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A Tale of a woman under Al-Shabaab

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Zoe Alsop, Chronicle Foreign Service

Sunday, May 11, 2008



Galkayo, Somalia -- In November, Islamic insurgents broke into Madina Ali's home in the capital of Mogadishu, forcing an explosive-laden package into her younger sister's hands.


The militants then ordered the teenager to carry the parcel past a group of Ethiopian soldiers. If she didn't, they threatened to kill her family. When she complied, they detonated the explosive by remote control, killing her and injuring several soldiers.


"After that, we decided to leave," said Ali, 28. "Otherwise we might have been killed."


Ever since Ethiopian troops, with tacit U.S. support, ousted the Islamic Courts Union government 18 months ago, Ethiopian and Somali forces have been fighting a swelling Islamic insurgency along the narrow, densely populated Mogadishu streets and across southern Somalia. The change of government may have unintentionally played a role in pushing Somali women like Ali back to a brutal era.


Since conflict began at the end of 2006, violence has displaced nearly 1 million people, aid groups say. In the northern city of Galkayo, dozens of women living in refugee camps told identical stories of being raped, robbed and beaten by militia members linked to politically powerful clans, which have carved out armed fiefdoms and set up checkpoints along roads leading out of Mogadishu.


The Islamic Courts Union, an organization modeled after Afghanistan's Taliban with alleged ties to al Qaeda, assumed power in early 2006 in south-central Somalia. Like the Taliban, the group offered a welcome respite from years of political chaos. Many women said they preferred its restrictive brand of Islamic law - women were required to wear veils in public and most women's groups were banned - to no justice at all. Men convicted of rape faced execution, but a woman alleging rape who failed to produce four male witnesses could be stoned for adultery.


"Many women supported the Islamic Courts in Mogadishu because they received security," said Alia Adem Abdi, who chairs Hiran Women Action on Advocacy for Peace & Human Rights in the turbulent central Hiran region. "They had access to move freely in the capital city. ... Children had access to school. But not now."


Improvement in theory

In theory, the current transitional government's secular Constitution offers women greater freedoms. But with the ranks of the insurgency swelling every day, the state is too weak to enforce its laws, most observers say.


And while insurgents have not been shy about using women and children, like Ali's sister, as human shields and unwilling suicide bombers, Ethiopian and Somali army soldiers have also been accused of rape and murder.


Galkayo, which is some 300 miles north of Mogadishu, was once a beacon of stability for those fleeing the more violent south. But without a functioning government, clan elders have stepped into the vacuum, doling out justice only to those with private militias that have the firepower to demand it.


"The whole country is a clan-based system," said Gov. Abdulkadir Dahirahmed of the Mudug region, whose capital is Galkayo. "The police support the elders, the military supports the elders. The elders are the highest authority here."


Galkayo is a densely packed warren of low stone buildings spiked with delicate minarets, which gleam white and blue in the desert sun. Its estimated 150,000 residents straddle the boundary dividing the nation's restive central and southern regions from the relatively peaceful neighboring autonomous state of Puntland. The Islamic Courts government never reached the north, and insurgents have concentrated attacks in regions where the Courts once controlled - central and southern Somalia.


A handful of decrepit white Toyota station wagons, a nearly finished public hospital, a tidy development of canary-yellow homes with generators to produce electricity, and a smattering of foreign-sponsored Islamic schools are the fruits of Somalis living abroad who send remittances to their impoverished relatives.


But such development pales in comparison to the shocking conditions of the nine refugee camps inhabited by some 35,000 displaced people who live in homes constructed of dry brush and rags.


Ali is one of dozens of newly displaced people living in the stick and rag shelter of Mulyun Ahmed Osman, also a former Mogadishu resident.


"My husband was killed in front of me while I was delivering a baby," Osman said.


A rape every day

The camps also offer little or no security.


Last year, a survey by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees concluded that one woman is raped each day in Galkayo camps by gangs of men from town.


"I was sleeping in the camp when a man came into my hut and raped me," said a 55-year-old woman who was unable to sit because of injuries sustained during the attack and declined to give her name because of the stigma of rape. "We came to find a better life. Now I cannot walk or work."


Many observers here agree that police and soldiers who investigate rape cases are subject to the influence of clan elders, which means little or no justice for a victim from a weak clan.


They point to the man who raped an 8-year-old girl in October and still runs a garbage collection station - aid organizations pay people to collect garbage - several hundred yards from the stick and rag shelter where the girl lives with her mother and three younger sisters. The man was arrested after residents heard the girl screaming and ran for police. After he spent a week in jail, clan elders persuaded the police to charge him with robbery and had him released.


"If we see him, we run and hide," said the girl, who fled Mogadishu with her family four months ago and whose mother asked not to name the family for fear of retribution.


The mother says she is too poor to leave the camp and appealed to the clan to punish the man or order him out of town. In response, clan elders threatened her with violence.


"We did not talk about it after that day," the mother said.


Work is scarce for the displaced. The victim's mother still depends on her daughter's rapist for the 10 cents a day she earns selling recyclable trash that she collects from town streets.


"When I see him, I cry," she said.


E-mail Zoe Alsop at


Source: SFGates, May 11, 2008

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Western media never cease to amaze me. All that Xabashi brutalities to report from, they like to extremely exaggerate what those who are against the occupation do only because they carry the 'Islamic' label. It was the other day when same piece of crap was published by The Times of London.


Are they blind to Xabashi atrocities, crimes against humanity or other cruelsome savage, barbarous acts committed by them?

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Let me add one name to your sentence for those of you who have selected amnesia because of clan loyalties


Are they blind to Xabashi and ICU atrocities, crimes against humanity or other cruelsome savage, barbarous acts committed by them?


Do you think Indhocadde (Sheikh for you ICU supporters) is different from Xabashi?


Wasn't he terrorizing the innocent somalis long before the xabashi came? And why you are never mentioning his crimes instead of rewarding him with title Sheikh and giving him a role in the so called Sharia lovers ranks?

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Wax badan ayaan daacdaada ignore gareeye, but for your little information, where I and Indhamadoowe stand qof walbaa og. Or any other political group.


One dimensional issue kaaga dhagtay, Indhacadde this, ICU that, hebel this, heblaayo that. You sound like a broken record that used to post here. Magacaas amaaba ku fiicneyd waagaa wadatay.

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another cia crap vomit been spread by cheerleaders who r for hire to betray their own ppl. *&)*&*)&^%


watch cheerleaders thats shabbab -- 6ft under code.

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Miskiin calm down is your Sheikh a leader in the ICU or not. If yes then the credibility of the ICU goes down the drain and they are just like the TFG no difference. I'll keep on been a broken record till you guys get your memories back. I am here to help you guys :D

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