Jul 31, 2009 04:30 AM
Meet Suaad Hagi Mohamud, the "Canadian refugee."
At her dingy Nairobi hotel, in the malls and on the streets of the Kenyan capital, that’s how the 31-year-old Toronto woman has come to be known in the past few weeks.
"It sounds strange but the local newspapers have written about me and so people recognize me when I go outside," said Mohamud, who has been stranded in Nairobi for more than two months.
In that time, she has become a celebrity of sorts because two Nairobi newspapers, the Daily Nation and The Standard, have written about her plight, she says.
The BBC and some local TV channels have also run stories about her while the blogosphere has gone ballistic with stories chronicling her nightmare.
Somehow, somewhere, she was called the Canadian refugee. The name stuck.
"I could have never imagined that I would be called a refugee," she said yesterday by phone from Nairobi.
"I feel sad but I know people care about my situation and that’s why they are writing about it."
Mohamud was on her way back to Toronto on May 21 when she was detained at Nairobi’s airport for not looking like her four-year-old passport photo.
The Canadian High Commission in Kenya later said she was an imposter and cancelled her passport.
Mohamud has done everything to return home to her 12-year-old son.
People have stopped her on the streets and asked her how she was arrested at the airport, who put her into jail and if she needs any help.
One woman, three children in tow, even asked her to pose for a photograph.
Her story has created a buzz in Canada, especially Toronto, which has a large Somali population.
Two Toronto newspapers, Somali Canadian Times and Toronto Somali Press, have been highlighting Mohamud’s case, said Mahad Yusuf, executive director of Midaynta Community Services, a settlement organization.
"Everyone knows what’s happened with her," Yusuf said.
Most people are sad and angry but not surprised, he said. "It’s not the first time a Somali has been harassed overseas. The community has had strange experiences when travelling, especially in Nairobi."
He said incidents of Somali expats being arrested, detained and thrown into jail by Kenyan officials have escalated in the past few years.
Their stories have been discussed threadbare by people, but what has sustained interest in Mohamud’s case is the absurdity of it all, said Mohamed Busuri, editor of the Somali Canadian Times. "It’s unbelievable (they) stopped her because her lips didn’t match (those in her photo)," he said.
"People are talking about her and her son everywhere."
Mohamud, her ex-husband and son have submitted DNA samples to prove to the Canadian government she is who she says she is.