Safira was born on 6th of July in 1968 at 1.30 AM. Her mother died soon after giving birth. Safira was raised by an aunt. In her early days she attended school wearing a white chemise buttoned down in the front and a tight-fit to her robust figure. She was a Chinese breed with a round face and smooth long hair. Among the brown girls she was the only one with yellow skin or light-toned skin. Safira could be the only oriental daughter in the whole of Mogadishu.
Her grandmother maintained a gift that she saw at her age of eleven – a handmade musical jewellery box finished in burr elm with a gorgeous floral inlay design set into the lid; open the box to reveal plush lined interior and glass mirror to hear the musical movement play as a ballerina figurine twirled on the top. Her biological father gave this gift box however nobody knew his name. None got a photograph either. They called him ‘safir’ meaning ambassador in their tongue.
Guiren Gui was gone and the consulate relocated somewhere in the heart of Mogadishu before the famous coup in October of 1969 spearheaded by the military and government taken over by Major General Barre. President Shermarke was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards. And since it grew into a phase of a failed state though the new government embarked on various large-scale public works programmes nationalising land and industry. This government developed ties with the Arab World and soon leading foreign agencies relinquished. China remained a donor but quite insignificant without a proper consulate housing their mission.
Life was normal. Safira completed Italian school and joined the Somali National University located three kilometres from home. She took a joy ride up the Afgoye route on her bicycle with friends wearing miniskirts.
Her grandfather was an aristocrat and a frugal baron who claimed this area encircling the compounds of the Turkish Embassy and the former Chinese consulate belonged to him. There wasn’t a dull moment and during weekends Ainan Family travelled in a Land Rover twenty-five kilometres west to Afgoye where he kept camels and farms in the green fields of Shabelle Valley. This was her grandfather’s stronghold of the Geledi clan.
Here the air was different and her aunts would swim in the river in bikinis. Her grandfather loved outdoors; hunting and feasting. He carried a shotgun.
This family never missed the campfire week to mark the Istunka New Year that falls around 20th of July. This town demonstrated a martial art festival with mock battles of the Ajuran Empire and each team supported by poets, female vocalists and dance groups.
Ainans travelled broadly in the Horn of Africa; Egypt to Kenya, Aden to Adis Ababa. Made trips to salient beaches and ports along the coast. On the great train journey, her grandfather would hide the ammunition box under the seat.
Within the limewashed walls of the Ainan house, with double-leafed doors and tiny windows varnished in old wood dyes, a visitor or a merchant from a far-off land always stayed. Here they exchanged gold and jewellery, analgesics and aphrodisiacs amongst other things. Ainan Family claimed riches from a long lost opium trade; those lockers still stink.
Safira married at her age of seventeen to a young guy working in telecommunications. Her grandfather did endow with a grandeur reception and gifted a red-colour Volkswagen Beetle. They moved to live in the city. A year later, she filed for divorce. Her husband sold this lovely automobile and she failed to recover it. She lost the case in claim for compensation in a male-dominant world.
She found a job at a South African travel agency in 1987. She borrowed her grandfather’s old Ford Capri, a grey-toned car.
Six girls working at the agency sat a beach party at sundown. They bathed in nude and dined on seafood readily cooked by the vending food carts lined in rows. It was a moonlit night.
Around nine, they pulled up from the beach and took off for a ride. They were screaming and chanting as they drove at fast speed up the coastal road, four jammed in the backseat of the two-door coupé. Safira sped into the lanes spurting dust on the way. She climbed Stadium Road and raced ahead. They could see lights from a mile distance…seemed like a football match taking place. A crowd gathered out there.
Safira turned into a narrow lane to divert course from the crowd to come faced with a cluster of soldiers carrying weapons. They were cornered.
Six naked girls were shepherded out of the car. Soldiers didn’t let them touch a piece of clothing. Six shy girls tried to hide their faces lined up against a wall as the crowd gathered around. By this time, they could hear loud explosions and smoke from burning tyres reached them.
An armed wing of a clan-based militia encircled the stadium while in a comeback concert, famous Somali-born singer, Magool performed and attended by 160,000 people. A rebel faction called the United Somali Congress – USC – under the command of Farah Aidid guarded the gates. Music continued and the audience lost in the show. Some escaped while some suspended on stadium walls.
Meanwhile, police checked their belongings and discovered bottles of Ruffino wine in the booth of the car, half-emptied. One of the girls tried to wrap a towel and a military police snapped it off from her body. They were driven into a clash between the government forces and the rebels.
Government grew increasingly unpopular and totalitarian; banned public gatherings, heavy-handed and crackdown opposition, some jailed and some executed. People grew disillusioned with life under Barre’s military dictatorship. Resistance movements developed and this nation was on the brink of civil war. Here they supported Magool against government forces training the roads to put an end to the concert staging another curfew.
They heard rattles of gunfire at that moment. Six girls were ushered into a police van. Crowd poured into the lane in an impulsive surge. Police threw canisters and stun grenades though quickly outnumbered by the mass. Riot police scuttled to take cover. Police vehicles took off immediately and spread into branching lanes out in the dark.
Next morning six girls were assembled at a court house wrapped in macawis – a sarong-like garment with a chequered pattern. And no clothes in order to show precisely how they were driving through public roads; stark naked. These girls were tested positive for alcohol and drugs.
Three days later they were released only because they belonged to the caste.