When Abdulah*, 30, talks to you about his twenty-two years in Finland, one of the first questions that arises is how has so much suffering escaped our attention. For Abdulah, acceptance isn’t only virtually impossible from white Finns, but can be just as hard to get from the Somali community.
“I have decided to live outside this society,” he says. “I have learned that there is no place here. Even my people have turned their backs on me.”
Abdulah says that there are two matters you must never lose if you don’t want to be abandoned by the Somali community.
“Language and religion are crucial,” he explains. “I don’t speak Somali that well anymore since I grew up in this country. I became an atheist two years ago and left the Muslim faith.”
How long will it take for minorities like the Somalis to be treated as equals in Finland?
Abdulah admits that he no longer believes in god.
“How can there be a god if people are constantly killing each other in Somalia?” he continues. “How can there be a god if there’s so much hatred and racism towards you in this country? How can god exist in such hells?”
There are many young men like Abdulah in Finland, who grew up the greater part of their lives in this country. He says that some have problems with the law.
“I don’t identify with such people anymore because I used to be one of them,” he says. “If you start drinking and taking drugs, your situation will only get worse. That’s the reason why I changed my life.”
Abdulah hasn’t forsaken hope despite the difficulties he’s faced. Two factors give him strength: his family and plans to be a gardener.
Billboards like these in the early 1990s spread prejudice about Somalis in Finland. The tabloid ad claims that Somalis had made phone calls to the tune of hundreds of thousands of marks and supposedly passed the bill to the social authorities.
“But living in Finland still feels like being in a trap,” he adds. “I want to free myself but I don’t know how.”
Abdulah discovered Migrant Tales by chance when he was searching for an alternative forum that spoke up for immigrants and visible minorities like him.
“I used to visit Suomi24, Hommaforum and even took part in Iltalehti chat forums,” he says. “They always said the same negative things about immigrants and Somalis. I felt relieved when I found Migrant Tales. It was like a light at the end of a dark tunnel that gave me hope.”
Abdulah is a very sensitive and respectful person. Despite the difficulties he’s encountered, he believes that one must be outspoken if he’s going to challenge a social ill like racism.
“We have to fight back,” he concludes. “Silence hasn’t changed my life for the better. That’s why I’m active in forums like Migrant Tales.”
*Abdulah’s name has been changed to protect his identity.