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Asha Ajab


Leaving Somalia in 1988


Asha Ajab was born in Somalia in 1972. When she was just sixteen years old, she had to leave Somalia at the start of the civil war there. In the sound clip she describes how she managed to travel to Ethiopia and then on to England.

The clip lasts for 6 minutes and 2 seconds.

And what age did you leave school?

Before the war started, it was in '88, when the war start, we left Somali, I was around sixteen, I finished secondary school, then, yah.

So you were still finishing school when you left?

Yeah, I just finished and we did the exam and we had, it was the summer holidays and then the war start, after I think two weeks, or ... then I left, I never went back, not even dreaming. The only picture I've got, you know it's bad memory, the war, the people dying, the fighting, all that thing, so. And we have to walk all the way from that town to the border of Ethiopia, which took us one month. We been walking one month.

Wow, with you, your mother...

No, my mother was...what I did, when I finished the exam, I did well, so my mum promised me to go to Hargeisa to see my older brother who used to live there with his family and I never seen him there, and I wanna see, and she promised me to go there, so we, so I separated with my family. So I went with my brother's family and they went with other side. But we meet, we met up at the end, after one month. Yeah.

So tell me just a little bit about when the war started - were you expecting it to start, or did it come very suddenly for everybody?

They start somewhere near to the town, so were expecting, it will come there as well.

[pause, while Asha deals with her son].

And when you were walking with your brother and his family, were there other families also leaving as well?

Oh, yes so many people. You can't count it, hundreds and hundreds people, yeah. We were all together, and helping with each other, yeah.

And what were your feelings at that time?

The only thing I was worried, I wasn't scared for dying but I was scared to die without seeing my family, if they all right or not. That's what I was worried, my mum and my brother and my children, to see them alive. I wasn't worried for myself, I was worrying about my family if you ever going to see them again, that's all I used to think. And when I met my - the first person I met, it was my mum. She was waiting at the car and she say I'm going to there, and look for her, and then some people tell her, they are coming today, so they're walking not far away [noise from Asha's son]. And she was waiting there, and she was crying when she saw me, she was crying. Yeah, she cry, cry, she couldn't stop crying when she saw me alive, yeah.

And so that was when you reached Ethiopia?

Yeah, after one month, yeah.

And how did you get food and water along the way?

We used to carry, each of us carrying something, and, when we walking, there is everywhere for miles there is a small town, so we used to take a rest, and we had a cash to buy some food and then keep walking and then, yeah, that was how we used to do it.

And was there fighting going on around you, or...?

Not around, because we were avoiding, avoiding to go to main roads, and we were going the jungle, you know, so where we going, it was OK, and it was near to the Ethiopian border, but the war it was first started the city, inside the city, so when we left it was, we was OK. Only the airplane.

And how long did you stay in Ethiopia?

Two years, then after two years we came here. Some of my family, they live here longer, since '86, yeah, they, she came here for education, and then when the war start, she can't come back to Somalia, so she stay there and apply refugee, and so they immediately succeed with that and she apply visa for us, so then we came.

So did you come then with your, with your, Family [speaking at the same time],
your parents and family at that stage?

Yeah my mum and two, sister and brother.

Tell me a little bit about that, did you come by plane?

Yeah, we came first Ethiopia and Addis Ababa, and then we went to the British embassy there, they give us the visa and then she send a ticket and the Red Cross pay her for the ticket, so then we came by airplane, it was Russian, Ryan - what do they call that one?


Something like that, yeah it was Russian airplane, yeah, so we slept one night for Moscow and then next morning we came here.

And did you have an idea of what England would be like, from your relatives, or other places?

Not really. Not really. But when I came London I was expecting better than that [she laughs].