About a dozen Somali women and children were forced into a hut, staring at the barrel of a machine gun whirling around on a tripod. Mothers and children, cousins and neighbors, watched their way of life crumble around them when their villages were attacked. The invaders — the Darood and Hawiye rebel clans — told them that whoever moved would be shot and killed on the spot. Fatuma Muya believed them. She was around 10 years old. She had witnessed these clans slay six of her brothers during the bloody civil war that began in Somalia in 1991. She sat still, trembling with fear. Her mother could not sit still.
Contractions. She was going into labor with the child she was carrying. The timing of her child choosing to arrive at this moment threatened her very life. The men warned her. “Stop moving,” they said as they laughed at her claims of pregnancy. They accused her of stuffing money up her dress. When she writhed in pain once more, one of the soldiers smacked her in the stomach with the butt of his machine gun. Her water broke immediately, and her youngest child was stillborn. Fatuma lost another sibling that day before she ever had a chance to know them.
Sorrow and tragedy are part of what has shaped her life. Yet she chooses to not let it define her as she builds a new foundation in Pittsburgh 26 years after these events. Now, a mother herself, Fatuma loves and appreciates Pittsburgh, especially after several years at a refugee camp in Kenya and slow-moving resettlement process. However, she has noticed a shift in the city she has lived in for over a decade. With the beginning of Donald Trump’s campaign, her family has felt animosity rise. One incident in particular remains etched in her memory.
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