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Life stories of Heidelberg West’s Somali community feature in new book

Herald Sun Leader
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
By Laura Armitage

Author Anna Doyle with Hassan Bashir one of the of 14 Somali residents featured in Paths to Peace. Picture: Carmelo Bazzano

YEARS behind bars in solitary confinement as a political prisoner is one of the inspiring stories of hope, survival and resilience told in a very special Heidelberg West book.

Paths to Peace features the untold journeys of 14 Somali Heidelberg West residents who fled to Australia to escape civil war and oppression.

Author Anne Doyle compiled the stories and Iman Barabadi designed the cover and took the photos, as part of a project with Olympic Adult Education in Heidelberg West.

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“It is an attempt to faithfully portray the lived experiences, as shared with me of several people who have lived lives touched by tragedy, trauma and at times, heroism,” Doyle said.

Somalia is still battling civil conflict, terrorist organisations and starvation.

Doyle said their stories stemmed from across Somalia.

“Some lived in the city, some in rural and some in the north, lots lived in Mogadishu and many ended up in refugee camps,” Doyle said.

She said one of the most poignant stories was about Abdi, now in his 70s, who was a political prisoner who spent seven years in solitary confinement for writing poetry and inciting people to riot.

“His description of his cell was pretty dire,” Doyle said.

“The fact he was able to survive after what they did to him shows what a strong person he is.”

Doyle said the project also aimed to connect the Somali community with adult education.

Somali Australian Council of Victoria secretary Hussein Haraco said the book was an intergenerational and cross cultural learning opportunity and celebration of the Somali community.

“Somali men and women can celebrate proudly the lives of our families, friends and neighbours,” he said.

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