Certain human beings were born exceptional. No matter which term comes to mind, “gifted” “blessed” or even “angels on Earth” such people are born with an innate sense of empathy, purpose and selflessness. There are times in life when one happens upon an individual who is unlike any other, and these are the encounters which one remembers for the rest of their days. A shining example of this is real-life superhero, UN Peacekeeper in Somalia w/the UN’s DDR Division, Dr. Abdigafar Yasin Farah. Dr. Farah and I share much more than an amazing Arabic name- we share a dream of peace. After meeting with Dr. Farah at The UN Foundation and hearing his story, I was instantly humbled. Often times adversity and oppression are met with force. In this day and age, forgiveness is hard to come by. I HAVE NEVER MET ANYONE AS GRACEFUL, PEACEFUL AND FORGIVING AS DR. FARAH- IN FACT HE MADE ME RETHINK MY PAST WAYS OF FORCEFULNESS TOWARDS EVEN THOSE WHO PERPETRATE EVIL AS DR. FARAH NOW ACTUALLY WORKS TO REHABILITATE THE SAME FORMER AL-SHABAAB TERRORISTS WHO ORCHESTRATED THE ATTACK ON THE UN COMPOUND WHERE HE LOST HIS ARM.
As stated on the UN Foundation official website and Dr. Farah’s bio: “During 2012 Dr. Farah became a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) where they have formed two programs: a National Programme for the Treatment and Handling of Disengaged Combatants from Al-Shabaab and another to assist militias. Upon implementing DDR, ex-combatants from Al-Shabaab, particularly those classified as low-risk, join rehabilitation centers and, after getting appropriate skills, are re-integrated into their respective communities.
Dr. Farah is an academic and researcher on security/defense and had contributed on peace and security in Somalia in support of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. Former warlords joined the government while their respective militias, numbered at nearly 10,000, were integrated into to various security forces, while in 2009 Islamists came to power and their militias were also integrated into various Somali security forces. During 2012 Dr. Farah became a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), where they have formed two programs: a National Programme for the Treatment and Handling of Disengaged Combatants from Al-Shabaab and another to assist militias. Upon implementing DDR, ex-combatants from Al-Shabaab, particularly those classified as low-risk, join rehabilitation centers and, after getting appropriate skills, are re-integrated into their respective communities. In Somalia, security forces the integration of militias from former warlords and disengaged fighters from Al-Shabaab began serving under one command which was/is indeed a challenging task.
Dr. Farah has survived three suicide attacks while contributing peace and security in Somalia, witnessing the deaths of several of his friends and colleagues. On September 18, 2006, then-president Abdullahi Yusuf survived an attempted assassination after a car bomb exploded outside of a parliament building in Baidoa, leaving 11 dead in Somalia’s first suicide bombing. Then in 15 February 2015, a drive-by shooting took place near the Mogadishu airport in the business district K4 by an Islamist gunman, killing four Somali Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority—SCAMA staff including the director of administration, Air Transport manager, Air Traffic controller and etc. While Dr. Farah and three others survived, this attack forced him to change his residence and restricted his movement as he became a target.The Mogadishu airport has been a frequent target by Al-Shabaab militants despite its location being in a secured green zone for UN operations, with two car bombings just this past July that killed 13 people, nine of which were UN security workers.
Dr. Farah’s role as a UN Peacekeeper is strictly political, as the current UN mission in Somalia is not a peacekeeping mission but rather a political mission, as he works with implementing partners on the ground to coordinate and facilitate DDR. His team’s concentration is focused on ideological rehabilitation and working alongside with religious experts. Some of the ex-combatants drastically lack in literacy, so assistance is provided on education and teaching them vocational skills, which Farah reiterated that nothing is collective as people are able to finish at their own pace. In addition, they engage with the community in order to gain their permission on when ex-combatants can return to their villages and follow up with them for one or two years in order to ensure that peace is maintained.
Dr. Farah feels that the government’s capacity has been building and they have conducted valuable screening processes through the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA). If an ex-combatant is deemed to be high risk, he/she goes through judicial process. Dr. Farah states that this type of process could take up to a few years or so if necessary. According to Dr. Farah, the only threat currently in Somalia is from Al-Shabaab. “No one will touch you if you are in your clan. Even if you go into another clan’s village and get killed, your clan will avenge you. If people work with the AMISOM, the UN or the government, they’re a target and will be killed. They don’t target regular people.” However, persuading citizens to hand in their arms is a difficult process due to their fears. “Citizens will be more likely to hand over their own arms once the government is more capable of protecting them.”
However, their tactics include recruitment from Koranic schools, with children aged 11-15. They then begin their indoctrination for 2-3 years. They target certain clans, as those who join extremist groups for revenge are often from an ethnic minority clan. Al-Shabaab also recruits those who have no other opportunities, food or are looking “for fun,” providing incentives in order to gain soldiers. “What is important is how to convince the youth [and] how to get arms into the right hands.”
Dr. Farah states that Somalia needs to properly address and manage their problems. ‘Seventy percent of Al-Shabaab’s leaders are gone. Combatants need to be engaged and if they are, at least 50% will surrender. If opportunities are offered to them then they will be interested.’Lack of sufficient funding is still one of the most difficult issues the mission faces, which may hinder completion of the current ongoing projects. While they receive funds from various donors, much more is needed in order to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-combatants and disengage fighters from Al-Shabaab.
Dr. Farah was personally effected by issues in regards to UN funds, as he has suffered from the loss of his right arm. Since this incident occurred prior to him working for the UN, they will not provide him with a prosthetic arm to replace the wooden one he currently uses. NGOs in Somalia are also unable to assist him due to conflict of interest now that he is a UN Peacekeeper. Therefore, the United Nations Association – Southern NY State Division (also referred to as the Better World Fund) has formed a fundraising effort in order to provide him with receiving a more functional arm.
Despite losing his arm during the first suicide attack through IEDs in Somalia, he continues to undertake critical work and remains motivated. ‘I was trained as a security and defense scholar and contributed to peace in Somalia over the last 16 years, the various successive Somali governments have made progress respectively. It will be better. That’s why we can’t give up.'”
Dr. Farah knows no hate and without a shred of malice still goes back to help the very same people who made him physically handicapped. FOR ALL THOSE who believe that people cannot change, Dr. Farah says of the former militants: “they have shed that ideology” & that the former leader is “no longer the same person.” WOW! WE COULD ALL BECOME BETTER PEOPLE BY BEING MORE LIKE DR. FARAH. I always loved my freedom fighting fiery spirit however I am going to take a page out of Dr. Farah’s book & remember that we are all just human beings even when we fall astray from the path of righteousness. STAY TUNED FOR MY VIDEO INTERVIEW AT THE UN FOUNDATION W/ UN PEACEKEEPER DR. ABDIGAFAR YASIN FARAH & REMEMBER TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER EVEN THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE LOVE WITHIN THEMSELVES! It is the easiest thing to be hateful as hate begets hate- it is the mark of a TRUE strong leader when one can conquer hate with love.
DR. FARAH HAS RISKED LIFE AND LIMB, PAYING THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE FOR NOTHING OTHER THAN THE BETTERMENT OF HUMANITY. HELP US SUPPORT OUR FELLOW UN VOLUNTEER DR. ABDIGAFAR YASIN FARAH OBTAIN A NEW LIMB WHICH HE LOST DURING HIS PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS! VISIT https://www.crowdrise.com/support-a-un-peacemaker TO CONTRIBUTE AS Dr. Farah is a UN staff member with the DDR division of the United Nations Assitance Mission in Somalia. This is an outstanding individual who works with the UN to disengage Al-Shabaab fighters even after he lost his arm to one of their IEDs (prior to working with the UN). He is on the frontlines of the battle against terrorism through non-military means. Please help him out by contributing to his getting a more functional arm than the wooden one he has currently. He deserves it. THANK YOU TO THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE UN FOUNDATION FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET AND COLLABORATE WITH A GLOBAL PEACEMAKER SUCH AS DR. FARAH, AND OF COURSE TO THE ESTEEMED DR. FARAH HIMSELF FOR ALL HE HAS GIVEN IN THE NAME OF SERVICE TO HUMANITY. WE SALUTE YOU, DR. FARAH!
*UPDATE AS OF 7/11/2017:
We Have Reached Our Goal!
We have reached our funding goal for UN Peacemaker Dr. Abdiqafar Yasin Farah!
Dr. Farah is an individual who works with the UN to disengage Al-Shabaab members in Somalia even after he lost his arm to one of their IEDs (prior to working with the UN). He is on the frontlines of the battle against terrorism through non-military means. He is a true representative of the spirit of the United Nations and we are so incredibly humbled by the response from our community and UN supporters around the world.
My day at the United Nations Foundation was LIT! I met with UN Peacekeeper Dr. Farah, and made new friends around the office! THANK YOU TO ALL FOR THIS HISTORIC, MEMORABLE DAY WHICH I WILL NEVER FORGET!