The East African Student Association (EASA) held a vigil on October 20 to commemorate the victims of the October 14 bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Naima Aden, President of the Somali Students Association, spoke about the importance of raising awareness and standing with a grieving community through the rebuilding process. “Our lives are valuable, our lives will not be forgotten, and our lives will not be ignored,” said Aden.
Attendees included students from Ryerson University, OCAD University, York University, George Brown College, and U of T, as well as community members from across the GTA. As numerous speakers shared their remarks, attendees stood together donning red ribbons and holding candles.
Other speakers included Salma Hussein from the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA); Samiya Abdi, a community advocate; Walied Khogali, President of the Toronto Environmental Alliance; Henry Ssali, Founder and Executive Director of the African Alumni Association, and Imam Yasin Dwyer, Ryerson’s Muslim Chaplain.
Emmanuela Alimlim of the Eastern Africa Students Association, one of the organizers of the event, set the sombre mood of the vigil, saying, “The reason we wanted to come together was to unite. To see each other as a community.”
When asked about the importance of showing solidarity, Alimlim said, “We are the minority. We know the climate of what is going on. We need to have this space for us because our voice seems to get lost. Our death doesn’t seem to count to many people.”
Ammara Wasim, Vice-President Communications of the MSA, told The Varsity that two executive members of the MSA are Somali. “We wanted one of them to have a space to talk at this event. We thought it would be really beneficial for them to see the MSA as inclusive.”
The speeches all touched upon the importance of solidarity in the aftermath of the bombing in Mogadishu. Some students, however, expressed their skepticism toward this notion.
Abdi brought up the influence of outside actors in the initial stages of the aftermath of the bombing in her remarks with the crowd.
“For the past 27 years, whether it is large agencies, UN-based agencies, or other international agencies have collected money in the name of Somalis,” she told The Varsity. “The government of Somalia doesn’t get any direct funding from this. Only the international agencies that continue to perpetrate this cycle of dependence [do], and they are not interested in long term solutions.”
Abdi also spoke about the lack of coverage in the media of this attack. “Sometimes we can just follow what’s on CNN, and America cares about it then we care about it.” Regarding the impact of this event on the Somali community in Canada, Abdi said, “There’s a community trauma. I don’t have to be directly affected by [the bombing] to feel that.”
“If you look, in the Somali community, there is so much detail [about Mogadishu],” said Hussein. “Outside [the community] there is one video of a woman. No one is talking about the human impacts, just numbers. We are brushed aside.”
The Facebook event for Solidarity With Somalia links to a GoFundMe page called Help Aamin Ambulance. The EASA was collecting donations for the fund throughout the night.
According to its page, the organizers of the project aim to help deliver medical supplies, transportation services, and first aid in Mogadishu. The fund has over 257,000 kr of their 300,000 kr goal.