Leaders of Minnesota’s Somali community urged state and national officials Saturday to condemn the Kenyan government’s detaining of thousands of Somalis.
After rallying at the State Capitol two weeks ago, local Somali-American community and faith leaders met Saturday in Minneapolis to criticize the country’s actions and call for justice for the refugees and citizens that they say are innocent victims, left voiceless.
“Is this the world we live in now? This is crazy,” said Jibril Afyare, president of the Somali Citizens League. “We cannot, as humans, stand it.”
According to international media reports, thousands of refugees, immigrants and Kenyan citizens have been detained in what the government says is a security campaign in response to increasing terrorist activity, turning Kasarani Stadium, in the capital of Nairobi, into a police station to hold suspects.
But Afyare and other local Somali leaders say that thousands of innocent women and children are also being detained, showing photo after photo Saturday of women abused, fearful and caged in what he says has become a makeshift concentration camp.
“In the history of humankind, we’ve seen these images before,” he said, comparing them to the concentration camps of the Holocaust. “Will history repeat itself again?”
While Minnesota is far from the unrest, it’s home to the largest Somali community in the United States. More than a dozen leaders of the community and organizations such as St. Paul-based World Without Genocide attended the presentation along with Minnesota Rep. Karen Clark and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.
“This is so shocking,” Clark said. “Kasarani is not a name I’m going to forget now.”
She said she will introduce a House resolution condemning the violence, while Ellison said he will bring it to the U.S. Capitol and is meeting with the Kenyan ambassador.
“Kenya is a multiracial country. It is quite disturbing to see one ethnic group singled out,” Ellison said. “My office will not stand idle by … we will continue to press this.”
So will local Somali community leaders. They are planning a third event to continue to get the word out to Minnesotans about the conflict overseas.
“It’s an international issue, it is,” Afyare said, “but it’s [also] a human issue.”
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141