Amal Aden feels that she has lived for 300 years, not just 28 She was street children in Somalia, she is now a writer in Ringerike. But there is one thing she is ready to tell until now: she is a lesbian. In this interview with newspaper Aftenposten, she will tell her story. Not because it is a "sensation" to be a lesbian Muslim. On the contrary: It is more common than most think. But there are so invisible, even in Norway in 2011.
- Why do you stand out as a lesbian Muslim?
- For young gays ethnic minority people in this country will see that it is possible to live openly. There are lots of them.
- If you have received warnings to come forward - or encouragement to do so?
Amal Aden came to Norway from Somalia 15 years ago. She had been street children in seven years.
- I have hardly met a single person who has said "Jippi! Stand on! ". For most people understand the consequences: more unrest. But I will not wait 40 years to to come forward. If it helps any good for youngsters who are struggling with their orientation, so get it whatever the cost. It is so incredibly few gays and lesbians, minority persons are visible there. They live in hiding, especially Muslims. Having gained insight into many other minority people's situation through the organization Queer world, I realize that sexual orientation is not just a private matter. It will only cost, someone has to tell. It's not about me, although I could live well here on the hatch. But there are far too many lives at stake, too many who are considering taking his life. So I must do this now. I've decided and I am impatient, said Amal Aden almost without breathing.
She admits it himself, but with its history and what she has achieved, she has become a role model for many young people in Norway. Stubborn and impatient.
15 years in Norway
Amal Aden came from Somalia to Norway for exactly 15 years ago. When she was only 13 and had been street children in seven years. She had seen things and events no one should see. She does not think she has children ever. Does not feel like 28 years, more like 300, she says.
She was illiterate when she landed at Fornebu 2 August 1996 at 24:15. She remembers the time still have highlighted the crucial day of his life every year since.
The first time Amal Aden came forth with a name and face and told her story was in A magazine in 2009. It is not easy to imagine a more contrast-filled life. After a childhood in Somalia and then aggressive and destructive tenåringsår that småkriminelt child welfare children in Oslo, things began to go well. She did not perish, but got back on track - even to the point.
- Why did it well after each, why you succeeded finally?
- I got a solid network around me, people who supported and believed in me. I have always fought me when I have lain down. All support and positive feedback gives me strength and hope, said Amal Aden.
It's not that many years ago that she learned to read and write, but she has already published four books and is working on a fifth. She has set high marks in public debates about children's and women's rights in multicultural environments and what is required for the multi-ethnic Norway will be an even greater success: As required, equal rights and greater language skills for the new ones that come here, are some of her prescription.
It has been more than NOK to make her controversial. She has also criticized what she believes is both widespread intolerance and lack of integration will in the Norwegian-Somali communities, and believes that the integration process goes much faster in other groups. She has received death threats and at times had police protection after a small book about the lack of equality in ethnic minority communities as she released the 8 March.
- Threats from some adults and older intolerant men makes me stronger. If, after this Saturday coming ten extra, it does not matter. The nice feedback is many times more than the threats, said Amal Aden.
Norwegian-Somali big family
Klekken is a place where one rarely finds a reason to stop, south of Hønefoss, on the road between Norderhov and Jevnaker. The place is best known for a large conference hotel.
A few hundred meters away, a single mother Amal Aden settled with her two twins in nine years. But the house is crowded, the three live in large family with a married couple who has children. And the farm has more life: hens, roosters and a magnificent peacock running around the edge of the green fields.
- I can not imagine living anywhere else, especially not in a city, said Amal Aden.
It looks beautiful with her troubled life as a backdrop. But she's obviously not going to settle down. Amal Aden life will probably not quiet when she is in the Aftenposten interview stands out as a lesbian Muslim, currently the only high profile and public open living in Norway.
She is not a very religious person, she says, but considers himself as "personally Muslim". Amal Aden would not accept that religion is put in front of universal human rights in Norway, but seems that there is NOK of social problems to address in this country that is more serious than the problems created by religion.
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The Somali writer and society commentator Amal Aden (pseudonym) defied the threats and the police's request to not participate in a debate in the House of Literature in Oslo last fall. The meeting dealt with the oppression of women in immigrant communities and in the third world. PHOTO: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / Scanpix
- So I'm not particularly concerned with religious explanations of gay issues in ethnic minority communities, she says.
- Why live the majority of gays in minority communities hidden?
- The way I see it, it has most of the culture to do, and it is not just about opposition to gays and lesbians. It is rather the opposition to everything that marks the freedom and individuality, for example when it comes to women running in shorts and talking loudly. Then it is obviously too much if a woman is with a woman. That's why I choose to stand out as a lesbian. If I as an adult person would not take responsibility, how can anyone expect that minority children will be? Many of the queer I've met lack language, in addition to that they are in a double minority - that both gays and ethnic minority people. I can not tell all these other people's stories without telling my own, said Amal Aden.
- So you work to get the second lesbians and gays minority person stories?
Amal Aden has turned to the hatch to the south of Hønefoss, where she lives with her two children.
- Lately I have started working on a book I got the idea for, about queer ethnic minority people from Afghanistan and Somalia, from Iran and Iraq, Pakistan and Palestine. The working title of Freedom for everyone. I have received support from the Freedom of Expression and the academic fund, and the book comes in the autumn of 2012 - hopefully! As I have worked with it, I have seen how terribly difficult many people have it in Norway - many are invisible and lonely, others persecuted and harassed. They carry a lot of fear. Worse, trans people there, those that fall between categories. If I am a double minority, they are a triple minority, said Amal Aden.
She is angry at what she believes is the organization's awkward efforts to lesbians and gays Muslims in Norway and Europe:
- We have a situation where the Islamic Council of Norway does not manage to say a crystal clear statement that they will fight against the death penalty for gays globally, and the European Fatwa Council can not even confirm that the Islamic Council has sent over the issue they claim to have sent - to transform the person Sara Mats Azmeh Rasmussen revealed as she demonstrated in Dublin earlier this summer. By the way, why are journalists so absent in these questions? Why did not more Norwegian media questions to the Islamic Council and the Fatwa Council's own machine, without Azmeh Rasmussen had to take the initiative? asks Amal Aden.
- A good question, I answer: - It should more be done.
Amal Aden says she has had boyfriends of the same sex several times before.
- Yes, both young and now in more mature age. But I have never wanted to put me as a lesbian, like I had NOK problems, to say it jokingly. I had to fend for myself since I was six. It was my parents died, and those who had taken care of me again, disappeared. Thus, I have always been old. When I came to Norway and Oslo, I had NOK deal with the criminal groups I met, tackle health care system and learn Norwegian on my own. So I was married, had children, went from the man and was NOK again to think about, said Amal Aden, and continues:
- Now I'm 28 years old and aware that I do not have feelings for men. I will live like two Norwegian women I know, in a small town - open and gay. Should I leave it just because I once came from Somalia? I stand up because I want to show that it is possible to be Muslim and also gay or lesbian. I will challenge the culture of honor that prevents so many from being free. The good thing about the Norwegian society is that honor and shame means so little. It makes me proud to be Norwegian.
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Norwegian-Somali Amal Aden borrowed money to afford to write the book "ABC of integration" in 2009 and thus participate in the integration debate Photo: OLAV Urdal
- Liberaliteten in the majority of Norway sticks may not be so deep. Gender and gender roles are tough issues that it takes a long time to change.
- I think is right. Many majority Norwegians tolerate gays okay from a distance, but would rather not have a gay son or son in law. I know a young Norwegian-ethnic boy as his father threatens to eject if he lives gay. There is NOK of such examples.
- I wrote a newspaper commentary about gays in ethnic minorities in Norway for the first time eight years ago. It was fairly silent on the issue. Have we made more progress today?
- I do not know. No matter what I write and say yourself, I will be accused of generalizing. But it's better than not saying anything. I think there's something about my personality that irritates many people, especially men. Ethnic minority women have never had a problem with. Do not children either. Only some obdurate, power, executive-old men over 40 They should be sent on courses in gender equality.
- It is easier to be a Norwegian ethnic gay in cities, many people experience. But for the ethnic minority people is easier in rural areas, do you mean?
- Yes. There are not many obdurate individuals outside of cities, including Somalis outside of Oslo have thrown off their honor culture. It does not matter to people I know here in Ringerike if I live with a woman or a man. I have much more freedom than if I had lived in Oslo. The worst I have experienced is the way, when I had to stay at a secret location in Telemark with police protection away. Had no contact with anyone. But I had written my first book, See Us. Otherwise I would have bored me to death, said Amal Aden.
- Do you have any role models among Norwegian gays?
- Yes, wait!
Amal Aden runs toward the bookshelves and come back quickly:
- I must pick up the book that has been on my bedside table a couple of years now, I've read it a hundred times. Now I found it! I had it on holiday to Mallorca just as well. It is written by Bjørn Gunnar Olsen in 1983, is about gay pioneers Karen-Christine Friele and Wenche Lowzows history, and called two women. It has inspired me more than any other books. The two women are role models for all who work for freedom. I have translated and read from the book for many gays ethnic minority people in the past, so they will know there is hope for them too. So they will know they are not alone, says Amal Aden.
- You talk a lot about being a minority in the minority in the new Norway. The terrorist attacks on the Oslo and Utøya was an attack on the entire multi-cultural Norway and the policies that shape it. How will terrorism affect your life?
- It has got me to thinking about time in Somalia, when my friends and I had to flee from soldiers who fired. The last time I have been plagued by nightmares at night. I've decided to live more in the moment, spend more time with those I love and fight harder for freedom. I hope and believe in an even more open public debate, where we can disc
uss more about human values and less about religion.
A long way
She sits a lot and writes in a small room next to the living room, a little dim half-dark wood paneling on the walls, but still facing the green Ringerike. Far removed from existence as street children and illiterate in Somalia.
- It's a long journey you have made so far in life?
- It's strange to think that I was 15 years ago could not write. When I first started, I could not stop, said Amal Aden, laughing.
- Some may think I write too much. I use writing as therapy, both books and articles and opinion pieces in the newspaper Aftenposten. But no matter what I write, people are provoked. While the police begin to feel like a burden. The situation has been very unstable and troubled by the book of equality among minority women, which I published the Women's Day this year. I did not realize that the tiny, innocent book would be so scary for older men, but had to cancel all lectures and travel for months. Now I will start working again. I can not bear to sit still, says Amal Aden, just turned 28.