Conflict

Fighting a terror attack with photographs of joy

Lido beach after an attack on a hotel, in Mogadishu.
View through broken glass of government forces patrolling on Lido beach following an attack atBeach View Cafe in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Jan. 22, 2016.
Credit: Feisal Omar/Reuters

It's not uncommon for images of carnage to dominate international news coverage of Mogadishu, Somalia. But Hana Abukar wants to show that it is so much more.

Armed terrorists took over a beachfront hotel on Lido Beach in Mogadishu on Thursday. Reports say that at least 14 people — and perhaps more than 20 — were killed, and many more were wounded. Security forces killed six of the shooters and took control of the hotel by dawn on Friday. Militant group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Abukar, 28 and living in Amsterdam, responded by rallying her friends and contacts on Twitter using the hashtag #TweetLiidoPictures.

Somalis responded with their photos of joy and beauty from that very same beach. For many residents and for the Somali diaspora, Lido Beach represents a kind of return to splendor for Mogadishu, as it emerges from 20 years of civil war.

Abukar escaped Somalia with her family when she was 7. Still, Mogadishu is home, and she has been able to return many times in her work as a communications consultant. Her most recent trip was just a few months ago.

"I felt, this is where it stops," Abukar says. "This is where we need to focus and regain our narrative back. And show the terrorists they cannot kill our resilience"

The beach, she says, is important to the diaspora. It's a place where people can, in an almost mystical way, find peace. "It's one of the places that, after the long war in Somalia, Lido was the place that was unchanged. It remained how people remembered it," she says.

"My first memory from Lido was in 2013 when I went there as a grown-up. It felt amazing, it felt like home," Abukar explains. "This beach is a place where poor people would come, but there's no difference between people. Old people were there, young people were there. You can hardly notice, because everyone is equal."

Ibrahim Adow, a 23-year-old student and youth activist in Mogadishu, visted Lido beach on Friday after the attacks. On what would normally be a busy day, the beach was nearly empty. Some employees of the restaurant that was attacked were cleaning up. Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud also visited the site of the attack. Adow says he thinks life there will go back to normal over the weekend.

"Mogadishu is the only city that hosted 25 years of civil war, and still people love each other," says Adow. "My city has a large seaport and the biggest market in Africa. Though now it seems the civil war has broken everything, construction is booming and the city is moving forward."

Abukar agrees. "There's a lot of issues in a country like Somalia, and there isn't one straight forward solution. But we are a nation that loves peace and terrorism will not deter our determination to live and celebrate life."

Related Stories