By Natasha Louis
Dr. Farah’s demeanor was surprisingly reserved when he sat down with me in his gray, loose-fitting suit. Just arriving from a conference at the United Nations, he was quiet and calm, possibly also exhausted from his hectic schedule. While Dr. Farah speaks modestly, it should not mislead on his ability to be remarkably succinct and articulate. During our discussion, he never faltered or had to search for words; the conflict in Somalia was a matter he knew well. Talking so logically about such an arduous conflict almost gave me the impression that I was conversing with someone very intelligent but far removed from the issue. However, upon making eye contact, I could see something deep within him and witnessed that this was a man who has seen and experienced copious tribulations, yet contests it with such an unremitting spirit. To state Dr. Farah is courageous is an understatement. His unwavering commitment to peace and his country even after the loss of his arm and surviving three attacks, carried out by the very people he tries to disengage and rehabilitate, is incredibly commendable.
by Joanna Blaz
Shaking hands with a United Nations leader last week was no regular greeting. Dr. Abdiqafar Yasin Farah, who lost one his right arm in an attack in Somalia on September 18, 2006, remained hopeful and optimistic as he visited the United Nations Foundation and talked about surviving two explosions, his work with the United Nations and the future of his country.
Farah got his start in 2006 as an advisor to the Somali government, because of his background in Economics, Defense and Security. Within two months of starting work, the first suicide bomber in Somailia struck his small unit and he lost his arm that day.
But Farah continued working to eliminate the same violence that he experienced. Farah is now the National Officer of DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) at the United Nations Mission in Somalia. Through their disarmament efforts, Farah’s team stripped more than 2,000 members of the militia of their weapons and sent them back into the community. Every three months, the government follows up. They usually find that the former Al-Shabab fighters are now new business owners, active in their town.
“Help these guys so they can come out and be good citizens, that is the goal,” Farah said.
Farah’s commitment to peace was tested again in July 2016, when he was caught in another attack by a suicide bomber at the Mogadishu International Airport, adjacent to the Somalia UN compound. He reported to the UN security officer who took him to the hospital. The attack made international headlines, with 13 people killed.
Despite witnessing the terror attacks, Farah said he has seen a lot of progress in his country. He said the Somalian government is now functioning, with former warlords and militia integrated into the security forces. The political environment is also improving: although Somalians still elect leaders based on a clan system, they now have an outgoing president and parliament that Farah points out were not there two decades ago.
Farah’s hope is unwavering. After losing friends in the attacks and losing his own arm, Farah’s goal for the future remains the same: “to make some peace.”
The United Nations Association is leading a fundraiser to get Farah a more functional prosthetic arm. So far the group has raised $1,500 of the $8,000 needed. To donate please visit: https://www.crowdrise.com/support-a-un-peacekeeper.
* The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.