Where I come from, no one ever gets their way. My life has been extremely lucky, but not one without sacrifice. Nothing but hatred comes from that wretched land; it barely qualifies as a nation. A false democracy permeates the unknowing atmosphere. Each and every year, the people democratically vote for their dictator; the only name on their ballots. He then continues to strip away civil rights, sanctify enslavement and puts his needs ahead of “his” people’s. It is amazing how this level of suppression is able to exist in the world. Even with such an air-tight seal on the country, government bodies around the planet have caught wind of the barbaric laws that exist there, and the crimes against humanity that they bring. The country’s motto was basically: No one in, no one out! I am one of the few who got out.
The words: “ALL CITIZENS MUST BAND TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD OF THE REPUBLIC” are plastered in every direction one can look. My government would attempt to use propaganda to maintain their hold on the population, and only use brute force on those who decided to take action. We were being persuaded that we were on the “good” side, that everyone else is going to come invade soon and we must be ready. Nationalism is a funny, but powerful thing. People tend to agree that the side they’re on is the best no matter what. To this day, I am thankful that I was able to see through the veil of lies.
I was orphaned at a very young age. When I was 15, I began work. My many odd jobs allowed me to see the cracks that the system was built upon. There were people everywhere who hated their lives. They were forced to live through hard labor with no benefits because it was for “the good of the people,” all while seeing one man reap the benefits. At 18, my boss casually mentioned someone escaping the country. Over the next two years, that comment snowballed into a plan. As an unskilled worker, I had time to think while I worked in the mines, or in the fields or in the factories while I mindlessly completed my day’s task. It was not until last year that I set it in motion.
My last few months as a citizen of the country were spent in an old industrial factory only about a mile from the southernmost edge of the border. Every day I would arrive to work at six in the morning and leave at six in the evening. I had a trusted friend there who would tell me about how other people escaped and helped me formulate the last details of my own Tahriib act.
With excitement I took one last look at my home and stepped into the water.
In order to leave, one has to physically cross the border. Obviously right? Well not quite. No planes go in or out, or cars, trucks or trains. The only way out was by foot and it was a long walk. The border was in the middle of an open plain with a body of water running along the side and not getting spotted by the literal thousands of guards patrolling the area while crossing the plain is the most difficult thing possible but I knew just how to get around it.
At this point, you might be wondering why more people weren’t leaving. Why my friend in the factory wasn’t joining me on my adventure. This is one of the most barbaric parts of living there. Your family and friends will all be punished for your crimes, including fleeing the country. Luckily for me, I had no one close to me. I moved around all my life and never made attachments. This is why I consider myself lucky.
Waking up extremely early, I started to do what I have always dreamed. There was a tiny creek that ran out into the river that stretched the open plain in my backyard. My brilliant plan was to swim to my freedom. Instead of meticulously creating a hatching a scheme to stealthily sneak around through the line of sight of the guards, I have been practicing holding my breath.
With excitement I took one last look at my home and stepped into the water. Once I was in, there was no way back, only forward. I swam beneath the surface for as long as I could in order to minimize my visibility. Every second my head was exposed to the air would increase my chance of getting caught. My determination drove me through. Swimming through that lake took almost two hours, and was the single hardest thing I have ever done, but I have not regretted it for a second.
Eventually, I made it to the other side. I ditched everything but my suitcase and ran like hell. Not once did I stop; I felt as if I were being chased even though every time I looked behind me no one was there to return my gaze. Once I made it to civilization, people realized where I had come from and wanted to hear all about me. This is the moment that I realized that exposing the conditions that I grew up in, and helping my people break the shackles of oppression is my next challenge. This is why I am sharing my story. I seek retribution upon those that have done me and my country wrong.
ASHA NOOH (Photographer) is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She captures spaces around her with a focus on Landscape Photography in her hometown and other cities. She uses photography as a way to escape the busy day and to express herself. She is working on expanding her craft into film and graphic design.
TIMIRO CAABI (Author) is a proud Somalilander artist, born and raised in Hargeisa. He wants to pursue a degree in architecture with minors mathematics and urban education policy. He wants to eliminate the gender inequality that plagues our education system, and believes such inequality to be setback for prosperity of the country. He wishes to use his gifts and talents to help his society.