ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Joining from Minneapolis is Zainab Hassan. She has lived in the United States since 1983, but she continues to travel back to her home country to visit family. Her most recent trip back was this summer to visit a brother in Mogadishu, and her mother and sister live north of the city.
Like many Somalis in the U.S., Ms. Hassan has been following the news this week with great interest and anxiety, and thank you for coming in to talk with us.
Ms. ZAINAB HASSAN: Thank you.
SIEGEL: What are you hearing from your family about the situation in Somalia?
Ms. HASSAN: What I'm hearing basically is that people are actually very much scared and concerned of the war, and also they are afraid that the city of Mogadishu might - it actually has already erupted into violence because the militia groups are back on the streets. Basically, the checkpoints are back and the looting and the stuff like that are happening in Mogadishu, so you have to be home before, you know, the sunset at 6:00. I mean, that's what my sister-in-law was telling me, because they are really afraid of the violence and what's going on outside.
SIEGEL: Are there any services at all in Mogadishu? That is, are schools or businesses open, or are people simply hiding inside their houses to stay safe?
Ms. HASSAN: Basically, I mean, from what I - I did talk to them when it was yesterday morning Mogadishu time. All the schools and universities are actually closed, and also some businesses did not open in the last couple of days or so because they are afraid their merchandise will be looted. And also I'm hearing that the cost of food has skyrocketed all of a sudden.
Also some people told me that mainly they're afraid that all the religious leaders and the Imams and the religious scholars might be executed. So there is a lot of fear going on inside the heads of Somalis and it's very, very scary. People are mainly concerned and scared.
SIEGEL: Was the period of rule by the Union of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu a hard time for your family? A relatively good time? How would you describe it?
Ms. HASSAN: People were very much excited about the peace and the stability that the Islamic Courts have brought specifically to Mogadishu. There was no checkpoints. There was no violence on the streets. People could have valuables with them and be safe.
So people were really excited about the safety even though, I mean there were other concerns because there wasn't actually a functioning government, but in general people were really happy about the peace and the little stability that they had.
SIEGEL: Was there a concern that the Islamic Courts would impose a very stringent reading of Islamic law upon the people?
Ms. HASSAN: I mean, that, actually I was hearing different points of view. Some were saying it's wonderful. We don't really care what they do as long as we have peace. And others would say no, no, no, no. They're going to basically, they're going to be dictators and we are very much concerned. So there was a debate that was going on very well.
SIEGEL: Well, the prime minister of the transitional government has promised an era of peace and stability. Do you think he has a chance? Are you at all hopeful that there actually might be better days ahead for Somalia?
Ms. HASSAN: We are always hopeful. We have been hopeful for the past 16 years, hoping that something would happen.
SIEGEL: Well, Zainab Hassan, thank you very much for talking with us about what's happening there.
Ms. HASSAN: It's my pleasure. Thank you.
SIEGEL: Zainab Hassan spoke to us from Minneapolis. She is Somali born and has been living in the United States for more than 20 years.
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