11 September 2006

Auden on Yeats in 1939 Inspires Somali in Canada in 2003

W. H. Auden seems a favorite poet to quote in these dark times. Google returns over 500 links to the memorable line "Each sequestered in its hate" from Auden's poem "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," who died in 1939. The poem begins:
He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
But the most oft-cited verses seem to be the following.
In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from each human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Now compare Auden's words with a eulogy for the Somali exile Hussein Afrah Sheengiyale (d. Jan 2003):
Hussein Afrah Sheengiyaale died in the dead of winter
Earth, receive an honored Somali guest
Hussein Afrah Sheengiyaale is laid to rest
In this alien snow
In this old cold exile
In this old cold Canada ...

All the crazy clans cower & wait
Each sequestered in its hate
Woefully arrogant
Willfully ignorant
That today
An important Son of Somalia died
In old cold Canadian exile
That every day
Thousands of Somalia’s best & the brightest
In anguish
In this old cold Canadian exile
According to banadir.com, Norway (another cold country) is now forcing Somalis to return to their homeland.
The authorities in Norway, which has about 17000 Somali refugees and asylum seekers, have decided to return 400 whose asylum applications have been rejected. In fact, after a long period when Somalis were not returned to Southern Somalia, the changed situation in Mogadishu, including the opening of the airport, has given them the idea that it is now safe to return people there.

UNHCR has strongly advised against it, and other Scandinavian countries are not doing the same, preferring to wait and see.

Norway, which likes to be seen as a humanitarian nation, with peace- keepers and conflict solvers in many countries, is now practising a very strict policy in the case of Somalis.

This has caused a lot of debate and uproar. One party in the coalition government, the Socialist Left party, has condemned it, the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers, NOAS, is protesting, as is the Norwegian Refugee Council, and all major newspapers are daily writing about the situation. In fact, since this became known, the UNHCR has made a special appeal to the government, warning of the dangers of returning people to Somalia at the moment, as it is “a threat to the right to life”.

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