Posts Tagged With: Somalia

The (IM)Morality of Playing Video Games

It was perhaps seeing the sight of a bright blue flag with a single star in the middle that finally caught my attention. Or perhaps, it was the villainous character’s name that I was suppose to hunt down and kill. Maybe it was seeing the eerily familiar landscape with the dilapidated and bullet-ridden buildings that finally made me stop and put down the controller. I always have these kinds of moments when I’m playing a video game. It was not a surprise then that I would have a very visceral reaction when I played the latest shoot ’em up game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 last week. In the chapter called “Return to Sender,” the character that I play (the ‘”good guy”) is sent to Bosaaso, Somalia to hunt down a warlord named, interestingly enough, “Waraabe” (Somali: hyena).

It is a thinly veiled attempt to recreate the famous Black Hawk Down battle that took place in Mogadisho on Oct. 3 1993 between the American military’s Delta Force/Rangers and General Aidid’s militia. Like the 2001 Ridley Scott recreation on celluloid, Modern Warfare 3 does an excellent job of recreating the battle for the glory of entertainment on video games. As I started playing the chapter, going from room to room, street to street gunning down the avatars on screen, the irony of a Somali guy playing a video game killing Somalis was not lost on me. Like the Germans and Japanese people who play World War II video games depicting the killing of their ancestors, albeit an avatar. But playing Modern Warfare 3 was Modern Warfare 2 all over again. In MW2, I played a US Marine who goes to Fallujah, Iraq to kill people that I co-share with religion, albeit an avatar representation. Then within the same game playing an undercover Russian spy that is given the choice of slaughtering civilians at Moscow airport or simply doing nothing.

For many people, video games are simply something violent and immoral. But the truth is more gray than black or white. As the advancement of technology has enhanced the realism of the design and execution of the technical aspects of the games, so has the moral ambiguity of the plots and storytelling. For example, in the above example of civilian slaughter at the Moscow airport in Modern Warfare 2, the undercover agent, who’s the “good guy” trying to prevent WWIII, is given a choice to either participate in the mass murder of civilians, or he can just simply watch and do nothing so as not to blow his cover. Here, then, lies the moral ambiguity of video games today. Is preventing world war 3 more important than participating (or simply not doing anything to prevent) in killing hundreds of innocent people? More and more games today force the player to make moral choices. But in my case, I had to stop playing the game and reassess my values. Even though I was playing a ‘good guy’ trying to stop World War III from happening, how could I justify playing a recreation of something as horrible as the Black Hawk down incident? Or any real life based conflict? For me, I simply had to return the game, not because it is based on a real event but I couldn’t find it entertaining in shooting, however virtual and unreal, someone that I can recognize.

Categories: Entertainment | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Qurba Joog, Are You Listening?

For the diasporic Somalis, heed these words.

PS: I don’t endorse the last WORD on the screen.

Categories: Music | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Despair Over Fallen Flowers

Last week we witnessed the incredible cruelty humans are capable of in the medical school graduation bombing in Mogadisho that killed over 20 and injured 60 plus people, mainly students. A day later, it was a mosque near Peshawar, Pakistan that killed at least 50 people. What do these two events have in common, beside the indescribable evilness to it? They’re done by people who believe they share a faith with us. They’re done by people who share the human kinship with the rest of us. They’re done by, above all, people who believe in so much hatred and destruction that any being that doesn’t subscribe to their ideology of wicked hate must be annihilated at any cost, by any means.

So I ask: Is there anything that can stop such a virus? All the previous ideologies of hate and destruction that came before this virus we call terrorism – from the Crusades, the Inquisition, Slavery, Colonization, Fascism to Nazism – had a sources that could be seen and fought against face to face. But, terrorism – where do you start? How do you fight against someone whose goal isn’t to live to conquer, but just to die fulfilling his perversion of a religion of peace and love? Huxley’s Brave New World may have imagined an advanced human specie capable of producing just about anything, but what it really was trying to predict was this world that we are living in today. And this virus, my friends, will take quite a while.

The Minister for Higher Education who recently returned to the country to "rebuild." Now Dead.

As I sit and write this, I’m contemplating about my graduation in the Spring and what I will do thereafter. It has often been my desire to go back to Somalia and contribute to whatever knowledge and skills I have to my people. These medical students, on the other hand, were already there and ready to serve but these massive assholes just had to destroy the only bright thing the suffering people of  Somalia had. Along with professors, journalists, health and education ministers, and non-graduating students, the bombing effectively made Somalia a land occupied by terrorists. And these terrorists just murdered the last remaining intellectuals in the South of the country. Now I’m not so inclined to go any near where these insane creatures operate.

I can imagine this is also happening to a lot of Somalis in the diaspora but only time will tell if peace and love will prevail over hate and destruction in the land of nomads and poets. God help us.

Categories: Somalia, Terrorism | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Interview with Somali Journalist

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A Rant of Some Sort

Transparency International’s corruption index for 2009 was released this week and as readers of this blog know I have a bit of a problem with their index – mainly that it ranks Somalia at all. For the past two years TI has been raking Somalia as the #1 corrupt country in the world. Don’t get me wrong. Here’s my problem with this ranking: if a country doesn’t have any functioning government (police, courts, etc), how can there be corruption? Unless TI is counting robbery, murder, public stoning, internal displacement of people, and so on as corruption, then the only thing Somalia can be ranked in is Shit List.

Categories: Somalia | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

The Prize is…Firearm!

From the BBC:

“The winners of a quiz organised by Somali Islamists [in Kismayo] have been given weapons and ammunition as prizes…..Prizes included AK-47 assault rifles, hand grenades and an anti-tank mine.” Even the losers get prizes, “the runners-up did not go home empty-handed, taking away an AK-47 and bullets.” According to Al-Shabab spokesman, “The reason the young men were rewarded with weapons is to encourage them to participate in the ongoing holy war against the enemies of Allah in Somalia,” which, ladies and gentlemen, are the women and children of Somalia.

I wonder if the winners, with their heavier firepower, would try to kill and rob the runners-up.

Categories: East Africa, Somalia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Accidental Robin Hoods

Somali pirates are not much liked these days; for a good reason many would argue. But we all know before the original pirates were hijacking commercial ships, they were lowly fishermen. Besides keeping toxic and nuclear waste dumping ships from the Somali coast, it turns out that they have also successfully kept illegal trawlers at bay from the coast. Now comes the insanely unexpected: Somali pirates have saved the livelihoods of not only Somali fishermen, but Kenyan fishermen as well. The further these pirates have gone out to the high seas to hijack ships, the more the ships (both legitimate and illegitimate ones) have stayed further away – resulting in almost no illegal trawlers entering in Kenya’s (as well as Somali’s, obviously) economic zone (200 miles from the coast) and territorial waters (12 miles) as these industrial illegal trawlers used to do before the rise of pirate hijackings in the horn.

Ironically what the government of Kenya could not do, that is protect its fisheries and marine life, has been done for them by Somali pirates – by accident. Now both Kenyan and Somali fishermen are catching more fish and have a decent life. More importantly, the ecosystem is returning to normal cycles, and fish population has dramatically increased, leading to two-fold benefits for the humans who rely on the ocean for livelihood and the marine life that is now healthy. Now, before I get any hate-mail on this subject, remember the smile on these happy fishermen…

PS: 20,000 Kenyan Shillings is about 250 U.S. dollars.

Categories: East Africa, Piracy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Changing Times

In December of 2006 Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, currently only-in-name president of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, was on the run from the Ethiopian army, the CIA, and the U.S. Rangers. He was hiding in the muddy swamps of Ras Kamboni at the southernmost tip of Somalia, recently kicked out from Moqadisho by Ethiopia. He and his Islamic Union Courts were considered to be terrorist by the Bush Administration and were hunted down by the U.S. and its allies. How time changes!

This week Sheikh Sharif is in Minneapolis, MN (and the home of this crazy congresswoman) meeting with Congressmen, Governor, and city councilmen/mayor. Couple of months ago he had a meeting with Secretary Clinton in Nairobi during her Africa trip. From terrorist to president for Sheikh Sharif in just two years. That, friends, must be a first.

To me this says a lot about the U.S.’s awful foreign policy than anything else.

Categories: Somalia | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

Happy B-day, Somaliland

It’s May 18 and that means you’re 18 years old today, Somaliland! While your neighbors to the East and South are obliterating each other to the finish, your only problem today is when to hold your next elections. What a difference, eh? To rub it all on your face, every country in the world disses you by not recognizing your statehood, despite putting together a nice, functioning state (albeit with the usual problems associated with any young state). Yes, you had a little (well, bad choice of word) civil war right after you were born and took you a while to hold elections, but you eventually managed to secure law and order just as your neighbors continued to tear apart each other. So here’s to you a happy 18th birthday since your secession from Somalia, although I’m not sure if you will get your wish-present of international diplomatic recognition.


Courtesy of

Now the ‘unpleasant’ part of the conversation. It is hard to get recognized in this globalized world. My guess is if you had oil or other ‘important’ raw materials (like say, natural gas or yellowcake even), you would’ve already become a recognized country. I know, Kosovo didn’t have anything to offer to the West either, but it did manage to piss-off Russia, didn’t it? It is also true that your people and Kosovars were bullied and in more than one occasion, massacred by your “fellow countrymen.” Double-standards do exist, so live with it.

If I may point out few things, please allow me to elaborate. For one, most people outside of Hargeysa do not understand why you want to secede from Somalia- after all, you share the same language, religion, and ethnicity (tribes and clans are not ethnicity – for example, see Sinhalese & Tamils in Sri Lanka) with the rest of Somalia. Secondly, as pointed out above, resource-wise you are limited to livestocks for the most part, which means obtaining foreign exchange to develop your economy depends on the mood of the Saudis and Emirates for the most part. Finally, again this is a fair question, what exactly does it mean to secede from Somalia and become a new country to you? A new identity? Self-pride?

Regardless of your unrecognized accomplishments, you deserve mad props! The fact that the South is exploding and has been so for the past 19 years means your quest for full secession is a legitimate self-preservation at the very least.

Categories: Africa Related, East Africa | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Aló Presidente!

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has been elected to be the next president of Somalia, a man who less than two years ago was being hunted down by America and Ethiopia. How things change so quickly, eh? As I watched the live, grainy feed from Djibouti, I couldn’t help but wonder what this means. Excitement and fear rushed at me like an overflowing river. Indeed, today is a new beginning for Somalia. Yet it is a road Somalia has never traveled on. What awaits this gentle, god-fearing, fiercely anti-qabil school teacher-turned politician, is anyone’s guess, but I have never felt so happy for my hoyo land more than tonight. I see a man who wants nothing more than peace, justice, and prosperity for his people. A man, who unlike most Somalis, believes qabilism is our national cancer. Maybe he is not all of these. Or maybe he is somewhere in between. Either way, I’d give him my support and a chance to prove himself to be a president of all Somalis. 

As soon as he was ‘elected,’ Sheikh Sharif apparently ‘requested’ foreign military troops for peacekeeping in Somalia, according to fact-depraved wolves at the BBC – a claim, embarrassingly I may add, rejected by Sheikh Sharif on the Somali BBC Service. I thought these people worked in the same building? Besides, why should Sheikh-Sharif Sheikh Ahmed want to have foreign troops in Somalia if he wants to succeed in governing this country? Would it not occur to these people at the BBC the peculiarity of Sheikh Sharif requesting foreign troops who by the way spent the past two years fighting foreign troops in order to hasten their departure from the country? Or no brain exists at all in the upper floors of Bush House? I reckon it is the latter.

Categories: East Africa, Somalia | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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