Hirsi Magan Isse (Somali: Xirsi Magan Ciise, Arabic: هيرسي ماجان عيسى) (b.1935-2008) was a scholar and one of the leading figures of the Somali revolution. A part of Somalia's political elite, he was a leader in the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), one of the earliest and most influential factions in the Somali Civil War that broke out in 1991. Magan Isse was a comrade-in-arms of erstwhile President of Somalia, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, and the father of the former Dutch MP and critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Magan Isse was born in Somalia in 1935 as one of the nine children of Magan Isse Guleid (1845–1945). A devout Muslim and student of Somali culture, he belonged to the Cismaan Maxamuud subdivision of the Majeerteen sub-clan of the Harti Darod clan family.
Magan Isse had been married four times and had five daughters and one son. He had two daughters with his first wife. From his second marriage were born his son Mahad, his estranged daughter Ayaan, and his daughter Haweya. Haweya died in 1998. He also had a daughter from his third marriage. He later remarried his first wife, who he had divorced shortly after he married his second wife.
Magan Isse studied in Italy and in the United States at Columbia University, New York, where he obtained a degree in anthropology. As a trained linguist and anthropologist, he is known as a champion of Osmanya, the Somali writing script invented by Osman Yusuf Kenadid, unlike the former head of state, Siad Barre, who made Shire Jama Ahmed's modified Latin script the national standard in Somalia in 1972.
After the assassination of president Abdirashid Ali Shermarke and the coming to power of Siad Barre in October, 1969, Magan Isse was considered dangerous to the new leadership and was imprisoned from 1972 to October 1975.
In 1976, Magan Isse escaped from prison and fled from Somalia to Saudi Arabia. In the same year, Barre banned all political parties with the exception of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSF). So the SODAF (a forerunner of the SSDF) was founded in exile in Rome. The following year, Magan Isse moved to Ethiopia, where he witnessed the year-long Ogaden War. It was also the period of the Red Terror of the Derg, and its victims included the Western Somali Liberation Front, an Ogaden-based Somali rebel outfit. For security purposes, Magan Isse opted to relocate his family to a suburb in Nairobi, while he continued to live in Somalia and Ethiopia most of the time.
In the summer of 1982, the SSDF played a key role in the second armed conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia. The SSDF, supported by the Derg leader Mengistu's air force, waged a low intensity guerrilla war against the Somali army. Magan Isse became a well-known figure in Somalia at the time as director and presenter of Radio Kulmis (meaning "Unity" in Somali), which aired anti-Barré programs from Addis Abeba, Ethiopia).
In 1988, Magan Isse and Mohamed Haji Aden headed an insurrection near Eyl in the Nugaal region, part of Puntland, mainly inhabited by Majerteen of the Issa Mahamoud sub-clans. This insurrection of the SSDF, which started in the southern part of Nugaal and Bari and the western part of Mudug, would eventually lead to the autonomy of the province of Puntland in 1998. In the 1990s the SSDF switched sides: from the SNM of Somaliland to its former adversary, Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan, former minister of defense of the government of Siad Barré, and, after the fall of Barré, head of the Somali National Front (SNF). With the SNF the SSDF tried, in vain, to capture the region around Kismayo.