Somalia: Women Shouldn’t Live in Fear of Rape According to this HRW report published last month, ” The UN reported nearly 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Mogadishu alone for the first six months of 2013, although the actual number is likely much higher. Many victims will not report rape and sexual assault because they lack confidence in the justice system, are unaware of available health and justice services or cannot access them, and fear reprisal and stigma. When Human Rights Watch asked one survivor why she did not report being raped, she shrugged: “Rape is a frequent occurrence in Somalia. Here, rape is normal.”

It is troubling to read these reports day in and day out. The government turns a blind eye, the society blames the rape survivors and their communities ostracizes them.

If the survivors seek justice, they will, in worst cases, be subjected to a traditional court and possibly be even forced to marry their rapists. The traditional court is a tea shop for older Somali men who think that marriage is the solution to every problem facing Somali women. Can you imagine that? What kind of justice is that?

Finding the above option unappealing, other survivors opt to have their cases handled by the government. This is a government confined to a few areas in Mogadishu and which is fighting for its existence. These poor survivors eventually end up being imprisoned and possibly even subjected to even more sexual violence.

Either way, they’re damned.

” The future of the Somali race is to my mind one of the most interesting and difficult of the problems presented by East Africa. For the present, I advise that we leave them alone, or at least avoid as far as possible the task of attacking them in their own territory. They are naturally isolated, and, if our officers will only avoid getting killed, can do little harm by quarrelling with one another in Jubaland. Our real task at present is rather to see that they do not encroach to the south, and to prevent them from raiding the Tana River and the Lamu Archipelago. But we can hardly avoid in the future the further task of making a permanent settlement in Jubaland, and the delimitation of the Abyssinian (meaning stop Somali Region expansion) frontier may perhaps precipitate that settlement.

It is certainly to be desired that we should utilise the Somalis. There can be no doubt that they are the most intelligent race in the Protectorate, though it may be urged with some justice that they are also proud, treacherous, fanatical, and vindictive. Too much stress, I think, is often laid on these bad qualities, and it is certain that the average Englishman has little sympathy for the Somali. He tolerates a black man who admits his inferiority, and even those who show a good fight and give in ; but he cannot tolerate dark colour combined with an intelligence in any way equal to his own. This is the secret of the almost universal dislike of the Babu, and it reappears in the unpopularity of the Somali among East African officials.

The Somali are not willing to agree to the simple plan of having a fair fight and then shaking hands when defeated, but constantly indicate that they think themselves our equals or superiors, and not unfrequently prove it. Whenever it is worth our while to occupy Jubaland, and let them see a few hundred white men instead of half-a-dozen officials, which is literally all that they know of us at present, I anticipate that we shall not have much difficulty in getting on with them. The attractions of civilisation are so great for them, and our superiority in this respect so incontestable, that there can hardly be any doubt as to the result. What will happen in the wider limits of Somaliland, north of the Juba, it is hard to predict, but the area to the south is sufficiently small to offer an easy field for the extension of European influence when it is commercially and financially worthwhile. But meanwhile I think we had better let the Somalis alone, and avoid these conflicts between a lion and a swallow.”

The East Africa Protectorate

by Eliot, Charles Eliot

1905

I was feeling depressed by the outcome of the political wrangling between the Somali president and his PM. I hope the new PM will be selected in a transparent manner and will be qualified to do the job. For how long must we put up with these constant changes in leadership?

To uplift my spirits, I decided to dig up my old archives and came upon this gem. This is an old classic song that was composed by Abdulkadir Hersi Yamyam (May he rest in peace). One of the things that Said Barre will be missed for was his nationalism which he strove to inculcate in the masses through songs, poetry and drama. I just adore this song and the uplifting words. How the mighty have fallen: from a proud nation to one of scattered beggars. Nevertheless, I am still optimistic and pray for a peaceful Somalia. Somalia, lifted up and held by women, will one day get back on its feet. 

I share names with equality
A mortal I do not allow
That he surpass me
And allusive words and hints
I confer not on anyone as gifts
I am Somali

Though impoverished I am
Yet my hardships I endure
And my palms I do not extend
A man with whom I am friends
With my enemy I do not rival
I am Somali

I am in a quest for peace
And from enmity I am terrified
But [from the battlefield] I flee not
And the man who brings wounds
From his hands I await not [I launch assault]
I am Somali

A man who endangers me lives not in peace
And there isn’t a man who did wait for me
Gratitude I have not yet abandoned
Nor do I support not any transgression
And a wronged man I compare not with others
I am Somali

To whom my ways do not appeal
As he wishes I do not comply with
Like some parts of the world
Coercion I do not accept
Nor do I carry any man’s shoes
I am Somali

O’ you who is wealthier than I
Your offerings for name’s sake
Know that I expect them not
Say not, too, persuade the ignorant
For I have not a conscious that sleeps
I am Somali

Neither man’s stroking of my head
Nor his lace on my legs [duplicity] do I accept
Persuasion I do not approve
As for secrets [about me] I say
A Saab [vessel] that hold no water
I am Somali

I am of a step with the wind
And on impulse I do not act
I am like fangs of poison [when provoked]
And at times, the bearer of good [when dealt with peace]
I am swathed in patience
I am Somali

A man who endangers me lives not in peace
And there isn’t a man who did wait for me
Gratitude I have not yet abandoned
Nor do I support not any transgression
And a wronged man I compare not with others
I am Somali

I am like Saan [hide] split into two
That still bears the credentials
Some men once disintegrated me
Whilst I tended to my flocks
[But] the obligation of unity I [still] carry
I am Somali

(Source: this is a classic Somali song called Somali Baan Ahay. The English translation is attributable to Shafi Said at http://shafisaid.wordpress.com/2007/11/13/i-am-somali/)

 

At last, some good news. Somali women in the Diaspora, as well as in Somalia, are taking control of their sexuality and reproduction rights. According to the CIA World Factbook, Somalia is projected to have a total fertility rate of 6.26 in 2012. This is a decline from 7.18 in 2000. Overall, the projected total fertility rate in Somalia is steadily declining year on year. As a result of the ranking, Somalia is placed third on the global total fertility rate rank chart, right after Niger and Mali.

The reasons for the decline in total fertility rates could be several: the civil war, inability to support large families, family planning or women joining the labor force. I know from my work in Somalia, and here among the diaspora, that Somali women are taking charge of their bodies and opting for family planning. In any case, this is a positive development which is laudable.

The same positive trend is observable here in Finland also. According to Tilastokeskus (Statistics Finland), the total fertility rate in Somalis declined in the twenty years that they’ve been here almost by half: from 6.6 in 1990, to 4 in 2012. The number is even smaller in Somali-Finnish women aged 27-years and who live in the capital area (3.2 child per woman). Interestingly enough, Thai women whose population is estimated at 4,430 seem to have a higher fertility age than their Somali counterparts (3,650). This is contrary to the general myth here exploited by the True Finns (a populist and nationalist political party) that Somali women are a child-producing factory.

The decline in fertility rate means progress for some of the women who came here in the 90s and who have been unable to integrate due to various reasons. For the first time in many years, they can finally come out from their four walls, learn the Finnish language, get an education, join the labor force and eventually integrate into the Finnish society.

The second generation Somali-Finns are faring well compared to the first generation. Although they appreciate and see the value in having big families, they also feel that it would not be feasible in the Finnish context. First, the extended family network that would help with child-rearing is not available in Finland. Second, Finland is a very expensive country and thus raising a big family in an equitable manner is extremely difficult. Thirdly, second generation Somali-Finns want to enjoy life, travel more often and to see world, instead of being bogged down by child-rearing.

Although we have made positive progress in ensuring reproductive health rights, I feel we have a long way to still go. Personally, I believe that the future lies in the second and third generation Somali-Finns. They can play a greater role in building bridges between the Finnish authorities and first generation women. It is imperative that we enable women to choose when and how many children they want to have. Most importantly, women of child-bearing age, as a policy, should have access to culturally sensitive family planning information and services at every visit to health centers. However, this is an area that needs strengthening. Women cite religious reasons and the lack of information leaflets in the Somali language as a barrier to accessing these vital services. Thus and in order to increase access and uptake of family planning services, it important to develop culturally sensitive targeted campaigns on the benefits of reproductive health and family planning.

http://http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/01/world/africa/officials-struggle-with-tangled-web-of-financing-for-somali-militants.html?_r=0

Interesting article. I, too, have watched with keen interest how some religious leaders, Islamists, use the religion as means of making business. Because of their influence, they can make something that was forbidden (haram) halal by proclaiming fatwas. For instance, a “sheikh” could say that money gotten from gambling is forbidden. However, when money comes from a gambling agency, the same “sheikh” would issue a fatwa proclaiming that the money is halal. How does that logic work?

There are other countless examples that leave me puzzled. Take the example of the businesses that are flourishing in the mosques as “non-profit” work. This is income that has not been declared for taxation. This, if anything, is haram. What annoys me the most is that we choose not to challenge these double standards.

The selling of fatwas is not a new thing. One country that is notorious for that is India. Why should we believe in fatwas? If we are well versed with what Islam says, then surely there is no reason for interposers. Or is there? I believe that all Muslims have a direct link with Allah and that there is no need for interposers. That is why the first verse revealed in Surat Iqra said “read”. It commands us to read and to understand with our own brains instead of assigning that responsibility to others. This, if anything, is social conditioning. Nowadays it is common to hear from women mostly that “my sheikh said this and my sheikh said that”. I sometimes wonder who they worship: God or their sheikh? Is this not shirk?

Another country that has taken fatwa to the extreme is Syria. Young women are flocking to Syria to take part in sexual jihad. This is a form of prostitution which is “legalized” in the pretext of conducting jihad. According to the Telegraph, young girls from Tunisia and Syria are having sexual relations with 20 to a 100 militiamen. Two Somali sisters were reported to have left Norway to go to Syria to participate in the jihad “in any way necessary”. One can only wonder what that means.

These double standards and mafia-style of operation is tarnishing the image of Islam. I don’t know which is worse: watching quietly or the issuing of fatwas for nefarious purposes?

What do you think?