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Nazera Mohamed

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Nazera Mohamed fled Ethiopia at a young age with her family to escape ethnic persecution they suffered being Oromo. They spent four years in Kenya before they were cleared to move to South Dakota, and then Minnesota. Her migrant experience has influenced the rest of Nazera's life, motivating her to work all the harder.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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My name is Nazera Mohamed and I’m going to tell my immigrant story.

As we moved through our U.S. Women’s History class this semester, we came across two family memoirs. The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris, and The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang. Yang’s Hmong family memoir discussed their trials and tribulations as they made their journey to the United States of America, seeking refuge from the Vietnam War. Similarly, my family and I immigrated from a region in Ethiopia called Oromia to Kenya in 2000, then from Kenya to America in 2004.

Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, making up more than one-third of the population, yet Ethiopians have oppressed them for generations. The Amhara and Tigray people are the reason Oromia is in its current state and also the reason why my family and I embarked on this journey. As I was just born and barely the age of one, my family and I were held captive by the Tigrayan people as they stripped our people of their lands to further expand theirs. The people of Ethiopia continued to fuel their power by banning the Oromo flag, illegalizing the use of the Oromo language, and more to silence them.

Upon being released from what my mom used the Oromo word for “jail” to describe our hostage, we quickly migrated to Nairobi, Kenya to seek refuge. Leaving behind the culture, I never got to learn. Although Nairobi wasn’t Oromia, it was pretty close seeing as other fellow Oromos joined us in fleeing the oppression. We maintained a life in Kenya as we waited for our paperwork to process. And after four years of remaining hopeful and patient, our one-way ticket to America finally arrived. Coming to America was like a breath of fresh air. We remained optimistic as we adjusted to our new circumstances, and we didn’t stop until we were comfortable. Our final move was from South Dakota to Minnesota, where my life truly began.

This journey made a significant impact on my life. An unspoken understanding developed amongst my siblings and I that we would have to do our absolute best to fulfill the life our family hoped for us to have. Although had to work a little harder to perform at an average level, it later contributed to our work ethic. This journey has given me the ability to take any obstacles that come my way and turn it into a lesson on how I can further improve my circumstances rather than being defeated.

Having to flee my home at such a young age made me feel like I was losing myself and my identity as an Oromo. However, I look at this as an opportunity to strengthen that side of me, because I left a place where it was illegal for me to embrace my culture to a place where I can be who I am.