I met with Hirsi Magan for first time in 1981 in Ras Hotel in Addis Ababa. At the time, I was a young university graduate and a fresh defector to the opposition from Somali Civil Service. At that particular moment, as he seemed to me that he was preaching religious messages to a group of SSF (Somali Salvation Front) comrades sitting around him, he struck me as a deeply religious man with a radical approach to the spread of Allah’s Message.
Later, I knew him as a strong political opponent of then SSF chairman, Abdillahi Yusuf. Like all exile armed oppositions, SSDF had developed into different wings and factions within. There was stiff political infighting among the leaders of the organization. The Derg regime of Mengistu Haile-Mariam had been facilitating and enhancing internal conflicts with the organization for its political ends in Somalia. Mr. Magan belonged to the religious Wing as opposed to the Left led by Abdirahman Aydid’s Communist Party and Labour Party headed by Said Jama, with hardline and hardened attitude to issues of political contention. While this was happening with the organization, he asked me one day casually, “are you simply an engineer, not a politician at all?”. I was puzzled as I had no answer for him. Luckily, he had changed the subject quickly, to my great relief.
His opposition to the leadership of SSDF had led him eventually to join SNM (Somali National Movement), a secessionist Northwestern Somali armed opposition front. Later, he was reportedly regretted joining SNM. Nevertheless, he wasn’t happy with the slow pace of armed struggle against Barre Dictatorship in Somalia. That is why he had decided to fake defection to the Regime, only to attack government officials and security forces in the District of Eyl in Nugaal Region in 1987 with a small group of his followers. He was chased out of the Eyl, but that was recorded as the most daring ambush yet against Barre’s authority in Nugaal Region.
Hirsi Magan, the father of the norious critic of Islam, Ayan Hirsi Ali, was a pioneer in Somali script writing called Osmania, through Somali Language Club (Goosanka Afka Soomaaliga) in the 1940s. He was a great short stories writer and literary man. He was a graduate of Columbia University Faculty of Anthropology in New York, USA. Many had enjoyed his famous radio program series “Laaska Daawada” (The Holy Water), broadcasted over SSDF rebel Radio (Radio Kulmis, the Voice of SSDF) at the time. Laaska Daawada was a hard-hitting and popular satire and critique of Barre Military Dictatorship. It is considered a major opposition literature, together with the famous poems of Khalif Sheikh Mohamud. As a teenaged, Hirsi Magan was a recognized Somali Youth League (SYL) activist and among the young vanguards of the organization leading the struggle for Somali independence. That distinction gave him an opportunity to secure SYL- sponsored scholarship to America. During the foundation of Puntland State of Somalia in 1998, Hirsi Magan’s son competed for the New State’s presidency, securing only one delegate’s vote. That vote was casted for him by Abdullahi Yusuf, then Pl President-to-be and late President of Somalia.