Raids alarm Minnesota Somalis; some see denial of issue

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH
  • Star Tribune
  • November 8, 2010 - 9:57 PM

"Prostitution ring? What's next?" asked Qasim Bashir, standing outside Mapps Coffee & Tea in Minneapolis, discussing the arrests with two friends. "That's the questions that are going on right now." ¶ Hours after dozens were arrested in a human trafficking sweep in the Twin Cities and Nashville Monday, many in the local Somali community greeted the news with a mixture of sadness and disgust.

Abdirizak Bihi has worked to raise awareness about human trafficking. "I think the problems are bigger," he said. "It's not that the youth are bad. They're crying out for attention. We're not really opening the doors for them."

That 29 people were indicted, including at least a dozen from Minnesota, alarmed many local Somalis.

"We are shocked that the number is so big," said Dahir Jibreel, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center.

Families are feeling demoralized, and worried sick about the dangers their children could be facing on the streets, he said.

Community activist Omar Jamal said Monday's events will shatter the myth that sex trafficking is not happening here.

"It's been on the radar, but the community was in collective denial," he said.

Mohamoud Treek, editor of, a popular Somali news website, said part of the problem is that troubles aren't openly discussed.

"A lot of people -- mostly older people -- they know what's going on but they don't want to talk about it," he said. "They don't share if there's a problem. That's why it gets worse and worse."

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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