By Yasmeen Maxamuud
Editor’s note: We are all saddened by the recent horrific rape of a young innocent Somali girl that took place in Puntland in the hands of six criminals that are still not brought to justice. It’s equally appalling that the young girl’s photos and video of the rape was shared by many in social media. The tragedies encountered or experienced by Somali women and girls in the hands of Somalia’s warring factions, unscrupulous individuals and foreign troops (AMISOM), preying on the vulnerability of Somali women and girls is becoming the norm. Whether rape was committed by elite ruling parties as an arrogant leisurely activity or by warring factions as a psychological war tactic, rape is a criminal act. There are no known laws or legislation against rape in Somalia. Cases are solved by traditional means which usually gets done by men and the victims have no say in what exchanges hands. This further adds to horrific act of terror against females. There have been cases of rape occurring in many parts of Somalia, some as young as seven years old. To highlight the issue of rape, WardheerNews is republishing the article- Rape: A Conspiracy of Silence, written by Yasmeen Maxamuud, first published on Feb 2, 2006. Yasmeen has written about women and rape extensively and her book Nomad Diaries, covers the issue of rape against women in war times.
“We will enforce without fear or favour the laws against rape recently passed by the national transitional legislation.” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, The newly elected President of Liberia
Warring factions have always used rape as a weapon of war to control the minds of enemies particularly through the bodies of woman. Women in general pay a higher price in civil wars. Invading women’s bodies the enemy leaves a permanent legacy of suffering much after the battlefields have ceased. Women often suffer from the hands of those they hold dear and close, sometimes never understanding the reason men whom they share lineage, culture and religion with as well as men who are allien to them equally use rape to shame their opponents through their bodies. Many ask the question why, but simply put women have always been the easiest target to dishonor and torment the enemy. Rape in the context of war is a very murky and complex phenomenon. Much scholarly research has revealed that rape, as a weapon of war has been a permanent episode of torture where men demoralize their male enemy to perhaps increase fear and create a feeling of power.
Somali women have suffered their share of rape during the civil war, and afterwards, and until today as refugees in foreign camps. It is a four-letter word that many shun for one reason or another, but for women who have to bear the ugly pain of rape, it is a life sentence handed to them by neighbors, friends and their compatriots. A taboo topic that needs to loose the walls of disgrace that hide its raw truth. It is simply a mere luxury to avoid it and to hope it shall never appear on the horizon of debate for reasons of guilt and infamy of those who have perpetrated it and the many others who have contributed their share of indignity by silence.
Rape and the way it has been shunned in the Somali community as if it has never occurred is inhumane and unmerited. For the women whose dignity, humanity and self-respect has been stolen through rape, avoiding the topic when all other aspects of the war are discussed is simply an unfair, and chauvinistic marginalization that warrants some debate to shed light on the horrendous ordeal that has transpired on the bodies of the most innocent and meek of society. No amount of Justification can ever grant evenhandedness for the havoc that has transpired on women when men caused one of the merciless civil unrest for reasons of greed and arrogance.
In the least, the topic warrants an awareness to disgrace those that partook the painful infliction of everlasting dishonor on daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers, even children as young as nine years of age.
Victimized to Silence
Rape for Somali women did not appear on the onset of the civil war. For many years before the start of the civil war, a group of young men from the ruling elite of the time has wreaked mayhem on the streets of Mogadishu on the heydays of the Barre tyranny. Since rape is not discussed openly, for some cultural/traditional reasons, the families whose young daughters have vanished as a direct result of it only know the numbers of young women raped by these thugs, but the sad stories that are whispered in the privacy of homes are many. In particular, two young women’s saga has recurrently been told for years because of the pure brutality and wicked cruelty involved.
One particular girl was gang raped in the late eighties by a number of these delinquents headed by a Micheal Maxamed Sh. Cusmaan aka Michael Jiis, the son of the then powerful finance Minster General Maxamed Sheekh Cusmaan, and the son of a prominent business man (Xoosh) who had close shady ties with Barre. She was a college student at the Somali National University, the victim’s name passes through as “Ina Carys Ciise” having lineage to the great Somali poet and Radio personality Carays Ciisa Kaarshe.
They cooperated to jointly rape the girl. Luckily, due to the famous name she hailed from, the entire city of Mogadishu blistered with the news as the businessman and the Minister did the unthinkable and smuggled their sons out of the country to Europe within the space of a week of the incident. Another young woman has also suffered in the hands of this elite unforgiving group, rather viciously. This young girl named Subeyda Sh. Ibrahim God bless her soul came from a prominent religious family. She lost her life around December 1990 through the rape that finally claimed her precious young life. Her limp lifeless body, which was intended for a discard to the high seas of Jazeera beach, was latter transported to Medina hospital where the assailant carried the body to rid himself of it when an attempt to abandon the body at the ocean proved impossible due to the presence of others. The attendants at the hospital, also from the ruling elite admitted the lifeless body, later informing the parents of Subeyda of her death. What took place immediately following the brutal rape of Subeyda is a travesty of justice as the family was given the run around.
In this particular case according to Subeyda’s brother who this writer interviewed, the rapist was non other than Kooshin Caano Geel the son of the Chief of the CID with close family ties to Barre. This time the assailant was not even smuggled out of town, but continued his business in Mogadishu. The family of Subeyda demanded justice to prosecute the rapist; unfortunately, justice was nowhere to be found, as the police slammed every door shut on their faces. A true injustice indeed.
In the heydays of the totalitarianism, raping young innocent victims by the sons of the ruling elite was the norm. The criminals are splashing the scenes of cities around the globe alongside their participatory families. They assume normal lives pushing aside the saga of the horrendous rape they have committed against incident civilians from their new lavish lives while the families of the victims buried their violated daughters muted by the authoritarian government and its supporters.
Using Somali women’s bodies as a terrain of war, rape took an animalistic and sadistic form when gang militias in Mogadishu began to rape women in the most inhumane, immoral, cruel hostile manner. At the advent of war, women were raped not only in their homes, but also in the holly Masjid where they sought refuge. The violence of rape was committed in the presence of children, mothers, fathers and community elders. An unrelenting militia gangster groups wrecked the homes of many innocent less protected groups such as reer Xamar & Barawani women in Mogadishu, Merka, Brava and elsewhere in the region.
These groups were preyed upon for their defenselessness and for being innocent victims of a war they had never partook. Pregnant women were knifed to death to spill the guts that contained live fetuses to end the continuity of one particular group or another.
There are stories of women who were inserted battery carbon and other objects to extend the pain and torture of war. Many other incidents that have transpired on the bodies of innocent victims are too painful to describe. The gang rapes came from militia groups that used women to prove their manhood and torment their enemy. Some of the warlords turn ministers in Mogadishu were at the helm of some of these militias. The attacks were committed often with intension of shaming entire communities. With rape, not only community values but also cultural, spiritual and sisterhood values are perpetually hampered.
Some of the militia who execute such vile, whose immorality led to raping old women in mosques, has since fled the scene as refugees. They may be your next-door neighbor anywhere around the globe as a refugee or worse, they could be preaching to your children as religious figures. Others continue to profit from the ambiance they have created where younger males who have known nothing but war and violence in their lives continue the vicious cycle.
In more recent times in 2004, a rape ignominy was committed against a sixteen-year-old prisoner by the name of Samsam Dualeh who has suffered multiple rapes in the hands of various CID members in Hargeysa. Samsam personally named the men who raped her repeatedly while she was in their custody. They are Siciid foolxun, Ibrahim, Cabdi Jilic, Faracade and two others who cowardly covered their faces while they committed rape against the sixteen year old. All are members of Hargeysa’s CID.
As you read these lines, another Somali refugee has just suffered the wicked act of rape in Dhadhaab and other camps in Kenya where vigilantes menace to gang rape women who travel to the outskirts of the camps to gather firewood for survival. It is a well-documented problem, which many NGOs and International Organizations such as the UN wrestle with.
Far from any help with the need of family, they are often gang raped, knifed, beaten and shot into submission. The statistics of rape in Dhadhaab have been going up and women of all ages risk the incidence of rape every time they venture out to collect firewood to survive.
Most of these women do not report the rape for fear of being ostracized by their communities and are stigmatized to silence. With no other alternatives they venture out knowing they could come back violated. Their husbands, brothers and fathers are aware of the dangers that lie ahead in these woods. They say they are unable to come up with a solution, in the words of one man “gathering fire wood is a women’s task, there is nothing we can do about it”, such is the sad nonchalant attitude most men hold about rape on women, simply no feeling.
The gross underreporting of the rape brought about by the guilt and stigma attached to rape halts any physical and physiological treatments necessary for a rape victim. Rape victims risk a more acute transmission of sexually transmitted diseases such as the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
Women suffer silently as the psychological impacts of rape are profound and never dealt with for cultural reasons. There are feelings of isolation, shame, and a continuous blame. Pain and suffering is stamped on entire families as the devastation of rape erodes the fabric of the community. The suspect and hate that these reprehensible acts against women have created are evident in all Somali communities today where there is much mistrust and polarization. Whether rape was committed by elite ruling parties as an arrogant leisurely activity or by warring factions as a psychological war tactic, rape is a criminal act. The perpetrators of rape are splashing many cities in the Diaspora leading comfortable lives. Law and justice may lag slowly but it will finally catch up to these criminals. Families who have suffered in the hands of the criminals deserve the backing of the community to finally have their day in court and bring the criminals who have robbed their innocent daughters to justice.
These acts are horrendous and inhumane; they defy human normalcy, Somali humanity and goodwill. It still brings tears to the eyes of many especially the elderly grandmothers who still pray against its remembrance. Some may regard the violent acts of rape war against women during the civil war to be more appalling and atrocious when in fact carrying out rape under the watchful eye of a sitting government in the case of the Barre days and the current administration in Hargeysa are more vulgar, because the thugs seem to have the blessings of their leaders. The rope of despair that has been thrown to these women has stolen their rights and humanity.
The great words of wisdom from the recently elected first woman president in the continent linger with hope for victims of rape. She bravely embraced a taboo issue by most standards and extended optimism to the multiple violated victims of rape. It is indeed a heroic step for President Sirleaf as she chooses a topic, which has been ignored by many on the fore of the agenda. It is with great sadness that various female parliamentary members of the current TFG have chosen to employ a Margaret Thatcher style politics where they ignore social issues that are dear and near to women. They seem to have abandoned the cause all together as they align themselves with various warlords.
Even worse, is Madame Foreign Minister who seems to hop around the world preaching venom instead of making a difference in the lives of women after all isn’t her only expertise as a nurse to attend to the affairs of the family?
These women should take a cue from the wise words of President Sirleaf. In addition, for the victims of rape, we all hope one day they will have their day in court and justice will prevail. In the meantime, we need to encourage them to come forward with their stories to begin some sort of healing that may remove the stigma of pain that has wretched their hearts for years and place humiliation, abhorrence and immorality its rightful place.
Mary Anne Fitzgerald and Shep Lowman from THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, Paris
For Somali Refugees No Safe Heaven By Karl Vick Breaking the silence – why do soldiers rape in war? Report from a conference organised by the World Veterans Federation’s (WVF) Committee on African Affairs held in Rabat, Marocco, March 12, 1999. Marius van Niekerk
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