This is the capital of the Other Somalia, a place barely touched by war, where gunfire is seldom heard. Known as Somaliland, this region broke away from Somalia in 1991 and today has its own elected, functioning government. The streets are bustling; new construction rises from nearly every corner.
Fatima Ahmed Noor fled here from Mogadishu after al-Shabab tried to recruit two of her nine children, after the war drove her husband insane and he separated from the family.
She has found anything but peace. The clans that rule Somaliland look at her with suspicion and disdain because she is from southern Somalia, where al-Shabab rules. Somaliland considers itself an independent country; the world does not recognize it as such. Authorities treat Somalis like Noor as foreigners. She and her children live in a refugee settlement and have little access to health care, education or jobs. "They say, 'When we get recognition, we will also recognize you. You are displaced from another country, so you have to be treated as a foreigner,' " Noor said. "Everyone from Mogadishu is in the same condition."
She and her children earn $3 a day washing clothes, if they are fortunate.
As she spoke to this reporter, a community leader came over and glared at Noor. "I want to listen to what you are saying," she said harshly. She is among those who hurl verbal insults at Noor and her children. What makes Noor equal to the other women in the settlement is this: "Rape is very common here," Noor said. "There is no discrimination."