Migrant Tales (July 20, 2013): Somali-Finn Abdulah: Living in no-man’s land (Part I)

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Even if I have never met Abdulah* in person but only by phone and through his comments on Migrant Tales, it’s as if we’ve known each other for a long time. Abdulah moved to Finland from Somalia in 1990 with his parents and six sisters. He was eight at the time. 

When Abdulah came to Finland, there were only 21,174 immigrants living in the country, accounting for a mere 0.4% of total population, versus 183,133 (3.4%) today, according to the Population Registration Center.

“For a child from Somalia, moving to Finland was at first exciting,” he says. “We were starting a new life in a new country. I was fascinated by the snow.”

Abdulah says that his brief honeymoon with Finland ended abruptly when he started elementary school. He was the school’s first and only black student.

“That’s when the bullying started; I was even attacked physically by my classmates,” he continues. “Something bad happened to me almost every day at school.”

Abdulah says that once all of his classmates, which numbered about 20, waited to attack him after school. Even a school “friend” assaulted him once with a knife.

Abdulah says that he’s tried to make friends with Finns but it has been virtually impossible. He did make some friends at school but their friendship never lasted long.

This type of tabloid ads were common in the early 1990s. It reads: “Armed refugee hater chased after blacks.”

“First they’re your friend and then they abandon you,” he says. “I was nine when I met a very nice boy at school. On the way to his home a friend of his meets us and asks him why he’s with me. He then told me right their on the spot that he could no longer be my friend.”

Even if the bullying has left deep scars on Abdulah, one of the worst memories he recalls was when he was nine and walking with his mother to the market.

“A drunk man attacked me on the street and started insulting me,” he says. “My mother called out for help but nobody came. That incident really traumatized me. I was only a child.”

Abdulah admits that growing up and living in Finland has made him paranoid. The election of an anti-immigration party like the Perussuomalaiset didn’t help dispel his fears about racism against Somalis in Finland.

The matter that concerns Abdulah the most about the Perussuomalaiet is their belief that Finns should not have children with blacks.

“With the election victory of the Perussuomalaiset that brought to parliament some fascist [anti-immigration] politicians like Jussi Halla-aho, James Hirvisaari and others, things started to turn ugly in this country from an already very bad situation for Somalis and blacks.”

*Abdulah’s name has been changed to protect his identity.