Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Somalis


Although Somalis have been coming to Chicago as refugees since the 1970s, and ethnic networks among the estimated 300 immigrants were reported to be strong at the twentieth century's end, there has been no formal organization that represents the whole community. This is due, in part, to the intense ethnic and clan divisions that followed refugees from the Somali civil war, which began in 1988. The United States' Operation Restore Hope in 1992 resulted in a wave of refugees to Chicago, mostly ethnic rebels seeking asylum from political persecution, while those connected with Somalia's governing regime went to Washington DC. Scholars and community leaders claim that some attempts at community organization were made at this time, but the intensity of clan and political conflict made consensus difficult. Nonetheless, in the late 1990s many Somalis of different ethnic affiliations lived in close proximity to one another on Chicago's Northwest Side, in the Albany Park neighborhood along Kedzie Avenue.