“How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.” ― Salman Rushdie, Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002

“Social media has changed the game for how people learn about culture. If we don’t become the creators of our own content, we are going to be at the mercy of people telling stories about Africa”. 

Hodan Naleyeh was a Somali-Canadian Journalist, who rose to fame with her uplifting stories about Somalia’s hidden beauty. She died in July in an Al-Shabaab terrorist attack in Kismayo, Somalia.

Nalayeh moved to Somalia from Canada in 2018 and was the founder of Integration TV which told stories of Somalia to inspire those abroad struggling with a lack of identity. She posted videos on YouTube of Somali youth and female entrepreneurs, using the hashtags #SomaliaSuccess and #SomaliPositivity. She also used Twitter to share photos of her travels around the country. Nalayeh hoped this would encourage those in the Diaspora, particularly young Somalis, to move home and help create positive change.  

The attack in the hotel in Kismayo killed over two dozen other people. Nalayeh was pregnant with her third child and was only 43 years old when she died. Her family said she had “spent her life devoted to serving the Somali people and reporting on positive, uplifting stories” in order to “spread light and love to the Somali world”.

She will be remembered by many, including by her social media followers who will hopefully continue her legacy and fight for change. Somali’s government has announced it will award a journalism prize in her honour.  

Somalia hasn’t had an effective national government for over 20 years and much of the country has been a war zone during that time. In 2020, Somalia will hold its first democratic elections since 1969 – something that was previously impossible as the country was too dangerous and divided. Instead, Somalia’s parliament and president were elected using a complex system in which clan elders played an important role. 

When Al-Shabaab attacked the hotel in Kismayo, clan elders and regional politicians were inside discussing an upcoming regional election. 

Al-Shabaab is a jihadist fundamentalist group based in East Africa and allied to Al-Qaeda. It has lost control of most towns and cities but still dominates in rural Somalia. It has been responsible for several terrorist attacks in Somalia and was blamed for the killing of at least 500 people in a truck bombing in the capital, Mogadishu, in 2017 (although it did not claim responsibility for that attack). 

Globally, terrorism is on the decrease however. In Western Europe and the US, total terrorist attacks have decreased significantly since the 1970s. This can seem surprising given the extensive media coverage of high profile attacks like those in Paris in 2015 and Nice in 2016. However, this highlights a bias in the Western media in terms of which terrorist attacks receive media attention. 

According to the START Global Terrorism Database, the overwhelming majority of terrorist victims are Muslims. For instance, in Somalia, where the population is 98.9% Muslim, terrorists carried out over 359 attacks in 2016. Other terrorism hotspots include the DRC, South Sudan and Turkey. 

Terrorism snuffs out many promising lives – and creates a climate of fear. But communities around the world continue to demonstrate their resilience in response to these attacks. By going about their everyday lives, they counter terrorism in schools, markets and places of worship. 

Today, 21 August, is the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism. This year’s theme focuses on the resilience of victims and their families – how they have transformed their experiences to aid recovery and healing, and how they have become stronger and more united in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. 

On this day, we can remember inspiring figures like Hodan Naleyeh and this will ensure her legacy of hope continues. 

As Nalayeh herself said, “If I pass away, I want people to remember my YouTube channel and Google the videos that brought them joy about the country where all we’ve known was war … the culture here is really beautiful,”. 

Photo via WikiCommons.

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