I met Hodan, digitally, after returning from my first trip to Mogadishu. I sent her the blog I wrote on my visit to Somalia. Though it was a risky venture, I found the Somalis I encountered to be friendly, warm, loving and anxious to get to know me. Hodan fit that description as well. She shared my work with her audience and offered me many kind words of encouragement. It wasn’t until later that I realized what a big deal she was. She’s a star and spokesperson for millions of Somalis living in their homeland and abroad. Despite her high profile and millions of viewers, she acted like just a normal person, responding to me with kindness, help and enthusiasm.
Born in Somalia, Hodan moved to Canada at six years old. She would become a prominent Somali-Canadian journalist with a passion for promoting the bright side of Somalia: Hodan would tell the uplifting stories of Somalia and its people, concentrating on success stories, family life and the beauty of the country; while the other news outlets concentrated on the bad stuff. She founded Integration TV, an online platform which describes itself as “building a community of inspiring and uplifting stories for Somalis worldwide.” Hodan was beacon of light and love who touched everyone she came in contact with, including me.
Since I’d followed her, she’d followed me, and I’d shown interest in her Tweets, Twitter’s algorithm made sure I saw her smiling, angelic face almost every time I opened up the app. So today when I glanced at my feed after parking my car, for a second, I thought I was just seeing another Tweet about Hodan and her work; one of her many articles, videos, photos or projects. I did a double take when I saw the words “Somali-Canadian journalist among 26 killed in Kismayo attack.” Surely it was Hodan who was reporting on another journalist who was killed. Right? Right??? I had to read it three times before reality set in that Hodan was the victim. I am still in shock.
Heart broken 💔 #HodanNalayeh she is the best human being I met with so much love, kindest & generosity. Her love & passion for her homeland #Somalia always motivated me to visit Somalia. I really hate alshabaab with their cowardly move. May Allah #punish them all. pic.twitter.com/qPtwoi4wcX
— Nawal Ameena Hashi (@Aminahashi5) July 12, 2019
In this horrifying turn of events, Hodan died doing what she loved doing best: serving her community. On Friday, al-Shabab militants stormed the Asasey Hotel in Kismayo, killing at least 26 people, including Hodan, 43, and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman. 56 others were wounded. It took 14 hours for Somali security forces to regain control of the hotel. At least one American was among the dead, the State Department confirmed.
Hodan, You will be missed dearly. I was just getting to know you. You encouraged my travel to Somalia and offered this cruel world nothing but positivity and love, and oh, that smile. Your glow will live on. It can never be taken away. It is eternal. Thank you Hodan.
Somalia is a mess to some, but on my morning walk, I see hope.
Somali people are lost to some, but I see people who make the best of life.
Somali children grow up so fast, but I see they are never too old to build sandcastles at 6am. #Thursdaythoughts #Kismayo #Somalia pic.twitter.com/ZLCHPr2c6Z
— Hodan Nalayeh (@HodanTV) March 7, 2019
Here’s a great piece on Hodan by BuzzFeed.