Gangsters Prey on Somali Girls

Star Tribune reporter, Allie Shah, has written another great article about the latest upheaval in the Twin City Somali community. Read it at:

With 70,000 Somalis in Minnesota, we have the largest concentration in the United States. For two years, Ms. Shah and other reporters followed the story of the young Somali men who disappeared from the Twin Cities. The FBI said they were recruited to fight for a militia in Somalia called Al-Shabab. Perhaps some did.

But what about the rest of them who were never found?

My new book, Reprisal, tells the fictional story of what might have “really” happened to the missing boys.

Ms. Shah’s reporting tells another story–one of a vast, intricate network of gangsters who prey upon young Somali people. I don’t know if there’s any connection between the young men who disappeared and the girls that Ms. Shah writes about, but clearly there are problems in the Somali community.

The reporter goes on to detail the difficulties faced by not only the adult Somalis coming to this country but their children also. My work in the courtrooms with this population confirms much of what is reported in the article. The children arrive here without parents, who may have died or are missing, and must live with various relatives. These older relatives often have different ideas about the role the young girls should play in the family and community.

One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is the distrust the Somali community has for outsiders, including law enforcement. For decades in Somalia there has not been a functioning government. People rely upon their clans and extended families for their survival and safety. When they arrive in the United States, many of these attitudes remain for a long time.

As a result, the community can be insulated from others. That makes it easier for gangsters to prey upon the young girls. I’ve had experiences in Juvenile Court where young Somali girls end up in Minnesota living with their “uncles”–who really aren’t relatives at all.

I’ve also seen the “two worlds” that Ms. Shah identifies in many of the immigrant groups. In the Hmong community for instance, the parents often cannot speak English. They depend on the children to interpret and deal with American society. You can imagine the power and independence the children gain. I suspect the same situation exists in the Somali community also.

Check out the Strib article for a good story and explanation of what the Somali people are doing in the face of gangsters to help their children.

About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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