Hodan Nalayeh, a Somali-Canadian journalist who once resided in Vaughan, Ont., was killed in an attack on a hotel in Somalia on Friday, Mogadishu-based Radio Dalsan tells CBC News.
Radio Dalsan, an independent radio station with journalists based in Mogadishu, confirmed to CBC News that Nalayeh, 43, and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, were among those who were killed in the attack in Somalia’s port city of Kismayo.
Global Affairs Canada has yet to confirm Nalayeh’s death, but spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé told CBC News they are aware of the bombing.
“Consular officials in Nairobi, Kenya, are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information,” Bérubé wrote in an email.
‘A voice for many’
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen said Nalayeh made immeasurable contributions to the Canadian Somali community.
“Through her work as a journalist, she highlighted the community’s positive stories and contributions in Canada, and became a voice for many,” Hussen told CBC News.
“Her work, particularly in helping women and youth, strengthened the ties between Canada’s Somali community and Somalia, as it continues to go through stabilization and reconstruction. We mourn her loss deeply, and all others killed in the Kismayo attack.”
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in a tweet that her “endless positivity and her love for people was inspiring.”
CBC journalist Nazim Baksh says he got to know Nalayeh during Storytelling Somalia, a United Nations Alliance of Civilizations-sponsored workshop. Held in 2014, it was designed to build capacity among Somalis in the diaspora.
At that time, Nalayeh had just launched her weekly television show Integration TV in Toronto on OMNI TV.
“Hodan was always keen to showcase the best aspects of her community, whether in the diaspora or back in Somalia, but she would never shy away from tackling controversial topics that made many in her community uneasy,” Baksh told CBC News.
“Hodan was an amazing journalist who was never afraid to ask the tough questions and she often did it with style and a smile.”
In recent years, she travelled to remote areas in Somalia to see how drought is affecting people there and to raise awareness of the situation.
Nalayeh appeared on a podcast in June called Meaningful Work, Meaningful Life.
In the podcast, hosted by Francine Beleyi, Nalayeh said she started her television program to tell stories about the Somali community that no one was doing on the Internet, and to give voice to the Somali diaspora.
“If we don’t have more storytellers from our communities, especially in the African diaspora communities, who’s going to continue the tradition of storytelling?” Nalayeh said.
“Social media has changed the game for how people learn about culture. So, if we don’t become the creators of our own content, we are going to be at the mercy of other people telling the stories of Africa.”
The mother of two said she grew up with 11 siblings. While it was a challenge for her parents to feed and take care of 12 children, she was determined to the become a trained journalist.
“My path was always growing up to be a journalist,” she said, adding that even though she initially worked in radio advertising and business development sales, in her late 30s she went back to school and completed a broadcast journalism course.
Nalayeh spoke with CBC News in 2016 after Buri Mohamed Hamza, a Somali government minister with Canadian citizenship, was killed by gunmen who stormed a hotel in Mogadishu in an attack that lasted hours.
“Anyone who follows their passion to help rebuild Somalia knows there’s always a risk of death,” she said.
“Buri knew Somalia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. He wanted the beauty of Somalia to be protected. This was his passion.”
In a 2014 article, Nalayeh said her family was one of the first Somali-Canadian families to arrive in Canada in 1984. She was turning seven when they arrived in Edmonton, where it was the middle of winter and –40 C.
“My parents arrived with 11 children, and we grew up in Alberta as one of the few Somalis there for many years,” Nalayeh wrote. “My mom, however, thought people thrive better in networks, so she wanted us to relocate to Toronto, because it was better connected here and more Somalis were coming here in the 1990s. So we relocated to Toronto in 1992.”