Yusuf Abdulle, the director of the Islamic Association of North America, speaks at a press conference at the Abubakar As-Sadique Islamic Center in south Minneapolis with 40 people pledging their support for those affected by the massive fire in Hargeisa. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

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Religious leaders, business owners, elders, and activists in Minneapolis are organizing several fundraisers after a fire broke out and destroyed a market in Hargeisa, Somaliland on April 1.

On the eve of Ramadan, a massive fire destroyed the largest open-air market in the Somaliland capital. No deaths have been reported, but 28 people were injured and hundreds of businesses were destroyed. While firefighters contained the fire by Saturday night, the cause is still unknown. 

The market is home to thousands of shops and stalls which would have been ramping up for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the busiest time of the year for business owners in Muslim countries. Somaliland government officials reported that the market accounted for 40 to 50 percent of the city’s economy. The fire has caused an estimated $2 billion in damages

Minneapolis’ Somali community came together in the recent days to raise awareness and launch fundraisers for people affected by the fire, according to organizer Abdirahman Kahin, the founder and owner of Afro Deli.

Minnesota is home to the country’s largest Somali population and many residents have family members back home. 

“Since Friday, everybody’s been mourning,” Abdirahman told Sahan Journal. “People rely on these kinds of markets for their daily life—clothing, food, all of the daily necessities.”

At a press conference Monday evening at the Abubakar As-Sadique Islamic Center in south Minneapolis, about 40 organizers announced their plans to hold multiple fundraising efforts.

They will be hosting a fundraiser dinner for iftar—where attendees can break their fast—at the Saint Paul Event Center on April 9. The organizers are also collecting donations through a GoFundMe page. They will send the funds directly to the mayor’s office in Hargeisa, which has assigned a team to reconstruct the market.

Abdisalam Adam, a St. Paul assistant principal and an imam, spoke at the press conference and urged people all over the world to extend their relief to the residents of Hargeisa. Hargeisa is the capital of Somaliland with a population of an estimated 1.2 million people.

“We stand in solidarity with the victims who have found themselves destitute overnight at the beginning of Ramadan,” he said. “As religious leaders, business owners, and community members, we are deeply distressed by the images of vast destruction.”

Abdirahman added that the impact of the fire reaches beyond the city. Wholesalers located at the market distributed goods at smaller markets throughout the country. People in the East African region were also already suffering due to a drought that has lasted three seasons. 

“We’ve been raising funds since January to fight the drought,” Abdirahman said. “We were not able to reach the goal because the magnitude of the drought is bigger than the Somali community in Minnesota. With this on top, people are devastated.”

Abdirahman said a committee is working with Minneapolis Foundation, a local philanthropic organization, to coordinate online donations, and are currently accepting donations through GoFundMe

Sahan Journal will update this story as more fundraisers and ways to help are announced.

Hibah Ansari is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.