Somali community remembers youth activist

Abia Ali in 2009
Laura Yuen | MPR News file

Members of the Somali community are remembering a community activist who died over the weekend after a years-long battle with cancer.

Abia Ali was known for her humanitarian work and her work with young people in the Somali community. In 2008, she received an award from the Minneapolis Police Department for her work with youth, at a time when the FBI was investigating whether young Somali men in the Twin Cities were being recruited to fight with the extemist group al-Shabab. She told MPR News in 2009 that she tried to stop young men from traveling to Somalia to fight with al-Shabab, back when she was working at a travel agency.

A few years later, she was diagnosed with cancer. But her friend Zakya Gazey said that didn't slow her down.

"I heard her saying that it actually made her want to do more," said Gazey. "It inspired her to work harder to strive to help more people."

Saida Hassan was mentored by Ali as a teen, and the two later became good friends.

"This person is so humble," said Hassan. "Look at her sitting here knowing that she just went through chemo, smiling and laughing with people. That was her."

Ali recently learned that her cancer treatment was no longer effective. She left Minnesota in April to make a pilgrimage to Mecca and to visit family in Somali. She's survived by her husband and three children.

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