Abdi Ali Mohamud, a 43-year-old father, was shot and killed in an alley on Friday. Two weeks earlier, Yusuf Abdirahim, 20, was beaten to death. They are two of three Somali men killed this year in Edmonton, 14 in the city in three years, with arrests made in only one. It’s not just Edmonton: Across Alberta, the torrent of violence has claimed 34 young Somali-Canadian men since 2006.
“The frequency of these killings is crazy. It is very, very scary,” said Ahmed Hussen, national president of the Canadian Somali Congress, after members of Alberta’s Somali community carried yet another casket draped in a green-and-gold embroidered prayer rug from Edmonton’s Al-Rashid Mosque.
Various Somali groups are organizing two town hall meetings in Edmonton for June 26 and 28 in a search for answers.
“As a Somali community we have to do something,” Sheikh Osman Barre, who has prepared many of the city’s dead for burial, told the CBC this week. “We have to wake up. We can’t complain [to] someone else all the time. We have to do something.”
The violence started in earnest in 2005 when many young men, born in Ontario to women who fled war-torn Somalia, dropped out of school to move west with dreams of lucrative jobs in the oil patch. When the jobs didn’t materialize or they were laid off during the recession, they were drawn to the money promised in the drug trade.
“The majority of them were good kids from good families who, overnight, fell into a swift current they couldn’t escape,” said Abdirahman Duale, executive director of Somali-Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton.
With so few arrests in the slayings, knowing precisely who is doing the killing is difficult. Some are falling to other Somalis. Some to established drug players who do not appreciate competition; others are killed in the related violence that erupts when hot-headed youths have access to guns, community members said.
The latest victim seems to be the inevitable collateral victim. Police say he had no known criminal involvement. On Thursday, Edmonton Police Detective Dan Jones said Mr. Mohamud’s murder was a case of mistaken identity, describing the attack as “organized” and “thought out.”
The carnage sparks both debate and distress as the community looks for answers.
“They are wannabe gangsters who want to live the glorified glamour of gang life. Sometimes they pay with their lives,” said Mr. Hussen. “The influence of guns and gangs on these kids is not from Somalia, it’s from the United States in gang movies and in rap videos.”
As with any situation such as this — in any city, with any community — the roots of the trouble are deep.
Community activists point to the disengagement between immigrant parents and their Westernized children, who sometimes speak different languages and maintain divergent cultural values and interests. The war in Somalia, which brought many to Canada as refugees, means higher rates of single-parent homes.
The demographics of Somali-Canadians shows a community that is exceptionally young, with 80% being under the age of 30. The average household has seven children and the median household income falls well below average. The Somali community is about 13,000 strong in Edmonton.
When the young men move to Alberta, they are usually without supervision.
“They were floating around Alberta but their parents are still in Ontario,” said Mr. Hussen.
“The parents don’t know what their boys are up to. They only find out when they are called and told to come to Edmonton to collect their son’s body. When you speak to these parents, they say ‘I thought my son was working at Tim Hortons’ or ‘He told me he was a bus driver.’”
Rod Knecht, Edmonton’s new chief of police, said his force is reaching out to the Somali community.
“As a police service, we have to be aware of the changing community and respond to that,” he said. “I think the Edmonton Police Service has to reflect the diversity of the community, both in our makeup and our response to the needs.”
Mahamad Accord, president of the Alberta Somali Community Centre, said the young men are neither integrated into the Somali community or mainstream society, leaving them particularly disenfranchised. He wants to see additional resources and efforts by police to solve past crimes to help prevent futher killings.
“The people who are dying are the young ones and they have no connection or involvement in our community. The only contact police have with them is when they put them in jail,” he said.
The Future Constitutional Structure of the Somali Republic: Federal or Decentralized Unitary State? Abdirizaq Haji Hussein
Islamaphobia Can Create Radicalization: James Zogby
Stoking Irrational Fears About Islam: By Eugene Robinson
The Hypocrisy of Peter King: By Russell Simons
Experiences of a Recently Converted Hindu Woman: By Sister Noor
Somali Catastrophe andIntellectuals’ Succor: Conf. of Somali Intellectuals Communique
Sheikh Sharif's Hypocricy: By Abdirahman Takhal
A postscript to the Selection of the new Prime Minister: By Faisal Roble
President Shirif Ahmed at the UN: Time to leave: By Abdikarim Buh
Abdifatah Shiekh Abdullahi-the Character Behind the Mask: By Mohamed Kaahin
The Promise: How Islam Found Me: By Kari Ansari
The Genesis of Islamism in Somalia: By Abdiaziz Abdi
I don't believe UWSLF (Formerly Al Itihad) have anything to offer: By Abdiweli Ali
Printing currency for Somalia now would be a betrayal: By Abdullahi Dool
Press Statement Concerning Our Deseased Father: By Fathia Mohamed Yusuf
The TFG leaders of Somalia are in love with photo ops, but who cares about the people? By Abdi Mohamed Abdi
Somalia: Camouflaging under Islamic Shadow with Sinister aims : By Dr. Yusuf O. Azhari
Is Yusuf-Garaad the Only Photogenic Broadcaster at the BBC? By Ibrahim Sheikh.Nor