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By Jeb Phillips


Illustration: Photo



After classes on May 13, a sixth-grade Somali girl stood outside with an American boy.


That's about the only part of the story everyone agrees on.


She might have been kissing the boy or just hanging out with him. She might have told her father not to pick her up at Eastmoor Middle School, or her mother might have called and told her to walk home.


But Rahma Rage's father, Mohamed Shide, came for his daughter anyway. He found her there with the boy, which in the conservative Somali culture is outrageous, said one community leader. Shide then told Rahma to get in the car.


She says that when they got to their East Side home, he was so angry that he slapped her and put a pocketknife to her throat. He told her he'd kill her, she says, then went to the kitchen, got a butcher knife and threatened her with it. She fled to a neighbor's house.


A day later, Rahma told an assistant principal what had happened, and Columbus police arrested her father. They charged him with misdemeanor counts of assault, domestic violence and aggravated menacing.


Franklin County Children Services removed her from her home and placed her with an American foster mother -- which is why she invented the story in first place, say her family and her father's attorney.


Rahma and thousands of other Somali children live in Columbus and attend public schools. Somali leaders say the girls have come to love U.S. culture, and they want to shed their head coverings and daily prayers for rap music, blue jeans and boyfriends.


Accusing their parents of abuse, they say, might be the quickest way into the U.S. mainstream.


"Every Somali in Ohio knows this issue,'' Maryan Warsame, director of the Somali Women's Association said during Shide's trial. "We are waiting to see what happens.


If she was threatened, then she should be protected from her father, the leaders say. But many believe she made everything up.


Jurors heard the case last week, and, late Friday night, convicted Shide of the least-serious charge: threatening his daughter so she thought she was in danger.


Worried before the verdict, the leaders now are preparing for the worst.


"It's going to destroy the Somali community,'' said Abdullahi Qani, a Somali elder and family friend.


A refugee from the Somali civil war, Shide, 38, moved with his family to the United States in 1998. Rahma is the oldest of five children. Family members have told her that she is either 12 or 13. When she became sick in a Kenyan refugee camp, her father regularly carried her on his back for miles to the nearest hospital, he testified.


Shide and his family followed the Somali wave into Columbus. Shide found work as a health-care assistant, and his wife, Nimo Hurie, cleaned a bank. Rahma helped care for her siblings. She learned to speak fluent English and made the honor roll. She liked math best.


But she changed when she began middle school, her parents said. They discovered she was watching "some bad sex movies'' and listening to "bad rap music'' while they were at work, Shide testified through an interpreter. She began talking back to them and stopped cleaning up after herself.


Then came May 13. Shide said he only took Rahma home from school, told his wife what had happened and asked her to deal with it. In Somali tradition, Shide said, the mother disciplines daughters and the father disciplines sons.


In his version of the events, he and his daughter ended the night with a hug. In Rahma's, she went to sleep with her bedroom door locked because she was afraid of her father.


After she told her version to an assistant principal at Eastmoor, a Somali employee at the schools, Mohamed Hussain, took her back home to talk to her family -- one of the worst things to do in a domestic-violence case, a Columbus police officer testified. She recanted to her family, a baby sitter and Hussain -- but not to anyone else.


" 'Tell Mr. Hussain that nothing happened,' '' Rahma testified that her mother said.


On the stand, Rahma wore traditional Somali women's garb -- a shawl covering her head and neck, a long-sleeve shirt and a floor-length skirt. She played with her hair.


"Why are you dressed like you are today?'' asked her father's attorney, Dennis Muchnicki.


"I wear this every day, and I pray every day just like every Muslim,'' Rahma said.


An important part of the defense's case, though, was that she didn't. When she went to live with her foster mother, she began looking more like a U.S. teen-ager -- the way she wanted it, her family said.


"She was wearing a dress that I have never seen, and it was very short,'' Rahma's mother testified through an interpreter. "Her stomach was naked.''


The foster mother, Rebecca Dowling, who is not Muslim, testified that Rahma had continued to pray and wear traditional clothes.


John Saros, executive director of Children Services, said in an interview that a foster family has a duty to be open to a child's culture.


Rahma's family and Somali community leaders had wanted her placed with a Somali foster family. Four such families contacted Children Services, saying they'd be willing to take Rahma in. But the background checks and training would have taken months, Saros said.


The agency is looking for ways to recruit more Somali families for such cases, he said. The parents do have a voice in how their child is raised in a foster family, he said, but the child's safety is most important.


Though the foster mother said Rahma has been following tradition, something else was happening out of her sight, another Children Services official testified.


"It was my understanding that Rahma would wear this garb to school, then change when she got to school into typical American clothing,'' said Kenneth Cohen, who handles complaints for the agency.


Farhiya Rage, 11, said that she had seen her sister wearing blue jeans and a pink shirt after Rahma began living with Dowling.


" 'Tell 911 that your father beat you, and then you can be free,' '' she testified her sister told her.


Assistant city prosecutors Melanie Tobias and Bridget Carty questioned gaps between the parents' testimony and their earlier statements. They pointed out that Farhiya still lives with her father and, thus, could be intimidated.


In Columbus' wider Somali community, the details mattered less. It's what they represent.


"Many families are hesitant to discipline their children because they could call 911,'' said Hassan Omar, president of the Somali Community Association of Ohio. "The parents love their children. They came over here to save their children and educate their children. . . . We lived in refugee camps because we love our children.''


But the children are beginning to rebel, Warsame said. Because they speak English and understand American culture, "they think they are better than their parents,'' she said.


This case might illustrate how far their rebellion can go, the leaders say.


After six hours of deliberation, the jury returned to the courtroom at 10:45 p.m. Friday. They found Shide not guilty of aggravated menacing, and they couldn't reach a decision on the assault charge and one of the domestic violence charges.


But on the most minor charge, domestic violence as a fourth-degree misdemeanor, they found Shide guilty. Municipal Court Judge Dwayne Maynard fined him $100, gave him a 30-day suspended jail sentence and put him on probation for 13 months.


Shide will have to follow any Domestic Relations or Juvenile Court orders, which for now means he cannot see Rahma unless she asks for him.


"I will not even accept the least of these charges,'' Shide said after the verdict through an interpreter. He said he will appeal.


The conviction, though minor, will be enough to tear the community, said Qani, the family friend. He said the Somali elders will meet today to rally around Shide.


And they will talk about what to do if their children begin accusing them of abuse, he said.


"There is a strong belief that this will start to happen -- and start to happen fast.''



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I don't see what the big deal is. How should this ruin a whole community unless they collectively don't know how to raise their kids properly.


I, for one, don't believe this I am aware of how somalis fathers act like he did when they see their children with foreigners.


Oh well..I hope the kid gets her justice!

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I've seen children who make up stories about their parents abusing them just so that they can get away...and i've seen parents actually abuse their kids. So its hard to know who is telling the truth. We all know that somali parents over react when they see their daughter standing with a man...I've been called many ugly names and chased with dangerous object...but that is not considered abuse in the somali culture...I guess somali parents need to loosen up a bit.

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This is very sad. And it's always the same...always blaming the American culture. What they need to understand is that "The American Culture" did not hold a gun to the child's head and plead with them to act this way. And as long as the child is a good person and is planning on getting a good education....than let it follow any culture(but should never leave the teachings of Islam). Than it's all good.

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I really dont beleive the girl.If a father abuses his kids on a regular basis, chances are the mother is gonna kick him out...its extremely rare that both parents sanction abuse of their kids mutually. He was just disciplining her the only way he knew how and I'm almost sure that if she adhered to the rules and regulations of the family, she would have been forgiven. She just wanted a way out so she could be "free"... we'll see how far that gets her..Also.. I'm guessing she is far older than her 'western' age.


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oh my god what do u guys call abuse ......if my mom or dad killed me they have the right to do so cuz they besides ALLAH they bought me to this earth(being a little extreme) and walahi if u look at it religiously if a mother kills her kids she wont be punished for it in the life hereafter cuz she is permitted to if she want to......i dont feel bad for the doocil that kissed or hanged out with the white guy :mad: ...the dad took a different route he should not have threatened her but he did it just so she had something to fear :rolleyes: ..he was not gona kill his own child :eek: (he went walked from the camp they lived in to i dont know where just to make sure she had a doctor now tell me why would this oday want to kill his daughter)...we have tradition and some we must keep and that tradition of teaching ur kids how to behave is one of them ;) ..when a child in jr high is interested in a man what would u expect from her when she is 14 or fifteen :rolleyes: ...i hated boys when i was her age :eek: .....well am glad the father is out and safe........


i think parents have every right to decipline their kids ...even if it includes wooping their *** ......i got dacas slapped zillion of times while i was here in usa and i dont remember dialing 911 and the thought of complaining never entering my mind.....i thought about apologising to my parent....paremts just want us to be perfect children and that is it.......they want us to have good reputation and good diin ..if it takes beating to get that to our heads they will do it even thought it hurts them to beat us more than it hurts us :rolleyes: ..i wish y'll should see what a mom or a dad goes through for their child ..i see that all time with my sisters and their they get up in the middle of the night to feed a child....and have u seen the look on a mother face when her child falls down..or when a kid has nightmares,they get up even thought they dont want to get up and they read quran on them and hold them until they sleep. they(parents) went through alot more than i said to get us where we are today and we thank them by calling them harrasers :confused: fanaka cowdi billah.. walaahi it is quite sad

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Athena, that was well said walaal.


Mizz Unique walaal that was terrific too. Walaal these days we are forgetting respect for our parents.

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Athena well-said sis.


Mizz Unique girl i have to give it to you. You just summed up what i was thinking about. :D


This is what tells me the girl wanted to be "free", she started wearing little shirts and tight jeans when she left her parents. And what grade is she in? 6!


Acuudibilaah the father shoud've done more than threaten that little doocil. He should've whipped her *** till she forgot her own name!, and he carried her on his back for miles so she can get to a hospital! :mad: Just imagine what the father is thinking :(


Ou religon says a child is neither a Chritian nor a Muslim, it is what the parent makes him.

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Originally posted by Athena:

I really dont beleive the girl.If a father abuses his kids on a regular basis, chances are the mother is gonna kick him out...its extremely rare that both parents sanction abuse of their kids mutually.


thats not necessarily true. i agree with you that the girl is probably lying but in alot of abuse cases in which the man of the house is abusing his kids, be it physically or sexually, the mother either turns a blind eye out of fear of facing reality or fear for her own well being and will usually adamently defend her spouse. im not saying thats whats going on in this case, but things like that happen.



mizz unique, i agree with pretty much everything you said in your second paragaph and im still trying to wrap my mind around your first one. i mean, if what i have in mind is the right story than she was downright disrespectful to her parents for accusing them of such a thing, but her behaviour prior to it really didnt warrant her to be killed, and i think that if this had been a boy conforming, wearing baggy clohes, braiding his hair and found talking to a white girl hed be slightly teased, or at most yelled at and chastised, and the whole subject would be dropped. why is that?

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^^ loooooooooooooooool


mizz-unique couldn't agree wit u more in ur 2nd paragraph


and i think that if this had been a boy conforming, wearing baggy clohes, braiding his hair and found talking to a white girl hed be slightly teased, or at most yelled at and chastised, and the whole subject would be dropped. why is that?


thats tru walahi.. probably becuz a girl's reputation is everything

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asalaamu alaykum,


I agree with athena, I don't believe the girl either. Even if her father did threatened her the fact that she got on the stand and testified against him should warrent her the death penalty. If I was the father and mother in this case, I'd put her on the next flight back to somalia the first chance I get.



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