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INTERVIEW: Utøya survivor to be deported

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INTERVIEW: Utøya survivor to be deported
Khaled Ahmed Taleb at a protest against Breivik outside Hamar courthouse in 2012 - Jo E. Brenden / NTB Scanpix
22:23 CEST+02:00
Khaled Ahmed Taleb found his brother dead during Anders Behring Breivik's terror attack in 2011. But now he faces expulsion for lying on his asylum application eleven years ago. He tells The Local how it happened.
When police started hammering on Khaled Ahmed Taleb's door one early morning this March, he was terrified.
 
But it wasn't because they had rumbled the lie he had lived for eleven long years -- it was because he still suffers severe psychological difficulties from when he saw Anders Behring Breivik's arrive on island of Utøya and begin shooting people dead. 
 
"I was very scared because I thought it was another group like Breivik," Taleb remembers. "For me, from this time, every person in a police uniform is Breivik." 
 
As Taleb was hiding from the far-right terrorist on that terrible day in 2011, he stumbled upon the body of his younger brother Isma, who had been shot in the head. 
 
"When I found him half of his face was gone and he was not alive, and to this day, I cannot take this picture out of my mind," Taleb says.  
 
So when he woke to find people dressed as police bashing at his door, he was understandably shaky. 
 
Once he had calmed down, the officers told him the bad news. They had information that he was not a Somali who had fled civil war to come to Norway, as he had always claimed, but was instead from relatively peaceful Djibouti.  He was not called Khalid Haji Ahmed, and he was four year's older than he had claimed. 
 
"I said, 'yes, it’s all true'. They asked me, 'why did you lie?', and I asked them, 'why did you take such a long time to find out?'"
 
Last Wednesday, after six months that have already seen Taleb serve two months in jail for falsifying his asylum application back in 2002, Norway's immigration authorities ruled that he should also be expelled from the country. 
 
"I think that it’s not fair," he says. "Still today, I have many psychological problems. They think maybe I will get psychological help in Djibouti. But this terror attack was not in Djibouti, it was in Norway. I think the Norwegian system has a responsibility to help treat me." 
 
In Taleb's eleven years in the country, he became a popular youth worker, helping immigrants within the Labour Party's youth wing, and then rising to serve on the city council of his home town of Hamar. 
 
"I feel that I have a big connection here in Norway," he says. "I've done a lot for Norway. I did many things for the Labour party youth. I did many things for the youth in my city here in Hamar. And I never raped anybody, or stole anything, or did anything wrong in my life here. It’s because of the lie that they want to punish me, but I got my punishment from them two times already. First I lost my brother, and then they sent me to jail." 
 
He can't understand how the Norwegian authorities can pay him back in this way. "The police said they were just doing their job. But I tell them, 'if you were doing your job, you could have stopped Breivik a long time before he killed my brother'". 
 
The painful truth is that it was probably Utøya which first alerted the police.  "Probably somebody told them, because after Utøya I was always on the TV and on the radio," he says. 
 
Taleb maintains that he had been planning to come clean in 2011 anyway. 
 
"I have always had a bad conscience about this. I was on the way to go to the Norwegian police and tell them that I had lied and that I could not live any more like that. But it was bad timing. All of a sudden there was this terrible situation where I lost my brother. Everyone was in a big shock after this massacre." 
 
He claims he had been encouraged to lie by the people who brought him to the country. 
 
"When I come to Norway, I didn’t come alone. There was some people that smuggled refugees, and the guy who took me inside Norway, he told me, 'don’t say that you’re from Djibouti, say that you’re from Somalia and it will be better for you'".
 
Before long, the pretence became second nature. 
 
"People said to me, 'you are not like a Somalian', and I used to say, 'yes, my origin is Arab, my origin is from Yemen'.  Norwegian people told me, 'your comportment and the way you talk to people is more civilised. You know how to talk with European people'. And I said, 'it’s because I read many books, and I was a teacher." 
 
None of Norway's Somali population were fooled. But because he spoke the same language, albeit with a strange dialect, he became a spokesperson for them. 
 
"I got a lot of respect from all the Somalian people, because I represented the immigrant community in the city council. I was the only non-Norwegian sitting there and fighting for minority rights." 
 
He was popular with young people from an ethnic Norwegian background too, especially at the youth camp held by the Labour party every summer on Utøya. 
 
"They called me the Sheikh of Utøya," he says. "It started in 2006, I think. I had with me the biggest tent, and I made it look like an Arabian palace, with a big carpet, fruit, flowers and perfume, and I always had long clothes like a sheikh, and people were thinking it was cool, because it was original." 
 
Nowadays, he finds it hard to go back to the island he used to love so much.  
 
"I was there when we celebrated one year after. But after that I don’t want to go again, because I think to myself, 'it’s OK to be there', but every time I see Utøya in the pictures, I get a flashback. Everything that happened that day comes back to my mind." 
 
Taleb is now preparing to fight for one last chance to stay in the country he has done so well in. In the next few days, he will appeal the immigration authority's decision to expel him. 
 
"I am always optimistic, because I think 'there's no life without problems, and there’s no problems without a solution'.  I only cross my fingers, and see what will happen."  
 
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