My name is Mohamed Mohamud. I studied International Politics and I have a keen interest in Development, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights. I’m also the founder and published author of an international platform called Somali Sideways. Somali Sideways is a photo project that is looking to focus on re positioning perceptions of Somalis and the diaspora – a people who often suffer from negative stereotypes. I believe that marginalised groups are portrayed with negative connotations and I think projects such as this will change the misconceptions on how the world views the Somali region. (ABOUT FOR ME)
While at university, I read an article in May 2014 that Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group based in Somalia sent in a suicide bomber who blew up the Somali parliament and deployed gunmen on foot in a highly-organised attack on the state. When I finished the article and after much research, I said to myself why are most of the news coverage on the Somali region about terrorism, famine and piracy? There wasn’t enough coverage showing Somalis in a positive light, so I thought it was vital to do something about it. There was a problem though as I didn’t know how. In the beginning I thought of using photography as a way of portraying Somalis in an artistic way and illustrating their lives on a platform. This is when the idea of Somalis standing sideways came to light. I started gathering my friends in London to take part in this new project I just created. At first, they were sceptical but decided to participate nonetheless. Later on, many Somalis from London got involved and it became what is known as Somali Sideways. Soon I started receiving submissions from around the world and it quickly became a global platform where Somalis can share personal stories.
Many people have asked me the reasons behind the concept of the sideways angle and I was drawn to the concept because people choose to share certain aspects of their lives and they keep other parts of themselves private. On the one side it's about sharing stories that you wish to share, and the other remains a mystery. In the beginning I thought it was weird but then I realised it's the weird things that people remember. Somali Sideways is a photo project that is looking to focus on changing the perceptions of Somalis and the diaspora – a people who often get negative stereotypes. The book covers issues as complex and diverse as immigration and identity, while others deal in the normal flow of everyday lives.
Here we have Frah Abdi at the Mountainous region of Nagorno Karabakh on a hilltop near the town of Shushi, Armenia.
"My parents were among the many who had to make one of the hardest decisions of their lives. To send their child away to safety and hope for a better future. I was one of many Somali children to leave in such circumstances, leaving behind your entire family with the knowledge of sacrifice, intention of betterment and the reality of life's struggles. Growing up in a foreign country without the presence and guidance of your parents comes with a lot of obstacles and challenges. At 16, I ran away from home and I remember being in the park the whole day with friends like nothing was wrong. As it got darker people started to leave until I was the only person left in the park. That’s when I realised I had no home to go to. These challenges taught me that the only thing you can absolutely control in life is how you react to things out of your control, and there’s a lot you can’t control so the better you adapt to this reality, the more powerful your highs will be, and the more quickly you’ll be able to bounce back from the lows. Everything that happens to you in life is either an opportunity to learn and grow or an obstacle that keeps you stuck. You get to choose. My life’s experiences whilst growing up has led me to see the value in young people and provide opportunities for them that wasn’t available to me. Alhamdulillah, I work for the biggest youth organisation in the world which enables me to do the job I love and lets me travel the world. So my brothers and sisters when life hits rock bottom, Take a deep breath; it’s going to be ok, maybe not today, but eventually. There will be times when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong, You might feel like you will be stuck in this rut forever, but you won’t. Sure the sun stops shining sometimes, and you may get a huge thunderstorm or two, but eventually the sun will come out to shine. Sometimes it’s just a matter of us staying as positive as possible in order to make it to see the sunshine break through the clouds again and remember Allah won’t put you through more than you can bear, he might let you bend but he won’t let you break".
Here we have Hodan Nalayeh, Founder/Host of Integration TV at the Novotel Hotel after hosting the #Toronto Mayoral Debate in Toronto, Canada.
"Going back to school recently to pursue Journalism again ignited my passion to live my best life. I remember as an 18-year-old girl in university, I had a passion to one day be an Anchor on CNN. It was hard to get a job at CNN after I graduated. I did not have the networks nor connections like many of my friends at university. I was discouraged from going into media and settled to earn a living. It took me many years to realise my gifts and how I can use them to make a difference. I came back to my dream to be a Journalist when I travelled to Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya with late Somali legend Saado Ali Warsame. Standing in the middle of an open desert field with sand blowing in my face, I realised, my fellow Somalis needed my gift of storytelling. I did not need CNN or any other network to be a voice for my community; I needed to create my own platform. I did not need anyone to hire me when Allah hired me for the job. This week was the season finale of Integration TV Season One. Wow, 26 episodes on a major TV network in Canada and a YouTube Channel that is growing daily with a global audience. What a milestone to see what I created to make a difference for Somalis globally. Many thought I was crazy to invest my savings, drive around with my kids to sales meetings and work 18-hour days. While I thought Integration TV was helping my community, it actually did more for me as a person. In a year, I can see the growth in me. I learned to overcome my fears, believe in myself and understand the business of television. My dream to make a difference started with a simple idea to use my gifts, but I received many more gifts in return. All praises is due to Allah for helping me to help my community. I trust Him".
Here we have Hassan Noor Sayid otherwise known as Aar Maanta with some of the children from Wamy School and Orphanage Home in Isiolo, Kenya.
"Be at the right place at the right time" was the quote written on the board of one of the dormitories at Wamy Orphanage where few friends and I have been doing charity work for the past few days. Many of Isiolo’s residents, a town 285km north of the Kenyan capital, are descendants of Somali soldiers who fought in World War I. I didn't know much about this town until the morning of January 13, 2013, when I received one of the most shocking news: My best friend of nearly ten years Jamal Moghe was killed by bandits on a nearby road and was to be buried there. Brother Jamal was a tolerant, kind and above all a forgiving individual. He was the sort of friend you could have an argument with and regardless of whose fault it was, he would always be the first to call. If you did not answer, he will call again. He never took anything to heart. It was no surprise that one of his last tweets was: “Forgive me if I have wronged you, forgive those who have wronged you, for Allah forgives the forgiving heart.” On the night of my wedding, Jamal was my best man. Having done so much to help me prepare for my big day, I wanted him to enjoy the moment without any responsibilities. However, being the kind of friend he was, he spent the evening outside in the cold welcoming guests at the door. Following his sudden and tragic death his widow, some friends and I have been exploring charitable options to keep his memory alive. Eventually we came across 'Wamy School Children's Home' under-funded orphanage school situated under the mountains of Isiolo town - not far from Jamal’s final resting place. One of the orphanage’s teachers remarked that they hardly had visitors so our visit alone was much appreciated. After we asked what we could do to help, they gave us a list of things. The list included fixing broken windows, buying water tank, mosquito nets, blankets, bed sheets, slippers, washing buckets etc. Thanks to money we collected from families and friends over several months we were able to provide all the items requested ourselves. I believe all our lives are somehow connected. There was a reason why my friend's final resting place was to be in Isiolo, there was a reason why my friends and I ended up in that orphanage. In other words we will always be at the right place at the right time for what is destined for us. However, miracles happen when we get out of our comfort zones, when we consciously and actively create chances for those who are less fortunate than us. Let's not rely on NGO's or other organisations whose business it is to help others. But let’s get out there ourselves with whatever money or resources we can afford and make a difference in the lives of our brothers and sister every now and then Insha Allah".
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