By Asha Abdalla
Editor’s note’s : This is an excerpt from an upcoming book titled Somalia failing due to bad leadership by Asha Ahmed Abdalla, a political activist and former parliamentarian and Assistant Minister.
It was shortly after we were invited to attend a peace conference in Eldoret, Kenya that I got an invitation from Iraq. The president’s wife invited Arab women to participate in a peace convention that centered on the instability in Iraq. I and my delegation left Mogadishu about early in the morning since the airport we were to depart was far away from the capital city of Mogadishu. It was about 160 km from where we were at that time.
The air journey from Somalia to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates was a long one because the aircraft we were traveling in was an old, Russian military plane. The aircraft speed was too low and at times it was shaky and scary. However, we finally arrived at the sparkling Dubai Airport at night. We could not continue with our journey for many reasons: one, the isolation of Iraq from the international community, two the military occupation allowed people getting into Iraq to be thoroughly vetted, and thirdly, even humanitarian organizations attending to the suffering and sick Iraqi children were not spared. It was a different Iraq no longer governed by strongman Saddam Hussein, but an Iraq governed by a coalition of forces under the general command of the United States military.
We came through Amman, Jordan and tried to change planes there, but unfortunately, that did not happen because we were harassed by the airport authority. Those manning the airport in Amman stopped us from continuing with our preferred journey, because, as they claimed, a female delegate was carrying a Somali passport that further undermined our travel plans. The entire Somali delegation felt intimidated and subjected to unnecessary grilling, protracted travel delays and nonsensically undiplomatic debouinized behavior that contravened international travel laws. We were at the airport for fourteen good hours and I was wondering why we were subjected to such harassment.
I did call the United States Embassy in Jordan for help but they could not help me at all because, as they believed, I was going to the wrong country. I kept telling the Americans how I was treated and harassed and even at times, I was shoved around, stopped at the gate and denied food and drinks. What I was not aware was that the American government was the head of the International Coalition.
I even requested to be allowed to go back to where I came from and they did not allow me to do that simply because I happened to be a Somali, and no matter what passport I had or used for travel purposes, they always disrespected Somali people. About 5 pm, I called the Embassy of Iraq in Jordan and they surely came to our aid and helped us all as much as they could. The Iraqi Embassy in Amman, Jordan requested the Jordanian authority to observe international diplomatic protocols and to explain why they subjected the Somali women delegation to such excruciating experiences. The Iraqi Embassy requested the Jordanians to allow us to continue with our journey to Baghdad even though the Jordanians were adamant to allow us proceed with our travel plans.
My worst nightmare was when the Jordanian manager who was in charge of Amman International Airport bluntly told us we could not fly from there. However, a brilliant idea surfaced when the embassy informed us that we could travel by road and that they would arrange a limousine with complete security detail. I did not have any choice but to go ahead and take advantage of this new proposal. As the head of the delegation, I was so desperate and took that option as they suggested. The road from Amman in Jordan to Baghdad Iraq was 15 hours with lots of check points by the Americans and their coalition forces. Finally, we reached our destination after the grueling 15-hour journey. Upon arriving Baghdad, we met a big delegation waiting for us.
At the conference in Baghdad, we were welcomed with open arms, and were accorded the prestige and dignity we deserved, because since time immemorial, a long lasting relation existed between the people of Iraq and Somalia until the unprecedented, simultaneous collapse of the two friendly nations in 1990. At the conference, Iraqis felt sorry for us because of the mishandling and mistreatment we were subjected to by the Jordanians.
Asha Ahmed Abdalla
Email: [email protected]
Asha Abdalla is a political activist and former parliamentarian and Assistant Minister.
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