Interview for

Aden Batar

4/13/2021

Interviewed By:

Katherine Clifton

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 1:01:37
Summary

The loss of their first born son in the early 1990s after the Somali Civil war broke out prompted Aden and his wife to leave Somalia, bringing them to Kenya before they later sought refuge in the United States and resettled in Utah. Aden, who now directs the same agency that helped them resettle, describes his mission to give back.

Transcript
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Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Aden Batar

Date: April 13, 2021

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah (Mr. Batar); Honolulu, Hawaii (Interviewer)


Summary: The loss of their first born son in the early 1990s after the Somali Civil war broke out prompted Aden and his wife to leave Somalia, bringing them to Kenya before they later sought refuge in the United States and resettled in Utah. Aden, who now directs the same agency that helped them resettle, describes his mission to give back.

Topics: Community, Cultural adjustment, Disillusionment, Education, Faith, Family, Future, Gratitude, Kindness, Immigration Process (Refugee), Inter-faith, Motivation, Personal finance, Places of worship, Post-war/ conflict journey, Resilience, Violence, War (Somali Civil War),


Outline

Section 1: 00:01 - 10:41

  • War - Shortly after Mr. Batar graduated from law school in his homeland, Somalia, a civil war broke out.

  • Family - Then, about two years later, Mr. Batar and his wife lost their two-year-old first born son. Together, they decided that they would leave Somalia, but in turns. Because they had anticipated that the first trip would be more difficult mainly because of poor transportation and lack of the necessary travel documentation, Mr. Batar left first and ended up in Kenya.

  • Resilience and Faith - Mr. Batar recalls that on the journey to Kenya, he was destitute of food. The only thing that pushed him everyday was his faith in God.

  • Post-war journey - With the assistance of his Kenyan friends, Mr. Batar was able to reunite with his wife and second son in Kenya. In 1994, they moved to the US with a sponsorship from a family member who was already a resident and were resettled as refugees in Utah by Catholic community services.

  • Immigration process - When Mr. Batar and his family arrived in Salt Lake City, they were welcomed by volunteers from Catholic community services. From then one, they were provided with whatever support they needed, from housing to transportation, until they were stable enough to support themselves.

  • Cultural adjustment - During the first days of their resettlement, Mr. Batar and his family who are Muslims had to eat non-halal food, which is forbidden by Islam. Elsewhere, Mr. Batar had to act as translator for his wife who could not speak English.

Section 2: 10:41 - 25:09

  • Employment - In Logan, where Mr. Batar and his family had resettled, job opportunities were scarce so Mr. Batar often made trips to Salt Lake City to seek better employment. Fortunately, one day, the agency that resettled him was looking for someone who could communicate with some Somali refugees whose arrival they were expecting and Mr. Batar immediately jumped at the opportunity. He is now the director of the agency.

  • Disillusionment - Comparing the conditions in which he left Somalia and in the ones he was welcomed in in the US, Mr. Batar remains perplexed at how some American strangers in his neighborhood of Logan treated him exceedingly better as he and his family resettled than his fellow Somalians had back home when the civil war broke out.

  • Places of worship - In 1994, when Mr. Batar and his family resettled in Logan, there was no nearby mosque available for prayer so for special holidays like Eid, they traveled to Salt Lake City, which had a mosque, albeit a spatially inadequate one. So Mr. Batar and some of his colleagues galvanized their community and they raised money to buy land and build not one, but several mosques as the Muslim community grew; the first mosque they build with these funds is, according to Mr. Batar, arguably one of the largest in the Western world.

  • Education - The mosques that were built not only serve as places of worship but also places of religious education. Furthermore, these students of Islam can find materials in local bookstores that can help with revision of lessons.

  • Interfaith - Mr. Batar was keen on building relationships with other religious communities. This particularly benefited his Muslim community when the September 11 attacks occured; people were seeking understanding of Islam from him and his colleagues as they tried to comprehend the tragic event.

Section 3: 25:09 - 39:31

  • Interfaith - Although some of the members of his Muslim community were against interfaith relationships, Mr. Batar persisted and eventually forged friendships with the Jewish community, for example. Now, every year in Utah, there is an interfaith roundtable to which different religious representatives are invited and Mr. Batar describes these relationships as respectful and harmonious.

  • Historical Context - Mr. Batar believes that interfaith events first occurred during the 2002 Olympics that were held in Utah. Catholic Community Services was hoping to make all the athletes feel welcome and comfortable – even religious-wise.

  • Places of worship -  The mosque that Mr. Batar and his colleagues helped build in Salt Lake City became a tourist attraction. Most importantly, it became a place where anyone, regardless of religious identity, feels welcome.

  • Interfaith and Community - Mr. Batar believes that religious organizations contribute the greatest to refugee resettlement. In his own personal experience and throughout his employment at the resettling agency in Utah, he has relied on support from religious institutions, especially Catholic churches and the earliest churches to provide basic needs like food and shelter to refugee families as they build up their new lives.

Section 4: 39:31 - 49:05

  • Employment - In Utah, some refugees are able to earn some money in factories established by the earliest church. Their work involves building beds for incoming refugees.

  • Faith - Mr. Batar says that most refugees are resilient because of their strong faith in God; He is the one that gets them through all the challenges. For the Muslim refugees in his community, it is also how they create community.

Section 5: 49:05 - 1:01:34

  • Politics - Unlike under the Trump administration, Mr. Batar expects that his organization will have more resources to support more refugees under the Biden administration.

  • Kindness - Mr. Batar invites all those listening to his story to engage in acts of kindness because that’s “why we are in this world.”

  • Gratitude - Mr. Batar is eternally grateful for the strangers in his neighborhood who welcomed him and his family, the opportunities his children have received in America, and also everyone who continues to help people in need.