Living in the diaspora, struck from your actual home, can be a difficult experience. This can be exacerbated by negative stereotypes pinned on immigrants. But for Imam, life is all about achieving the good in the greater scheme of things. To leave an indelible, positive mark on society. To commit to a greater, fair, fearless cause.
The story of the Somali mothers came to light through a documentary done by Al Jazeera in which they detailed their work and their views about what they do.
Imam is part of the night patrol team by women in one of Sweden's neighbourhoods afflicted by crime and violence, Rinkeby. During the day, she works for the municipality, but by night, she is one of a group of mothers who patrol the streets of Rinkeby, a suburb of the Swedish capital, Stockholm, to prevent crime and provide support to its young residents.
After a spate of violence which resulted in the deaths of many young people, these Somali mothers decided to take matters into their own hands. When others where fleeing Rinkeby because of the violence, they saw it as an opportunity to be who they want, an opportunity to contribute something good to society. Rinkbey has been termed as a ‘no-go’ and crime-ridden zone by some of Sweden’s far-right politicians and a number of media outlets because it is home to many immigrants.
Rinkeby is sometimes referred to as Little Mogadishu because of its huge Somali population. Among the Somalis are also residents of Eritrean, Ethiopian, Syrian, Bosnian, Polish, Turkish or Chilean descent, among other nationalities. Imam arrived in Rinkeby when she was only 13, fleeing the ravaging civil war in Somalia, and she has regarded Rinkeby as her home, a place that has guaranteed her security when she was in great pursuit of it.
There have been negative stereotypes on Rinkeby, but Imam is not fazed by that. She blames the media for propagating a false narrative of the neighbourhood, saying that the media only reports on Rinkeby when bad things happen, but don't report on the good things, as she insisted that "good things" happen too in Rinkeby.
She strongly believes Rinkeby must be a better place for the young people. "This is not a healthy environment for kids to grow up in. But we must keep thinking [about] how to improve it and better the environment for them. That is the main reason for our night patrol: to show the youth that we care about them." she said.
"As parents, we support them and tell them the truth about themselves. [We tell them] they are part of this society …. We fight for them."
The pressures on the youth of Rinkeby get too hard to bear. Unemployment, lack of opportunities, it is frustration which gradually builds up. Ethnic segregation aggravates the problems. "Not everyone can handle it," she says. For the Somali mothers, tackling gang violence has become their raison d'etre.
The mothers check a number of places during their patrol including empty schoolyards and parks. According to Iman, patrolling the streets allows them to establish patterns and trends that could lead to crime. It also allows them to have conversations with these youth.
Imam believes having conversations with the youth is way much better than just calling the cops on them. Iman also that believes that by patrolling the streets of Rinkeby, the mothers are able to break the patterns that lead to crime and violence.
"When we're out, there's less movement," she says. "The youth [either] go home or, if not, [they] don't do [those] things that might happen if adults weren't around."
Rinkeby does not have a police station yet, and when it is finally there, Imam hopes that the police can learn a few things from the mothers. "They do a lot, I know," she says. "But they could still do much more. [They could have] more human contact with the youth; walk with them, play basketball, joke …. [Not just] sit in their cars and patrol."
Imam has lamented the fact that they receive little to no support from the state. They also face constant dismissal, with many people reminding them that they are mothers and should stay at home with their children.
And for those who have heard the negative stories about Rinkeby, Iman has one message: "Come here and visit. Do not believe what everyone else says. Just come here and see it for yourself if you want to know the truth." You can watch the video here.
Header Image Credit: Al Jazeera on YouTube