Everyday life during the war in Somalia

17 Feb, 2022 | Psychology, Somalia, Vrede en oorlog

S. experienced the war in Somalia as a child. She talks about this and the impact it has had on her life. “When I hear a loud bang unexpectedly, my body automatically goes into shock.”

“When I told my classmates at primary school that I had been through a war, they reacted with intense emotions. I couldn’t understand why they reacted that way, for me it was just normal.

In high school I gave a presentation about war

Here I told my story. I couldn’t get my words out and I didn’t understand why I had to cry. If I had known it had had such an impact on me, I probably wouldn’t have told about 30 students about it. I was born during the war and I lived throughout the war until I was 9 years old, so I didn’t know any better at the time. Hearing gunshots or bombardments was one of the most natural things for me. How normal was it?

I distinctly remember going out with my sister to buy my favorite chewing gum when suddenly there was a lot of shooting.

We heard everyone screaming and running, so we ran home too. When we got home we realized we hadn’t paid for the gum, that’s what my sister and I were concerned about at the time! That we hadn’t paid… After a few hours it stopped, we went back to the man and paid him. It was that normal.

It often happened during dinner

We lived on the second floor of a two-storey house. We lived in the capital near the target area… Every now and then there would be a lot of shooting and we went downstairs with our plates, and continued eating on the stairs with the sounds of gunshots in the background… It was that normal.

Based on the volume of the gunshot, we could guess how close or far it was

If it was far away, you carried on with what you were doing and if it was close by you went to hide somewhere until it was over. Then you continued. It was that normal.

There would regularly be shots in the evening until night fell, sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night because of those sounds. The next day when we woke up we saw holes in the wall from the bullets and we were fascinated by them. We started counting them, laughing. It was that normal. What was not normal then?

What we currently call the lockdown in the Netherlands happened occasionally

In Somalia, there were periods when there was a lockdown between certain times or sometimes several days in succession. If you were seen outside, it didn’t cost you a fine or jail, but your life… You were never warned when there would be a lockdown and sometimes you didn’t have much food in the house… That was not normal for us.

Once, men entered our house in military uniform without permission

They went to investigate our house and took anything they wanted. They had taken a lot from my aunts and uncles. Fortunately they did not find our valuables, even after a long search through the house. That was not normal for us.

They regularly asked my father if he wanted to go with them

Until my father fled and had to leave us behind when I was 6… Then they asked my brother, but he could use the excuse that he had to watch over us. That was lucky because if you resisted it cost your life. I still remember that sometimes my brother didn’t dare to leave the house for weeks, if not months. I didn’t understand at that time why he didn’t go outside. But he was afraid that he would be seen and taken. That was not normal for us either.

I thought it never bothered me

But once I arrived in the Netherlands, it turned out to be the opposite. My first New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands was in 2011. I was looking at how beautiful the fireworks were. But my brain responded differently: fight, flight or freeze!

What is it like now, more than 10 years later?

When I hear a loud bang unexpectedly, my body automatically goes into shock. For a moment I imagine I’m back in Somalia, in the war… But I can reassure myself: “It’s okay, you’re safe now”. Fortunately, it doesn’t bother me very much, at that time it wasn’t a traumatic experience for me . After all, I was born in the war. Hearing gunshots or bombardments was one of the most natural things for me”.

This photo is provided by PsychosisNet. This blog was written by S. and is also published on the English website www.psychosisnet.com