IN THE LAND OF POETS AND PIRATES, she was a little girl with a pirate’s sass but a poet’s heart, dreaming of epic stories. ‘Just, like, full of story… full of dangerous stories.’ Using a plastic bottle as her mic, she’d stare down the barrel of an imaginary camera and say with all seriousness, ‘Hani Abdile, CNN Baghdad.’ And then she’d burst out laughing.
‘I have no idea why I wanted to go to Baghdad. Looking now, I'm like, “I'm not going near you.”’ She bursts out laughing. Baghdad might be worse even than Somalia.
Somalia is beautiful, as she remembers it, thinking back to walking her father’s goats and cows to the water and back to their pens. ‘It’s a very good country to live,’ she says, ‘if there was a peace of mind there.’ But the country has been in a civil war for 30 years, longer than she’s been alive. She wanted to stay, she did love her family, but she really wanted an education, and the militant groups were having none of that. Their plan for her future was for her to look after the house, look after the children….
And look after the men? ‘I refused at that point.’ Somali children were suffering rape and forced marriages, among other abuses.
So at that point, Hani Abdile set out on her own epic journey, across the seas, sometimes literally stowed away, never sure who the pirates were. Inadvertently – she thought she was going to Austria, in Europe – she landed in Australia’s immigration detention system. There, she says she felt like one of her dad’s cows, herded and held in a country where, more than seven years later, she still is not quite free to seize her future.
‘When I was back home, I was like, “This is getting crazy,”’ Hani says, knowing she had to escape the people who would kill a girl even for going to school. ‘And then I end up in Christmas Island,’ which was its own craziness, she says. ‘Between those moments there was always, you know, a happy day and a bad day. I do believe it is part of life to acknowledge each moment… it's okay to be in limbo, because it won't last forever. It might last for a bit, but, you know, there's always hope on the horizon.
‘I did it. After a long journey, I made it. And I'm still going – the journey is not yet finished.
‘I don’t know when, but, somehow, I am going to settle. Sometime.’