcare but also offered a continuous relief and food supplies to thousands of needy men, women and children for more than two decades under the constant threat of warlords and thugs.
The announcement by Amoud Foundation that Amanda Lindhout is the winner of this year’s AAA prompted me to write a few lines on Amanda and, at the same time, remind my fellow countrymen and women the harrowing ordeal this young and brave Canadian woman has gone through at the hands of uncompromising and cruel individuals in southern Somalia. Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian citizen from Calgary, and her Australian companion were abducted in Mogadishu in August 2008, barely four days after they arrived in this troubled city. She was held hostage against her will for a long an agonizing 460 days in the most degrading and inhumane way imaginable. She was subjected to all sorts of humiliating acts, including rape. She even embraced Islam to gain some sort of sympathy from her ruthless captors who were supposed to be Muslims, but to no avail. And, when all exhausted, she trusted her frail legs to run as fast as she could to seek help from the most sacred place in Islam one can look for help – the holly mosque.
To the utter dismay of Amanda, all she got from the congregation in the mosque was total indifference and stone silence, let alone help. After all, the mosque was located at the heart of captor’s territory and the whole village was at the mercy of ruthless warlords who cared less about religion and more about ransom money. Nobody in the congregation managed to say a word in defense of Amanda. In the end she had to succumb to the demands of heartless captors, knowing that she would be treated more severely this time around. Her frail and emaciated body was eventually dragged from the mosque by her more exasperated and agitated captors. She had to endure an inhumane and terrible treatment at the hands of her captors for many, many more months before she was finally freed after a hefty ransom thought to be around one million US dollar was paid. What was unknown to Amanda was the fact that the Somalia she visited was not the same as the Somalia of yesteryears where foreign visitors and guests were greeted with dignity. Somali people have changed beyond recognition. All the hospitalities and traits that were once unique to the Somali race of the past have gone with the civil war. More than a century and a half ago, Sir Richard Burton aka Sheikh Abdulla crisscrossed the length and breadth of Somalia with little or no threat at all.
What is unique about this remarkable young lady, Amanda Lindhout, is the fact that she had no hard feeling after her horrific ordeal. Indeed, she took everything on the chin and embarked on philanthropic mission that would make her name well known in many quarters. In 2010, Amanda founded Global Enrichment Foundation, a humanitarian organization, to create more opportunities in Somalia – yes Somalia – the very country that almost destroyed her life by offering university scholarships to women, the most vulnerable group in the community. I am pretty sure many people who have suffered half of what Amanda had suffered would not want to do anything with that country, Somalia. But Amanda was not to be discouraged by her dreadful ordeal. She went on to provide help and assistance to the needy and the weak.
In response to why she established the Foundation despite her ordeal, Lindhout told the CBC’s The National “You can very easily go into anger and bitterness and revenge thoughts and resentment and ‘Why me?'[…] Because I had something very, very large and very painful to forgive, and by choosing to do that, I was able to put into place my vision, which was making Somalia a better place […] I’ve never questioned whether or not it was the right thing to do […] What else to do after the experience that I had, than something like this?”. With this statement Amanda has shown the world, particularly the hapless Somalis, the power of forgiveness and perseverance – something unfortunately lacking in our own country for the past twenty or so years.
In recognition of her efforts to improve the lives of those less fortunate, her compassion for humanity and practice in human services programs, Amanda has received several awards and honours including the Red Deer Women Excellence Award in Human Services. Winning Awdal Achievement Award, though relatively unknown and insignificant in the world stage, would be a small consolation for Amanda and what she has gone through at the hands of ruthless Somali warlords. She is a worthy winner of Awdal Achievement Award.
Mohamed F Yabarag
Email: [email protected]
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