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An Open Letter To Facebook, The Current Owners of Instagram

Abla Elmi
Saturday January 30, 2016

Dear Facebook, 

What’s in a name?

Sayid Maxamed Cabdille Xassan (English: Sayid Mahammed Abdullah Hassan):

He was a Somali religious and patriotic leader, known to the British as “Mad Mullah” (although he wasn’t mad). He led the Dervish state and army (an early 20th century Somali State) on a 20 year long campaign against the British who were trying to colonize Somalia. His campaign succeeded in outliving the Scramble for Africa, and was one of the longest colonial resistance campaigns on the continent of Africa.

Xawo Osman Tako (Hawo Tako):

She was a Somali Nationalist, who upon her death during the 1948 Mogadishu Riots became a symbol for the Somali people during their fight for independence.

SYL (Somali Youth League):

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They were one of the first political parties in Somalia. It was a party formed by Somalia’s youth, and there were 13 original founding members. They played a key role (along with other parties) in fighting for, and eventually helping Somalia gain independence in 1960. 

I could continue to give you a history lesson but here’s my point. The period during which we (as Somalis) were under colonial rule was only a blip in time when compared to Somalia’s long and vast history. And yet it seems that on Instagram, we are stuck in that short period of time, when Somalia was an “Italian Occupied” territory.

I was using the (Instagram) app, quite happily I might add, to share a photo series that I had created that quite ironically is called, “IfMyVoiceWasHeard”.

About a quarter of the way through, I started to notice that every time I tried to tag the location of one of my subjects as being located in “Mogadishu, Somalia”, Instagram would change it to “Italian Somaliland” or to  “Italian Mogadishu”. Not only that, but when I went back to look through all the other pictures I had tagged as being in “Mogadishu”, they had been changed to say “Italian Mogadishu” as well.

I’ve got nothing against the Italian people or country. I’m in love with their culture and their food. How it always sound like they are singing or asking you a question when they are speaking their language. The way the architecture of Italian cities feels like it’s revealing to you thousands of years worth of ancient history with every step you take.

Heck in a past life, I might’ve even been Italian. But NOT in this one. I am SOMALI. And I am proud of who I am, where I come from, and my ancestry. And I come from a country of warriors, who have fought long and hard to resist foreign and colonial occupation. We aren’t perfect, and the current state of my homeland isn’t by any means where it could or should be. But that doesn’t erase its right to have an identity, whatever that identity might be. 

So that’s what in a name. History. Identity. Love. Sorrow. War. Peace. Celebration. Hurt. Independence. Anger. Hunger. Beauty. Hope. To many people this may not be something of relevance, and may to them be “just a name”. But for me, and to my fellow countrymen, too many people have died for this “name” and for us to have the ability to identify as an independent country.

There’s a lot that we can’t fix in this world, but this egregious error, however it came about, is quite correctable. So please, all I ask is for Instagram and Facebook, to correctly identify my country, and to help me understand why and how this mistake occurred in the first place.
And so, I will patiently await your response Instagram. As Dj Khaled might agree, standing up for yourself is a “MAJOR key to success”.


Thank you and #SOMALIAHaNolaato.
By:Abla Elmi

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