Sunday, September 25, 2022

Syrian refugees in Somalia enrich culture, contribute to economy

MOGADISHU – Since the outbreak of the war in Syria a decade ago, refugees are fleeing to countries in the Middle East and Europe as well as countries in Africa that have instability, such as Somalia. But now Somali officials say Syrian refugees are culturally and economically enriching the host country.

Zakariye Azerkan is a Syrian refugee who fled the civil war in his homeland two years ago to seek opportunities in Somalia, a country still recovering from internal conflict.

Now he is chef and manager of Alwarda Alshamia, a popular Syrian restaurant in Mogadishu.

He says he expects other Syrians to find opportunities here and open new projects, although Somalia is still recovering from the war. There are Syrian dentists who have opened clinics, he says, and other doctors with different specializations who operate medical centers in Mogadishu.

Azerkan’s restaurant serves as a meeting place for Mogadishu’s Syrian community. Recent arrivals to the city come here for orientation.

Thirteen-year-old Mohamed Musa and his family arrived in Mogadishu just days ago. They eat with Somali residents, who are now accustomed to Syrian cuisine.

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Musa says he urges all Syrian immigrants or even Somalis to come to this restaurant because the food here is irresistible. He says it feels like he was back in his homeland.

Dr Mohamud Salih is one of the Syrian medical professionals offering their skills in a country that has lost most of its skilled workers to civil war, poverty and years of lawlessness.

Salih has been in Somalia for the past four years and has fully integrated into the local community. The dental surgeon runs one of the best equipped clinics in Mogadishu and is recognized for performing safe, successful surgeries.

Salih says he settled here with his family.

Having been in Mogadishu with his wife and children for four years, he says he considers himself a Somali citizen. He said his children now visit Somali schools. Salih says his family also considers themselves Somalis.

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Syrians who prefer to find their home in Somalia away from their war-torn country may have been driven by the good historical relations between the two countries. In their peacetime, both countries shared similar political ideologies.

Abdulwahab Sheikh is a Somali scholar and an expert on international relations and culture.

He says there has been a long-standing relationship between the two nations that began during the military regime that ruled Somalia and the Ba’ath-led government in Syria. These strong bilateral relations remained and after Syria was engulfed in a civil war, some chose to come to Somalia, where there are no visa restrictions for Syrian citizens.

There is no official data on the number of Syrian refugees living in Mogadishu, and not all are as successful as Azerkan and Salih. What is clear is that many of these refugees make a positive contribution to the local economy and culture.

Nation World News Desk
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