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Abdi Nor Iftan Shares Experiences During Africa Week

Posted by on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 in News, TIPs 2016.

Written by Vanderbilt rising sophomore Dylan Choi

Africa Week sponsored several incredible events including the African drumming clinic, an African dancing class and teach-ins on diverse topics. However, the event I found the most impressive was the talk given by Abdi Nor Iftan, a refugee/reporter from Somalia.

While the other events provided valuable knowledge about Africa and African culture, Abdi’s talk truly moved my heart. As an immigrant myself, I was able to connect with his story. For instance, when Abdi talked about the first time he came to the U.S., I could not help but remember the first time I arrived in this country, to Indiana to be specific. I was surprised not by how modernized the U.S. was, but by how unmodernized Indiana’s cornfields were.


Nevertheless, there were just as many parts of Abdi’s story that I could not relate to since I came to the U.S. for education and he came for life. With the ongoing civil war in Somalia, Abdi would have been recruited to fight. Considering that the Somali Civil War has caused roughly 500,000 casualties and more than one million displaced, Abdi’s staying in Somalia could literally have cost him his life. I was astonished that so many individuals in Somalia, including Abdi, lack the resources that I take for granted. For instance, basic government and police services are made unavailable unless individuals pay bribery in exchange for those services. Thus, as much as I thought that my transition to the U.S. was difficult, Abdi’s story made me reflect on just how much other individuals may go through to immigrate to the U.S. And although another person having gone through greater difficulties than I does not mean that I have not gone through difficult moments, Abdi’s story forced me to remember how much I have to be grateful for.

I would like to briefly highlight the steps that Abdi took to come to the U.S. Although Abdi was incredibly fortunate to receive the Diversity Immigrant Visa, a lottery that randomly selects individuals from other nations to receive a U.S. green card, he faced great difficulties in coming to the U.S. even after he “won the lottery.” Because the U.S. does not have an embassy in Somalia, and since Somalia does not have the necessary government structures to aid the immigration process, Abdi had to go through seemingly impossible steps to get to the U.S. These steps included persuading a U.S. diplomat in Kenya to approve his visa and bribing a bureaucrat to get the necessary paperwork for his visa. Abdi’s story made me wonder if individuals who live in failed states, and thus would benefit the most by immigrating to or taking refuge in the U.S., are those facing the greatest challenges in moving to the U.S., since their states are among those with the fewest ties to the U.S.

I encourage you to join the conversation by leaving comments or asking questions in the space provided below. Additionally, I would highly recommend that you listen to the This American Life podcast that illustrates Abdi’s journey to the United States.

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