[i] [Name] thank you so much for joining me for my interview.
[r] You’re welcome.
[i] We talked last week about, yes what interview will be about and, I asked you to bring an item, yes that means something to you. And I see you brought a book now
[r] Yes, I have…
[i] Can you tell me a little more about that.
Yeah, sure. I brought a novel. It’s this book Lost Father of Sayadin Hersi, Sayadin Hersi is a Somali writer. I think he’s the only Somali writer in The Netherlands and it’s not so much about this book, but the fact that I actually love reading and that’s something I’ve had since I was a child. And for me reading actually means one, yes in a very fast way, yes how do you say, get access to another world and by way of, yes just be able to go on holiday without leaving, and yes that’s why I love reading so that’s why I…, this is actually one of the last novels I read.
[i] Okay, and are there, is there any particular genre that you like to read?
[r] Yeah, I have to say I read, I read all kinds of things if I’m honest. But I have to say that it’s, um…, how do you say that, books with, for example, a Somali background or, uh, kind of asylum seekers background so you have to think of Afghan stories or Iranian stories, Somali stories I find very, yes I find that very, most interesting to read. One of the stories like ‘the Kite runner’ or ‘the Kite flyer’ I don’t remember what that writer’s called. Khaled Hosseini is called ‘he’, has written really beautiful books about, yes, just about a, or a novel say, what is going on in Afghanistan And those are books, yes, that I can appreciate.
[i] Okay, and about what age did you know you liked [read]?
[r] Well, I was in Holland with my family just a year and a half ago. That, I remember it very well and… Of course I had one, a language deficiency and I’m ready anyway, at least when I came here with my family I was seven, seven years old so that means that you actually start with group five. But because I had a language arrears I had to go to group four and so I was assigned a kind of stay mum who really helped me to be able to read and understand and who… the time to go out, yes, how do you say that, who took the time to go to the library with me, to choose books and that was really the moment, huh, so that was every Wednesday afternoon, I’m so grateful to that woman I have no idea what her name is and I don’t trace her back, but for me, yes, that was so, how, how do you say that? that was so decisive that from that moment on, she showed me the love for books and from that moment on I’m really like a, yes, I’m going through life like a bookworm really yes, fantastic woman, I’m still grateful to her.
[i] You gave, you just said you’re out of touch with that woman?
[r] Yeah look it was, yeah what is it, then it was… I was seven years what I said. So when we came to Holland we went first, or at least, then you went to an asylum seekers’ centre that was in Alkmaar and shortly after that we were assigned a house in Zaandam and that was really very short term, there, so that was the place where I actually learned to read, or at least, where my love for reading started. And about two years later we actually already left, we moved to a permanent home in Roermond actually on the other side of the country in the south. so that’s why I never saw or talked to that lady again.
[i] Okay, you just told me a little bit about when you got here, can you explain a little bit more about when you got here, with who and how that was?
[r] Yeah, yeah sure, I’m here at the end of 1989 early 1990 I think it was the beginning of 1990 I came to the Netherlands together with my mother, with my two brothers and my sister, I’m the eldest. And my father, who unfortunately could not go at that time and who is later yes, he was able to leave Somalia, but he finally got asylum …, yes how do you say, asylum in Denmark so yes and then I was aged seven so that was early 1990 because of course there was war, it was, yes, much too dangerous. Well I must say that we just, just before… Hey I mean when we left it was of course, it was already, or at least the war had already started, but my mother had God really looking ahead and she gave, she already saw that it wasn’t going. and she just sold everything at a fast pace, say the furniture sold, yes the family gathered some money together to be able to pay for our flight tickets. and we, we just went out of the country in a normal way. We didn’t have to walk, we didn’t, we didn’t go through terrible things. It was just the plane in and to Holland.
[i] And what did you think when you were a little kid to have to leave your country?
[r] Yeah look, when you’re so young, you don’t realize that yet, do you? You don’t realize that at that moment a decision will be made what really will be decided for the rest of your life, for the rest of your life after ebbing, I was the oldest at that moment I was seven. And the youngest was my youngest brother who was not yet one or just, or at least a few months. Actually I was told we were getting on the plane but nobody said where we were going, where are we going? for how long? are we coming back? and I didn’t ask those questions either, and I was glad we could just try something nice I thought nice plane and we’ll see.
[i] You thought it was exciting?
[r] Yeah, yeah, and it wasn’t until I got on the plane that I thought, “Hey, oh yeah, wait a minute, are we going back? But of course it was too late then. So then I was slightly [slightly] inconsolable, I must say.
[i] And are you homesick for Somalia?
[r] Yes I don’t know if homesickness is the word if I’m honest look I was seven, I still have there, I went to school for two years. I took a Koranic lesson, I still got some lessons at home Enzo and although we have almost no pictures anymore I have very clear memories about Somalia in colors and scents and I, yes if I talk about it with my mother for example: describe the house is? can I really, I can describe it in detail. And I’m, I’m not really homesick I think, but I’m more curious about how it is now. Of would it still be the same, would our house still be the same? Indeed, would the neighbors still be the same, by way of. Are, are the places I’ve seen in my head geographically correct? Are the people still there? It’s mostly that
[i] Are there any nice memories you have left?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We lived in a kind of suburb of Mogadishu the capital and the neighborhoods there, or at least, in the neighborhood where I lived then. It was very diverse so you really had villa, hut, normal house, villa, hut, huh you know what I mean so it was just really all mixed up and it was just mosque very friendly all Yes that was really fantastic, was really super fun. Farm, I remember that too. And I always had to go there to get milk and I was, I’m not from the animals, I know that. Ah, that was really funny. So, yeah I have really, really nice memories of Somalia absolutely.
[i] Okay, and, yeah, once Holland came, how did you like that?
[r] Look, I’m, I’m kind of a mini explorer, huh. Look and as a child I had that much more so me and me, my curiosity for the new was weighed more heavily for me, or at least was stronger, than my fear for what we had left, or at least, I didn’t even realize that we had left it that we had really left our homeland So, yes of course I didn’t like it, of course I didn’t like it that we weren’t just at home anymore and that we couldn’t be with grandma and at least we had of course already been taken out of our old situation. But at the same time the asylum seekers’ centre was for me very good memories of that as well. Yes, it was just a playground with all kinds of new experiences and new people and, yes, new experiences actually, yes.
[i] What was it like growing up in an asylum seekers’ centre with different people from different corners of the world?
[r] Look for me personally because I, I saw it then with the glasses of a child huh. So it must have been terrible for my mother, if I’m being very honest with her, who, of course, experienced it very differently. But for me as a child of seven it was yes I can’t say that it really was a warm bath or something, but it was very cool to be all those different kinds of people and cultures and I was curious and of course I went to the people of joh you are white, how is that possible? And where are you from? And, yeah, things like snow and a jacket on, you know, that, I never had that in Somalia suddenly we arrived and it was just minus, minus thirty degrees or so. It was anyway, there fell, there was a lot of snow and it was, those were of course all things that were new for all of us so I actually saw it as one big voyage of discovery, yes, and of course got language lessons there and yes that was, yes it was a big voyage of discovery, came home I say yes mommy mommy I learned something again, say yes. And my mother then, yes what did you learn? Yes this is my nose, this is mouth you know, and everyone happy ‘Oh’. Masha Allah what good, what good. Yeah it was real, yeah it must be because you are just as a child even though you experience something so terrible actually, because I think the fact that children are just so happy and positive that that, uh, that that just changes your image a lot and that was the case for me.
[i] And when you left the asylum seekers’ centre, which city did you go to and how was that?
[r] Yes, I think we were first assigned a temporary house by COA, the central body for asylum seekers, and that was in Zaandam, so we clashed quite a lot with the people after that because yes, you get out of your environment of asylum seekers where you are all actually, yes, foreigners, so to speak, and you have all your luggage, so yes, you come to live somewhere else and for us that was eh, yes, it was intense. I mean it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t traumatic or anything but it was …, there were a lot of things that we also …, it was a culture shock. That’s how I put it. It really was a culture shock.
[i] What was it that was hard for you to go or what was a shock for you?
[r] Yes, it was like dealing with the neighbours that was really difficult and we didn’t understand each other and, and of course, we were still small, so you still got into clashes with children. And we had learned from home how to hit first, and then eh, ‘Hit first, ask questions later’ [Hit first, ask questions later]. While of course that is completely not done [unacceptable] by Dutch standards. To yes, to beat people up in a way…, but that’s how it was in Somalia. If you had a fight now, then there was a fighting point. And here it is, if you had a fight, there was talk and that was that for us, yes it was, it really was a switch from oh yeah yeah, that, well that’s the way things are going here apparently different, yes and I could personally, the first years I found it pretty hard to find a twist in primary school because it was a yes, I was the only one so, I was the only colored person, only foreigner, only person with one, with a backpack and I just didn’t feel understood, so it, yeah it wasn’t no for me.. in the first years, or at least, elementary school time that was, that wasn’t really great, I must say.
[i] What helped you adjust then anyway? To feel at home?
[r] Yeah, read it. I, I, I, how do you say, I totally lost myself in reading and all that, every free minute I had, yeah, I read. And with everything, huh, and that went so far that at a certain moment the teacher is explaining something and now I find it boring and wandering off and I just have my book say under, under the lectern, I’m just reading. And, and I just didn’t hear, nothing more. I could totally shut up. I’m totally in my book, and I, all of a sudden, it’s from [Name, name, name]? Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh sorry sir oh sorry sir I was sitting, yeah I just lost myself in reading and, and we were playing outside a lot also with brothers and sisters, so that, yeah.
[i] So love of reading actually started at a young age?
[r] Yeah, sure.
[i] And can you tell us a little bit more about your family. How big that is and what your role was like [name]?
[r] Yeah, I come from a family of four. I’m the oldest, so after that I have a sister who… I’m 31, by the way. After that, my sister’s 29… 28, no 29 after that I have a brother who gives a year, 27 and my youngest brother [name] who is now 25 yes. So the four of us came to the Netherlands together with our mother. And because we were our father, of course he could not come with us at the same time due to circumstances and he finally got asylum in Denmark. Of course it was also very hard for my mother to find her way here as a single mother with four children in a country with a different language, culture, customs, you name it, everything that could be different was like that. So I had mainly the task, but it was not pronounced, but at least that was the role I took on Yes was actually just to kind, to assist my mother as much as possible and to relieve her in, yes, both the household chores and I know a lot of business with my brothers and sisters. So I mainly had, I had a… yes I was kind of a second mother say, also as, also because I am the oldest of the family yes it has actually been that way, grown.
[i] Okay, you grew up in Roermond, in the south of the country. How was that?
[r] Yes Roermond was, I must say after Zaandam so what was not good yes or at least, Zaandam I have just explained to you, that was not nice at all and we, we clashed with the neighbors and we did not understand each other and I did not like it at school. huh, and Roermond was really relief, it was delicious. I finally saw coloured people, it was about time. I’m thinking, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. At least then I don’t feel any different. It was different in the sense that it is Limburg and Limburg can also be seen as a kind of ‘mini abroad’ in the Netherlands itself But it was really a wonderful time, really, really enjoyed myself there.
[i] And how was it during your school time in Roermond?
[r] Yeah, great, great. So, as awful as it was in Zaandam it was so fun in Roermond and that actually had to do with the fact that it was a school with a lot of ethnicities. So a lot of Dutch people, Moroccans, Turkish people, Yugoslaves, Bosnians, everything. And I felt very much at home in that.
And what were you like as a student at that time?
Elementary school, you mean? Or apart from secondary school?
(i) Elementary and beyond?
Yes, in primary school it was a big playtime for me, I have to say, but I still read, so I spent the time there too, and in secondary school, I went to secondary school, I went to havo, I was really a terrible nerd. I was really, yeah, I was a very diligent student, I must say, yeah.
And what are the good memories you had of your college days in Roermond?
[r] Yeah, just that it’s a very diverse city and you saw that back at the schools, so to speak. Yeah, especially that.
[i] Okay, and what did you study after high school?
[r] I ended up studying international business and languages at HBO and then business administration at the university in a small village just 20 minutes south of Roermond. And my studies, my college education, was in Cambridge.
Why did you go abroad to study?
Well, I, look international business and languages is very broad you can compare it as a kind of, yes, marketing communication, commercial economics, but with languages. So the language that was a very important factor and that was for me because I like language very much Yeah so I have, I found it, yeah, great to do it. But then I graduated and I thought, yeah I’m actually a bit of a generalist yeah I can’t say that I specialise in anything and I really wanted to take or at least follow a more specific direction and at the same time a scholarship came my way and I applied for it, I actually let it depend on that and I got that scholarship and with that scholarship I went to study in Cambridge.
[i] And what was it like to study in Cambridge?
[r] Yeah, Cambridge was great. That was really, ah, I’d do it like that, I’d do it again. I mean, look at the difference between my time studying HBO in Sittard and Cambridge was, yeah Sittard was very, very normal, then you’re acting crazy enough. Hey, especially not, especially not wanting to excel, as long as you’re just average then, then, then we like you. And if you’re really above ground level then, yes rather not really. And in England, or at least Cambridge, was really much more of nou Fatima this you have, well this is a good piece but I know you can do better. I dare you to do even better. So, uh, it was much more of… You were much more encouraged to really get the most out of you. And it was, it was a very inspiring place. It was really great, yeah.
[i] So you, you like to perform like I do, understand?
[r] Yeah, yeah I do like being stimulated, sure, yeah. It’s in me. I, um. And sometimes I make it hard for myself with it But that’s something that comes into play, yeah I want when I start something I also want to be the best at it.
[i] And how long did you study there, and how did it all go?
[r] I have, let’s see, another half year, I have a year me, was say a year to finish your master and then egg… [Somalian: daughter is crying] and after that, sorry, and then another year to write your thesis and I was able to finish it in six months. And after that, I came back to the Netherlands.
[i] What was it like, in Cambridge, to continue your studies?
[r] Yes look again, Cambridge was really a very inspiring place to learn, absolutely. So yes I absolutely enjoyed it there and gained a lot of new experience. Nice friendships of course. And yes, the fact that it had an inter… international character that, yes, I was very happy with that.
[i] And once back in the Netherlands what did you do then?
[r] I had different functions then. First I worked at NXP, let’s see. At least that used to be Phillips and in the end that was disconnected. They make chips and that’s where I could use my languages. And after my job at NXP I actually had several jobs at Deloite. And actually in the hospital sector and then as an accountant, or at least, accountant in training and then as controller and financial advisor.
[i] Where did you settle when you came back, back to the Netherlands?
[r] In the first instance, I went back to Roermond just as a basis, so to speak. But because you, you the nicest jobs, or at least for me, was actually so that, the nice, the nice jobs were mainly in the suburbs. Yes actually that was for me the trigger of okay well it’s really nice to be back home again to live in Roermond, but I really will have to move eventually so… And then I also made the step and through some detours I finally went to live in The Hague.
[i] What brought you to The Hague anyway?
[r] Well, I got, I was, or at least, I got a job as a controller. at a university hospital near here. And I lived quite a bit back then, a little further away. So I came here in the first place for, like, work reasons, yeah.
[i] And what kind of work did you do?
[r] Well, as a financial advisor, so that was actually, how do you say, for, I don’t think I should mention the name, but at least for a university, for a UMC nearby. And I was, how do you say, the financial woman of a certain department and I took care of budgets, forecasts, quarterly reports, yes, drawing up business cases, that sort of thing.
[i] And what does The Hague mean to you besides your job?
[r] Well The Hague is, I feel, I feel quite at home, well, I have to say, I feel at home in many places but, uh, in one place you feel a bit less or a bit more at home, or at least, uh, in one place you feel a bit more at home than the other. And I have to say, I love that The Hague is so diverse. That you hè I mean 50% of, of, of the population of ge …, yes of The Hague has a different ethnicity and it is very diverse huh from Hindustani Surinamese to Chinese, to Moroccans to, well you can’t imagine if it lives here. Yes and I like that, I really like that, I really feel, I, yes I really do, the need to live in such a type of city yes, Cosmopolitan [cosmopolitan] like environment and yes hence nice, special, interesting people here, yes.
[i] And, do you or do you have friends of different nationalities in The Hague?
[r] Yeah, yeah, friends of everything, of course. I am friends with people with a Somali background but of course also with, with Dutch people and also with Moroccans and Turks and yes of everything really, it is very diverse right.
[i] Okay, and you indicated in our pre-interview that you have also been involved in politics, or would like to continue to be involved in the future. Can you tell us anything about that?
[r] Yes, I was on the board of the Green Left for a while. Look, I’ve always been a left-wing voter and yes it’s a certain number, for a certain period of time I was connected to GroenLinks. That was, yes that was a while ago by the way and at one point yes I was, yes, uh, that stopped. The fact that I live here in The Hague also makes it easy for me to take that step back to politics in any case, or the municipality politics with us. oh yes in the first instance municipal politics and then preferably national politics, yes to be able to take that step, so to speak. But whether it will be GreenLeft? I don’t think so. I… but that’s a different story. But, again, I do have a political heart and this is, this is the political capital, if you are interested in politics then you have to be in The Hague.
[i] You, you give to you have a political heart. Can you tell us more about that? What are your motives to go into politics?
[r] Well, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t know how that actually came about, I know it’s always been like that with me, or maybe, look from home, there was a lot of political talk at the kitchen table as well and we, we all vote. Very neat, up to my mother and she’s already in her sixties anyway. Yes why, why I find politics important, or at least what motivates me, is the fact that with politics you’re just in, uh… …you can make quite a difference for people, can’t you? And that can be very small of, I’ll call it what, the demolition of very old houses and just put decent affordable houses there for the residents. Until, I don’t know, the foreign policy, what you do as a country, I mean and so small and so big and everything in between. And if you’re just a good politician and you have the interests of the people first, yes then you can, you can get something done. That’s quite a noble goal, that, I would, yes that seems fantastic Yes, I am, I’m just not the type who just rakes money, money together and finds it very important to have money…, to have as much money as possible, I mean it’s nice to have money but that’s not my motive My motive is more to be socially active and to really mean something to the people. politics is a way to be able to mean something to the people.
[i] Besides being involved in politics, you also indicated that you are socially involved, with the city of The Hague. Can you tell us more about that?
[r] Yes, I, I, I’m actually in a certain trajectory, look I have to start all over again. of course, I have an asylum seekers background and I share with a lot of people a certain background, but what they have experienced, yes, the things they have seen, things they have encountered in the Netherlands, and yes I, I am lucky, I just found my way in the Netherlands and that also applies to my, or at least, that also applies to my for the rest of my family, and with that knowledge I would like to help other asylum seekers, or at least young asylum seekers in particular. I have also recently… a congress… no, I have to put it another way, I took part in a congress to, so to speak, coach young asylum seekers. And I’m actually in that process to finish it off and, and ultimately, to work there as well, so in this municipality for the municipality of The Hague.
[i] Okay you, you are going to coach young asylum seekers, with what, can you tell me more about that?
[r] Yeah, no, of course. Look if, if you, I came to the Netherlands as a child. but of course you also have eh, and with a family, but of course you have also just eh young single asylum seekers who are here, or at least underage asylum seekers I must say AMA’S. Yes, they come here at a very young age, mother’s soul alone and a new country is very much on your mind apart from the fact that for many people it really is a culture shock to be here. Of course there are also just a lot of practical things that play, home, study, work, that sort of thing. So those are the things you have to think about. when I say oh, coaching underage asylum seekers to at least guide them through this and to make sure that they, with the means they have, yes actually as much as possible just use the opportunities you have here. oh, because yes, there are enough people who don’t have those opportunities yes and it’s just, yes it’s a shame if you don’t use those opportunities with eh, not, yes, if you don’t use them.
[i] Do you do that with others or is it on a voluntary basis, only from within yourself?
[r] Yes this is from within myself at the moment but it can change in the future, it can change in the future by, for example, joining a certain foundation or a group of people with the same, with the same, with the same purpose, but at the moment it’s actually just, I do it alone and indeed on a voluntary basis.
[i] Okay, and that group you’re helping, those young asylum seekers, how big is that? Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
[r] You mean who I’m helping? Or just generally?
[i] Or who you want to help in general.
[r] Yes then, in the first instance I want to build it up on a small scale at least, because yes of course it’s about very intensive contacts for yes, for quite a longer period of time, so then yes, you really have to think of ten people, not more like that huh. If you want to do well in any case, if you really He I mean, the smaller the group the more you can of course just invest in it. He and the more you can do for, for such a person. So it’s a small group at first. And I actually want to keep it that way. That is, that’s the goal anyway.
[i] And what does that group consist of? From different nationalities, or?
Yeah, yeah, yeah… Look at the people with a Somali background. Of course these are the people I have in common with most of them, how do you say that? Hey, you also share a certain common background even more than with other asylum seekers, but it’s also about, yes it’s not just about Somali asylum seekers, let me put it this way. But the emphasis is on Somali asylum seekers. But if there are other people, hey, I’ll mention something of Bosnian origin or another African country, or South-Eur…, American country, you name it. Yeah, of course I’m just willing to, to help, yeah.
[i] To what extent do you see that link or does it go hand in hand with being politically involved and socially involved on the other hand, does it go well together?
[r] Yes, it certainly goes well together, yes, absolutely. Of course you can look at yourself as a municipal councillor or as a politician or national politician, you always have certain portfolios and you can choose to specialise and, let’s say, choose a certain focus. And, of course, I can use my expertise to coach asylum seekers and look after their interests, or at least, hey, of course, you can do that in politics as well. and in any case I can make sure that something happens to them. So yes indeed, you’ve seen that well. That link goes, goes very well together, yes.
[i] And how can that be combined with your work, because you’re a controller and you’re involved in politics and at the same time you’re involved in society. Yes, how does that go together?
[r] Yes that is, yes you know, I like a lot of things and, but with, and I’ve been a controller for a number of years now but I’ve actually made the switch from this year to leave control, so to speak, behind me, and to fully focus on the social part so it can go together, don’t think about that. But, uh, you can’t, you can, you obviously have less time to spend. you can understand that when you work full time next to it. And you still do that, you coach the asylum seekers and you also want to be active in politics, that’s all… you can’t do everything equally well you have to make choices and yes I have made that choice for me this year and I have decided to leave the math behind me and to fully focus on the political part and asylum seekers indeed.
[i] What is the highest point you, yes in your political career if I may call it that, have experienced in recent years? Can you tell me something, what about it?
[r] Can you explain that a bit more?
[i] In the years that you have been in politics, yes, what are the good things that have happened or, or less good things that you were less proud of?
[r] Personal or just general?
[i] Personal and general. Yes, in my time as a member of the board of GroenLinks, I look at it personally, and the board has among other things the purpose to do so, so it is not only there for the members, but of course also for the group chairmen and the councillors Enzo and the municipality to provide them with advice. And that’s what He makes the moment the advice is taken over, for example, I call it what you, you, you, you write a plan together about a, I don’t know, problem neighbourhood, eh, and that is then, for example, brought into the municipality or at least by the councillors of the municipality, and something is done with that. So that, uh, then it becomes, yes then your advice becomes, uh, then it goes from advice to something very concrete. And it, that is, it’s very cool to see the result like that. And of course, national politics is something general… otherwise it’s a bit more abstract, isn’t it, you see your results much more when you’re busy in the municipality as a way of, if yes, as in national politics. So that’s, that’s, that’s just the personal part. And in general, yes what strikes me, once again I look at it, I really have a political heart and I, I, I carry a big heart for people who really, how do you say that, with all the best intentions try to at least represent the interests of the people and to represent them as well as possible. be it in the gem…, eh, nationwide or in the municipality. But today’s tendency is that, yes, that’s not really something to be proud of if I’m being very honest. If you look at the phenomenon Wilders, eh, what is now, already almost 12 years, eh, that man is in my opinion from 2002 or 2003 started for himself at least out of my head, at least 10 years active. Yeah, that’s something to be sad about, if I’m honest.
[i] Crazy, crazy that you say that, that you call Wilders. Because he’s from Venlo, so he’s in the south where you grew up.
That’s right.
Yeah, what does that do to you? Now you live in The Hague and he’s also in politics The Hague. Yeah what, what does that do to you?
[r] Yeah, look I don’t feel like a Limburger if that’s what you mean, of: hey, a fellow Limburger does that. I mean, I feel more, how do you say, world citizen than something else. I also don’t feel Somali, not Dutch, not Limburger. Yes, world citizen. Yeah, what does that do to me? Yeah, I don’t really care if he’s from Limburg or at least grew up in Limburg. I do mind that the politics he confesses to, huh, what quite well, it’s just very negative and it’s all discriminatory. I don’t understand that people don’t say anything about that, do they? It’s just insulting and discriminating against a lot of minority groups in the Netherlands. Yeah, that he can get away with it, that it’s just okay. And that apparently there are people in the Netherlands who think that way. That’s what I think, that’s even worse I mean that he’s shouting that’s, that’s one but yes, he’s in The Hague because of course he just gets votes. Yes, and that does make the tenor in society, that makes it very different from, like, 20 years ago then, or 25 years ago then, uh, in the early nineties when we lived here, when we just lived here, so to speak, and the Netherlands really was a very tolerant country and unfortunately that’s not it anymore, and I’m sorry about that, because I’m part of it. I also feel it as my country I also feel yes He Dutchman, I feel a lot of things anyway. But if you hear someone like that and he’s just sitting there in the second room because people voted for him then I can imagine that people feel unwelcome here, and also just say: well you know what then I don’t take my things, I’m going somewhere else where I’m wanted. so yes that’s what I think, that’s really sad… sad thing.
[i] And in the period that you now live in The Hague with, yes with politics last year, that has hardened, and with Wilders et cetera, what was it like to live in The Hague, with different people and yes with politics which is continuous, has kept changing? What kind of feeling did that give us?
[r] Yes that is, yes again that is just the tenor of society nowadays, yes, it is, it is, it becomes, I think, feels, it feels, it feels as if there is going to be very different politics now than there used to be, so to speak. It’s all more populism driven and it’s also much more like now, I’ll just, uh, go into politics because that’s good for your resume by way of. Instead of it really coming from your intrinsic motivation. But that’s a good thing, people have to know that, they have to know that for themselves. But it does make, yes, this makes it a different kind of politics than what I have in mind or what I would like, so yes.
[i] Okay, you seem like a woman with a good heart, you’re in politics, you’re socially involved with your city, what else does Fatima do for the city of The Hague to make your life here even more fun?
[r] Yeah, of course not, huh, we’ve been over that political piece. Yes, it’s just very… “blending in the city” [mixing in the city] so just meet a lot of people. Because that’s what you have anyway, if you’re socially involved then you will of course meet quite a lot of special people. And it also applies to politics. So it’s mainly that I have to say, yes. And of course also just my circle of friends and those are, once again, people with different backgrounds. They are Somali people, but they are also, yes, there is a lot in between.
[i] How is the Somali community in The Hague? Can you tell something about it?
[r] Yes, I can. The Somali community here is, yes what is the word, it is, they are, politically active I must say, I think, yes, yes quite active actually. They are very committed to the interests of, of course, Somali people, or at least, people with a Somali background. There are very diverse people among them, so people with a very high level of education as a way of example. But also real problem families, and everything in between, so yes.
And what problems do you get, have you had to deal with, with you, yes you are socially involved. What problems are there in the municipality of The Hague, with Somali community?
[r] Well what you see is that especially in The Hague there are a lot of placements of children from home. Yeah, and that’s pretty intense. That, and then we do not have it, and it is almost massive and then it really concerns four five children per family who yes because it is just a disruptive yes because it is just a problem family, non-functioning family actually are placed out of the house and those children are of course placed in another, each somewhere else yes and that just causes a lot of grief and a lot of yes, yes a lot of grief in any case.
[i] Those, are those people who have just come to the Netherlands or are those people who have been living here for a very long time?
[r] Yes, they are people who live a bit, a bit shorter in The Netherlands, we are not talking about the first generation of Somalis. These are the people who came in the early 90s. And the people with whom, uh, when we talk about real Somali problem families, then we are talking about people who have only lived here for two, three, four years, yes, and who have not been able to find their way around very well, apparently.
[i] And what do you think goes wrong, that these people get into so much trouble that their children are placed out of the house?
[r] Well, I think there’s a lot of different things going on.
[i] Name’s couple?
[r] Well the, most of them, look at the Somalis who are now being taken in as asylum seekers in The Netherlands, huh, those are people who often have experienced at least 10 to 20 years of war, look where we might have gotten a little bit more and then could leave quickly, yes they just sat in the middle of total anarchy. Yeah, for all that time, say, for years. And it’s, and then all of a sudden you get into a normal society, uh, there’s no war anymore, there’s peace and there are rules. And yes, the people, people who are also not, I don’t think, well enough supported, huh, she doesn’t know what kind of psychological problems these people have. And they are already tangled up with themselves, so of course they can’t take care of their own offspring, yes, their own children. And so they fall in between, between shore and ship. Yeah, it’s really sad, so yeah.
[i] Can you give an approximate percentage, how full, how large is that group that is then in trouble where children are placed out, out of home, when you look at the total society of the Somali community in The Hague?
[r] I find that very difficult to say. But I can, I can tell you, look geographically, eh, because Somalis who live in The Netherlands, yes, just about everywhere. But geographically speaking it’s mainly here in The Hague and Rotterdam Rijmond and here, where really, yes, a lot of out-of-home events take place.
[i] And those children you help, and want to help in the future, those AMA’s, do they also come from families like that?
[r] No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. AMA’s are really alone, how do you say that, unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. So they came to the Netherlands on their 14th or 15th, I don’t know, alone. And these children who are really placed out of the house, were part of a family, with the father or mother, or with us … yes mother for example.
[i] And how does the Somali community in The Hague deal with that? This problem. Families falling out, falling apart?
[r] Yes I do, the problem is recognized, or sorry, acknowledged, I must say. The problem, the problem is recognized. But I don’t think there’s enough going on at the moment to finally get those children out of the house to do something about it. What, for example, Somali people say very often, and tr… This also applies to people of Moroccan or Turkish descent, at least people of Islamic descent. At the moment that such a child is placed out of the home, eh, it is a crisis, so eh, the child has to be taken out of the situation as soon as possible, so to speak, and he or she will be placed with a foster family, yes, he or she will be placed with a foster family. And that foster family, yes, is, very often has a completely different background than for example a Somali Islamic family, eh. So then, for example, a child who comes from an Islamic family can be placed with a Dutch couple or people who don’t believe or…, eh. And that’s something people really hate, but then you can also turn it around and say: okay fine what are you doing to her, huh? Because then you should be able to cope with the fact that the Somali community is much more open as a foster parent and that does not happen again, huh, so on the one hand there is the screaming of murder and fire of yes what terrible that those children are evicted from the house, but on the other hand, yes, there are just far too few Somali foster parents. So yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s, yeah, that’s, yeah, that’s a shame.
[i] And do you think that politics is doing something to address this problem, yes, or to do something about it?
[r] Yes, yes national politics that is of course that is very high over, it is not very specific so then, you really have to talk about municipal politics. That will certainly be brought up but I think the seriousness of the matter is still recognised, so I think this should be given a lot more attention. This is what’s happening at the moment with, yes, our children. Well, if you want those children, huh, if you want to help those children and help those families, now open your heart and your house and take such a child, huh, as a foster child. So that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that. That should be a lot more, that story should be told a lot more.
[i] You’ve said more than once that you’re committed to underage asylum seekers who have come here on their own and would be willing to take in a child…
[r] Absolutely.
[i] or to want to adopt?
[r] Yeah yeah, yeah that’s something, that’s something that definitely plays a role it’s that I live too small now and I just gave birth to a little girl who is now about ten weeks old. But if she were a bit older, for example, I would definitely consider taking in a foster child, Somali foster child, absolutely, absolutely, yes.
And can you tell me something about… you’ve been living in The Hague for a while now. How about the rest of your family, where they live and what they do?
[r] Yes, I have, well let’s see, my youngest brother who still lives in Roermond, who studies Medicine in Maastricht, who lives, who still lives in Roermond. My mother who recently moved and my mother who lives in Utrecht. And my little brother, not my youngest brother but the second brother lives in The Hague, so we live here. And my sister who lives in Delft. So we’re, we’re pretty scattered, yeah.
[i] And yes, how, and what do you think of you being scattered?
[r] Yes, of course that is difficult, we have, the aim is to live as close to each other as possible and we have set that in motion, at least, that’s what we’ve talked about. And the aim is to live in the same city, at least in a few years’ time. Is also just nice for my mother and she, uh, she can see her grandchildren a bit more often Enzo so that is something, yes, that has been discussed.
[i] And what are the plans for the future of, of [name] with your city and with the work you do now for underage asylum seekers, so what can we expect in the future?
[r] Well I just hope to be able to continue with, with, yes, I hope to be able to continue with this and especially really get a foothold in, with the city politics. So that I can also, what we have just discussed, say about the placements that are taking place in the Somali community, that is just an example of what is going on within the Somali community to be able to put that much better on the map and to be able to draw much more attention to that, yes.
[i] You said, you just indicated that there are more examples besides evictions. Name a few more that you would like to do something about in the future.
r] Well specifically for the Somali community, for example, in addition to evictions, there is, there is another problem that often plays a role as well and that is, the qat use of especially the men, the Somali men. And qat is a, how do you say, it’s a kind of, it’s a kind of soft drugs. What looks like weed but it has the same effect as amphetamine so it’s pretty intense. When you tell her about it like that,yeah,when I tell her it’s like that,it’s pretty intense,too. But men, Somali men who, who, yeah, it’s a plant you chew. It’s been done for a long time. But it also means that the moment you chew a plant like that, you can’t really do that much, you can do something else, so. All the men get together and it’s cozy and there is a lot of tea drunk and chewed. And, and, the day after that, you actually sleep a hole in the day, that’s what it comes down to. You have no idea what, what, yes, is going on in the house and the use of qat has a very destabilizing factor, really a disruptive factor, especially in the Somali population. As a result, whole families fall apart, children are overlooked, the relationship between man and woman becomes very difficult. And although it is forbidden in The Netherlands now it is finally time, it is forbidden now. It is still chewed. And I would really advocate a zero tolerance policy for that. [you] To what extent does this qat problem exist in the community, Somali community in The Hague? Can you specifically mention things then?
Yeah, yeah, that’s… that’s definitely a factor that plays a role, isn’t it? Very often the problems are related to each other, so to speak. So we’ve just been talking about the evictions, and then you can ask yourself why is such a child evicted? Of course it may have to do with the fact that the parents of such a child are very traumatized and just don’t function anymore and that’s why… Yeah, say child, can take good care of their child. But it can also have to do with the fact that because they have had such a trauma, they actually try to forget everything by chewing qat, huh. So the result can be that such a child is completely neglected, he or she isn’t showered, he or she isn’t eaten, now he or she arrives at elementary school in half a pair of pyjamas, questions are asked and before you know it, you’ve got the, what’s the name, the children’s judge on, hanging from your trousers, so yes, that’s actually it.
[i] Is this also a problem you’re trying to raise in local politics or want to do in the future?
[r] Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, yeah. Hey, again, problems are very often connected and it’s not that one problem is less important than the other, but where children are involved or where children come into play that’s something that has a certain trigger with me, Hey, and yes it’s just a big sin that that, this, these children grow up in the Netherlands without actually being able to take advantage of everything that, what opportunities you have in the Netherlands, huh, because you, yeah, because they in turn, huh, quite often go through rough stuff by going through I don’t know how many foster families, yeah. And with that you have deprived such a child of a stable home, so they often just can’t function again. And that can very often just have a repeating effect. So I certainly am strongly committed to this problem … to denounce this kind of problem, but I, I am even more committed to the specific part that relates to children, to at least, yes, to bring that well to the attention and to really do something about it.
[i] To come back to those young underage asylum seekers that you are helping, that group that that is? Are they boys? Girls? What age? Can you tell us anything more, anything about that?
[r] Yeah, it’s a very diverse group so what is it, it’s both boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 16, 18 years sorry.
[i] And where do they live at the moment? Are they in the asylum seekers’ centre or do they live, do they have their own house?
[r] It depends on what stage of the procedure they are at. They may be children who are indeed still waiting for their asylum status, i.e. they just live in the asylum seekers’ centre. But they may also be children who, for example, have been granted some sort of provisional, how do you say, provisional status. So it is possible, can be both.
[i] Okay, miscellaneous.
[r] Yeah.
[i] Yes, given that you are really involved with the Somali community in The Hague and all the problems they actually have. Can you tell us a little more about how the Somali community in general is in The Hague.Yeah,how they interact with each other? What kind of people are they?
[r] Yes that is, that is very hard to say, it is very diverse, huh. There are… there are people who have lived here since the nineties and who have built a life here. Just work, have a stable life, house tree animal. And, and, and people who live here for a year, really have seen a lot of things in Somalia and do not recognize that they, or at least that the psychological consequences, eh, that is often not recognized in the Somali community because they would rather not, that they get the label crazy say. So that comes into play,
[i] How come?
Yeah, I don’t know, apparently that was, that’s, that’s always been something of a taboo subject to…, yeah, that’s always, yeah, that’s always been a taboo subject. As soon as you say you get the stamp psychically or something, or psychologically, it’s translated very quickly as ‘That’s crazy’. [speaks Somalian] So yes, and of course that’s just not the case…, and that also makes sure that, because that problem is not recognized, people don’t seek help, with all the consequences that entails. Yes, and it’s really very diverse, so you’ve got people like that in between, of course you’ve got the AMA’s who also live here. Yes, you can’t really say that it’s a very homogeneous group or so it’s really all kinds of things, yes.
[i] If you look at other groups, yes, foreigners living in The Hague. To what extent do you think that Somali community, yes their turn, have found their way in Dutch society compared to other groups of yes foreigners?
[r] I, what I see is, I strongly see a dichotomy between the first generation of Somalis who came here in the early 90s. Most of them have found their niche, or at least the children, so to speak. You have just been able to go to school, learn a trade, go to work, you name it. And the second generation of Somalis later than the 90s, or at least at the end of the 90s, early 2000, 2001 and later so to speak. And these are people who actually lived and lived in war. Yes, that is, those are people with a lot of traumas and a lot of psychological problems. Which are not, huh, acknowledged. They’re used to living in anarchy and if at a certain point you end up in a society with all kinds of rules and conditions, yes they don’t accept that and they just don’t function in it. Again with all the consequences of that huh. I’ll give you an example when we talk about children. In Somalia it was very common to hit children. So to physically, physically, just to punish them, physically, physically. Of course this is not done here [unacceptable], eh, Somalis who are here already, the first generation of Somalis know now with the knowledge that that is not okay, eh, and that you, very often you achieve a counterproductive effect by corporal punishment of a child. But what a lot of Somalis do not understand is that the moment you do something like this in The Netherlands, eh, it can mean that you just lose your child. While from the point of view of the Somali parent they have something like that but that is my child, nobody is talking about that but that is not the case. Hey, if you fail to fulfill your task, yes your pedagogical task properly, decently, then you have the government intervening for you and then you just lost your child. And those are all things that that, that, what wants with, yes with a lot of Somali people that is not what I want to say. And then I have especially, not people of my generation but the generation of our parents.
i] You indicate that this is a problem because a lot of Somali people are not up to the high values and standards here in The Netherlands.
[r] Right.
[i] Who helps these people to integrate well in order to better understand the society they live in so that they actually catch up with that problem. In order to get a better understanding of values and norms here. Can you tell more about that? How does that work?
[r] Yes, that’s what you need compatriots for. People who, they say, yeah, show them the way in this society full of rules, laws, states. That doesn’t mean that they like it or accept it, but, yes, they will be people who really need intensive guidance from fellow countrymen in order to let them, yes, to be able to function in society, so to speak.
[i] Is there any particular support centre in The Hague where these people are holped…, or how does it work?
[r] Yes in The Hague there are several foundations, or at least Somali foundations that are active and therefore help these people. And it can really, it can vary from He that people come to a foundation and say yes I need help with translating a letter, huh I name it. Until indeed I have a financial problem, I can’t pay my bills, I apparently have, uh, that kind of thing. So it, it’s very diverse. So those supporters are fortunate and people know where to find them.
[i] And do you or do you help other groups of Somalis in addition to what you give to underage asylum seekers to help them integrate a little bit into Dutch society?
[r] Excuse me, can you repeat that?
[i] Do you do even more volunteer work, to help the Somali community, people from the Somali community who have problems, to integrate them better in Dutch society?
[r] How do you mean, with even more volunteering?
[i] Yes if you do other activities besides helping or supervising underage asylum seekers.
[r] Oh so, no at the moment I have really focused on that part so really on the AMA’s and the political piece. Of course you do come into contact with such people and I can refer them and I know most people from the foundations so you can, you can refer them well, yes.
Okay, in the beginning we had ov… that you like to read. Do you ever think maybe you’re gonna write something yourself or do you have an ambition to write?
No, no, absolutely not. I’m, I’m a reader, I’m not a writer, so yeah.
[i] And within the Somali community, is there a lot of reading there too?
Yeah, yeah… Anyway, the Somali community is more of an ‘Oral society’ [oral community], it is, they have to have more, they have to have more of speech, say of, say, just story telling oral than real reading I have to say.
Oh yeah, tell me more about that.
[r] Yeah, it’s [interrupted] Yeah, so. Sorry can you repeat the question?
[i] [Name], I’d like to thank you very much for joining me, helping me, cooperating for my interview. And, I think you’re, uh, doing a great thing for the community, for the Somali community in your town.
[r] Thank you.
[i] I also wish you a lot of strength with all the work and, and your volunteer work that you are going to do for the underage asylum seekers. And, yes, I also wish you success. And, yes, thank you again for joining me for this interview.
[r] Yes, thank you.