Syria: A Somali refugee proud to support her community

To most Somali refugees living in Damascus, Boyo is a well-known person, always ready to listen to their problems and needs with a warm welcome.

Boyo Mouallem Mursal, a 75-year-old Somali refugee, has been living in Syria for almost 12 years. She fled with her daughter in 2007. Today she lives alone, as her daughter decided to flee again from Syria when the crisis erupted.





Realizing the many challenges faced by Somali refugees in Syria, Boyo decided to bring the community together and created a support network for Somali refugees.

Now in her seventies, Boyo still maintains the guest room in her house, keeping it open 24 hours a day to receive people. Everyone who needs advice approaches Boyo’s house. Some refugees approach her house to contribute financially and help others. Others visit her to seek support for hospital fees or medical treatment – or just to solve a family issue.

“People trust Boyo and listen to her advice”, says Taha, a UNHCR out-reach volunteer who visits refugees homes to assess their needs.

From time to time, Boyo comes together with the refugee community to attend awareness sessions organized by UNHCR’s teams at a community centre run by the Somali community in Masaken Berzeh. “People here are friendly, engaged, interested, and vibrant. There is a real buzz in the air here. I always enjoy my time here”, says Boyo.

Over 25,000 refugees and asylum-seekers – mainly from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia – are living in Syria. They fled the conflicts in their countries, seeking safety in Syria, and once more found themselves in the midst of a crisis with nowhere to go.

For Boyo, the Somali refugees are her daughters and sons. “They are all like my sons and daughters. They all consider me as their mother, or grandmother, or aunt, as the Somali community is a tight-knit family. We all live far away from our country”, she adds.

Edited by Gustavo Barreto