#GreaterSeattle: Somali refugee shines light on forgotten conflict

Mohamed Shidane spent most of his life in the Dagahaley refugee camp in Kenya, where he fled with his family after civil war broke out in Somalia.

“I remember one time, I think 1998, it rained and half of the refugee camp was underwater,” Shidane recalls. “One moment you’re crying for rain, the other moment you run for your life from the water.”

Now that he’s resettled to a new home in Kent, Washington, Shidane is making the most of his opportunities. He works early morning shifts as an interpreter, then goes to university, and has even led community poetry workshops.

But he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

He spends most of his free time working with the Ogaden Youth and Student Union (OYSU). The organization was created to raise awareness about the human rights abuses occurring in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, where the majority of the population is Somali.

Wearing his signature bowtie, Shidane hosts a TV show providing news about the Ogaden and a platform for its people to communicate.

“I will never stop fighting for the ones of my people who don’t have voices of their own,” Shidane says. “I’ll be a voice for the voiceless.”

About the #GreaterSeattle series: Political slogans about “making America great again” are stirring up racism and anti-immigrant sentiment around the country. But these young people are proof that our growing diversity is Seattle’s greatest strength.

This video was produced as part of a class taught by Seattle Times photographer Erika Schultz for the UW Journalism program.