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February 7, 2020

Abdi the American

We return to our story about Abdi Nor from 2015, with some big news about his life today. When we first broadcast the story, Abdi was a Somali refugee living in Kenya desperately trying – against long odds – to get to the United States. Then he got the luckiest break of his life: he won a lottery that puts him on a short list for a U.S. visa. But before he could cash in his golden ticket, the police started raiding his neighborhood, targeting refugees.

Abdi Nor in Nairobi. Credit: Leo Hornak

Prologue

Three weeks ago, Abdi Nor became a U.S. citizen, in a ceremony in Maine. We go to the ceremony, and then head back in time to 2013, when he won a visa under the Diversity Visa Lottery.

Act One

It turns out winning the lottery is only the first step in trying to come to America. More than half of the people who win each year never make it. Abdi is living in Nairobi, Kenya, when he wins, and as he's trying to prepare for his interview at the U.S. Embassy, Kenyan police start relentlessly raiding his neighborhood, rounding up Somalis and taking them away. So Abdi goes into hiding in his apartment. Leo Hornak spoke to Abdi almost every night while this was happening, to find out if Abdi would evade the police and make it to America. (17 minutes)

Abdi has a memoir called "Call Me American." 

Act Two

Leo Hornak's story about Abdi continues. Abdi encounters one obstacle after another on the streets of Nairobi. And finally, the moment of truth comes: his embassy interview. (31 minutes)

A version of Leo's story first aired on the BBC show Crossing Continents.

Song:

“Better” by K'naan