Character, faith, and humanity are different qualities and are often rare to co-exist in one individual. Your faith cannot determine your humanity so if you have them both, thank your Lord.
Being a disabled person it is normal to face discrimination about your circumstances especially in my country Somalia, and it was part of my life since my childhood.
To confront this abnormal, inhuman behavior, I decided to raise my voice through media by becoming a journalist. In the summer of 2014, I commenced my journey until 2017 when I worked with Central Provinces Radio in Adado city, Ceelhuuronline.com, and Somalicabletv, as a reporter from Godinlabe Galgaduud Somalia.
I was covering daily news but more on marginalized communities such as People with Disability -PWD and Internally Displaced People – IDPs. Being a journalist turned my life to advocate and become the voice of voiceless members of the community that I’m a member of myself.
Somalia is one of the most dangerous places to work as a journalist and being disabled is an added obstacle. Apart from insecurity, there is inaccessibility of public places. Given all these challenges, I decided at end of 2017 to leave my beloved country, family and friends. And with all downs and falls, now I live in Kampala – Uganda
Let me tell you a story. “It was a Friday as my best friend who is also my cousin, Mohamoud Ahmed Aden pushed me through the mosque in my wheelchair, and sadly one of the tires got punctured.
Luckily we found a nearby repair shop in Kisenyi area but again there was no building to shelter from the blazing heat because there was no rain the whole week in Kampala. My cousin decided to carry me on his shoulder to look for a shade about 50 meters away where we could rest as the wheelchair was being repaired.
My cousin is such a kind and caring person, I can’t picture what I could ever do without him helping in a foreign country. He and other good people around me always carry me up and downstairs in places with little accessibility and I often feel bad when I hear him panting and see him sweating.
I feel like a burden to him. I also worry about my dignity and safety in case he slips and we fall over my weight and probably it’s the same for every person with a disability.
Other times I think he feels disappointed with me or himself. All these thoughts eat me inside and only blame it on my disability.
We, disabled people, feel horrible about what we put other people through. At the same time, we feel a lack of accessibility to say things like those without disabilities because those who have the ability might not listen to us.
May Almighty reward all those who have humanity and fight for it.
Any way the shelter we found was a petrol station, and we came by a closed door, it might have been the station office. Then a man whom we later came to know as the manager gave us a reproachful look and he walked away without even a word!
I stared at my cousin and asked him whether we had done anything wrong that we did not know of to be reproached by the man.
We assessed the situation with my friend and realized that the only crime we could have committed was encroaching on their shelter.
The manager though was a compatriot fellow that we share a common faith, culture and even the same language as seen from the kanzu he was dressed in, aroused further curiosity in me.
Several questions popped through my mind – could the reproachful stare be because I am disabled and he thought of me as an outcast? Or was he having a bad day at work, and so was angry? Or they never allowed strangers to knock around their office? Frankly, I couldn’t guess right.
Two minutes later this same man sent a security guard to chase us off the premises. The guard didn’t look like a bad man. He was so polite when he approached us and I could feel his empathy as he spoke, illustrating the disapproval of what his boss instructed him to say or do.
I politely explained our situation that we are seeking shelter from the heat and my wheelchair will be repaired shortly enough and we will be off the premises. He seemed to understand and he said apologetically; “Sorry sir, let me go tell my boss.”
“Thanks” I replied calmly, hoping that the boss will now understand and tolerate us for the time being.
But after a few minutes the guard came back to us – sad, shy and shaking his head, he drew his hands into a prayer form and said; “Sir I am sorry, and I would never say this to you if it were me, but I have no authority here, my boss just shouted at me when I explained him your request. He said if I don’t make you go, I will go instead. Please I need my job, kindly leave before I am fired”
I looked at his face and fear in his eyes and I could read humanity, compassion and he was in a difficult place that he loved his job. So, I decided to leave.
“No problem my friend we are leaving,” I told him.
I shockingly asked my friend to carry me and we began to leave out in the sun helplessly. As we left the door, the guard said “If it was me, I would not have chased you away. If you need help, I mean if your partner feels tired, I can help you.” I thanked him and told him we could manage.
We returned to the repair shop where they were still working on my punctured wheelchair which was still unfinished. My cousin put me back in my wheelchair as the mechanic worked down the tire. We spent another two hours under the sweltering heat and dust while the mechanic worked back and forth sourcing and replacing the very unpopular tire.
My head couldn’t stop thinking of my fellow countryman and faith who was so merciless and the poor security guard who was so kind yet not my compatriot nor practised the same religion or culture as me.
What happened prompted me to write this story. It’s great dismay that my fellow citizen could completely be so inhuman and a security guard, not my tribesman nor of the same faith could become such a better human being.
And this is just an iceberg of discrimination I face in my life, and that my fellow PWDs face more often. Being a disabled person is not simple, we experience this sort of inhumanity every single day of our life in marriage, education, politics etc.
As I continue to be the voice of the voiceless community, especially my fellow PWD, I will speak as much as I can, because we need to fight to demand our rights and be treated equally. Disability is not inability.
Ali Abdiwahab Adan is an Immigrant Somali Disabled freelance journalist and Chairperson of the Somali Disability Association in Uganda. He lives with inherited osteogenesis imperfecta.