Family members of the six Somali-Americans charged with conspiracy attended a meeting Wednesday evening at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis to discuss the situation and prepare for Thursday’s detainment hearing.
Earlier in the day, Somali community activist Abdirizak Bihi met with two women whose sons were arrested Sunday. Neither woman had any inkling her son could be persuaded to fight abroad, he said. They weren’t angered by the arrests, Bihi said, just saddened and fearful about what would happen next to their sons.
“They are in shock,” said Bihi, director of Somali Education and Social Advocacy in Minneapolis.
His talks with the women focused on their sons’ well-being and when they might be able to speak with them again. Bihi educated the mothers on the United States’ legal system and reassured them that their boys “are safe and will find justice.”
Many Somalis, especially older ones, are not accustomed to a system of due process and came from a part of the world where torture is routine, Bihi said. Simply speaking out on an issue can lead to imprisonment.
“It’s common to have people, fathers, members of families, disappear forever in a dungeon, with no light, no food,” Bihi said, “maybe die there.”
One of the women even said she was happy their sons had been stopped by authorities, Bihi said. “It’s much better to be stopped than be over there,” Bihi said, speaking from experience. “So there’s hope.”
One mother volunteered to participate in programming that seeks to counteract the recruitment of young Somali men by Islamic extremists.
“The mothers are the main gatekeepers here.”
The women put aside their own lives to allow their children to prosper in this society, he said.
“They would have sacrificed anything in the world to stop this. Even their own lives.”