In memory of my uncle Hassan Warsame Abtidoon.
To deny a man the social meaning of his death is to kill him twice, first in the flesh, then in the spirit — Gerard Prunier.
Grief is the price we pay for love, at least so it is said. On the surface, this implies that love is always wrought with pain, a kind of anguish we must endure since we’ll eventually be separated from our beloved. And considering that we all love at some point in our lives, we all have to pay the price of grief — in as much, of course, as we carry that feeling of love in our hearts. In theory, it follows naturally, then, that we will only ever mourn those we have known long and well enough to love.
But is it that simple? Does it really work that way in real life? Do you have to know a person intimately for you to be saddened by their departure? Do you have to walk the same path for years, work at the same place for years, live in the same house, share the same way of life and so on, for a person to become dear to your heart? Such that their sudden death feels to you as though a treasure has been taken away from you before you could fully cherish it.
Yet this is exactly how I feel, even though I have never met the young man pictured above—Hassan Warsame Abtidoon—my paternal uncle, the younger brother of my father, a Somali soldier in the Danab unit of the Somali National Army (SNA) who died in duty yesterday, the 27th June, 2021, in a dusty little town called Wisil.
The young Hassan Warsame was born and raised in Adaado, a provincial town in the Galgudud region of Somalia, in the first half of 1998. Some years ago, he walked out of his final year of high-school, deciding to join the military. When I enquired about his early-careerist stint as a solider, I heard from those who were close to him that he wanted to serve his country for betterment of the security situation.
It didn't take long for his dream to come true and a relative of ours with many contacts facilitated his inclusion into the counterterrorism and paramilitary unit of Somalia's National Intelligence Services Agency (NISA), also informally called Nabadsugidda. There he underwent training until he was ready for combat service.
Having spent some time with NISA, he landed a highly sought after recruit position as a member of the Danab Commandos unit (the name meaning lightning in Somali). It is a commando force set-up, trained and funded by the United States, modeled after the famous US Rangers from day one. Since their inception in 2013, they have built a reputation for professionalism, special skills and morale, and are paid much more than any other unit of the armed forces.
There he volunteered to specialise in mine clearance and handling of explosive devices. Hassan was very proud of serving in the military, so much so that it was all he posted about in his social media accounts. In one particular picture from January 2019, which he posted about 2 and a half years ago, he writes:
"I am going to sacrifice my soul for the Somali nation. I am going to the forefront facing a fire aimed at them (the Somali people)..."
This mere days after he was sent to Mogadishu for treatment in the wake of an injury that he sustained in battle.
In Wisil town, the Mudug part of Galmudug State, his team was called as reinforcement (Gurmad) when Alshabaab terrorists attacked a military base. Hassan and his team of improvised explosive devices specialists were tasked with clearing a path to Alshabaab hideouts that was dotted with explosives, so as to pursue and neutralise the fleeing terrorists.
As resourceful and brave as he was, Hassan managed to excavate a trap of explosives. At that very moment, some of the unearthed bombs detonated, causing his death. He would’ve concluded his 4th year of service with Danab by the end of this year had Allah not called him back yesterday, the 27th June, 2021.
While the Somali government claims that the operation was a victory, as the terrorists were repelled and prevented from taking the base, it is highly doubtful that the full numbers of the casualties will be presented to the Somali people. Which means that those who sacrificed their lives won't be honoured in the manner they deserve. For election season sadly also means that anything that could cause reputational damage to the incumbent is brushed under the carpet as bad PR.
Hassan Warsame Abtidoon was one of my father's youngest brothers and the product of grandfather Warsame's final, lasting marriage. He was one of his twelve sons, of which 10 are still living today. Since grandpa Warsame consummated his second marriage around the same time as my father did for the first, I have aunts of my age, and uncles who're around the same age as my younger brothers, which might seem odd to non-Somalis, but is perfectly normal to us.
He and I only ever spoke over the phone. I clearly remember how during one of these instances, he made fun of the fact that I had not yet married and was over 30. “When a man reaches your age and is unmarried, we call him Doob, which is generally regarded as a blemish” he said teasing me. To be mocked by an uncle younger than me was both strange and hilarious.
Hassan Warsame was a young man only in his 20s, born in 1998. He was a newly wed husband not too long ago, having fathered a baby girl who recently came into this world. He was a young Somali soldier and dutiful public servant, a rare breed of patriots who knowingly paid the ultimate sacrifice. History rarely remembers the ordinary citizen of a nation. But I hope from the bottom of my heart that it will remember Hassan and his sacrifice.
May Allah rest your soul and reunite us in a better place. May everyone of faith who reads this utter a sincere prayer for you, so that it may reach you as reward.
By Mohamed Ahmed Warsame Abtidoon