Somaliland: What Kind of Justice and Legal System Allows this Abomination?


Trainees drawn from camps for the internally displaced in Banadir and Middle Shabelle region practice personal defence skills during a training programme designed by the African Union Mission in Somalia AMISOM/file

Somalilandsun – Urgent need to act on the human rights violations against women and children in Somalia and Somaliland, I would also like to address the issue of press and speech freedom in both countries.

It is beyond imagination that a culture allows the beating of women in the open streets in day light and where a four year old girl can receive hundreds of lashes, which tear and severely disfigure her skin. What kind of justice and legal system allow this abomination? Isn’t it shocking that the police whose job it is to protect women and children are the perpetrators of this injustice, violating their basic human rights.

Imagine a country where its politicians brag about the beatings of women and children in their speeches at the international level (Minister Hersi, Liverpool, 2014). Imagine a country where the media is oppressed, the offices of newspapers are raided and closed and journalists are arrested and imprisoned simply because they published stories of corruption. Imagine a country where the British people’s hard earned tax, pays for the salary of their corrupt police, the expensive designer suits, their red carpet welcome and the luxury hotel receptions of their corrupt politicians. These countries are Somalia and Somaliland.

On Wednesday 29th April 2014 I read an article on a Somali news website about the story of a young mother of two. I was immensely disturbed by the story and contacted the young mother and spoke with her on the phone at length to find out more about her story.

On the evening of Monday 28 April 2014 a young mother of two named Fatima and a female relative of hers went to visit a friend at the main hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland. She was walking on the side of a busy road when a man sitting in a parked car grabbed her by the arm. This terrified her and she repeatedly asked him to let go of her. He ignored her plea and pulled her towards him and the door of the car. She had no choice but to defend herself and she slapped him to escape. The man released her after she slapped him and she walked away. She only took few steps away from him when she heard shouting and cheering coming from the men traders sitting on the sides of the road. They were shouting, “how can a woman slap you”. She looked back and saw the man approaching her. The man started to viciously punch her on the face, beat her up, threw her to the ground, went on top of her and continued to beat her up while she lay on the ground. The men traders and passers by surrounded them, watching, cheering and laughing and none intervened to stop him. The female relative who was with Fatima struggled to stop him, but couldn’t. At some point Fatima managed to push him away from herself, got up and run for her life but the man run after her, caught up with her and continued to beat her up savagely. A police officer in uniform came to the scene while the man was still beating Fatima. By this time Fatima had been stripped of her shoes, head scarf, hair clip and her shoulder shawl. The police officer grabbed Fatima by the dress, causing her dress to tear by the shoulder, and told her to stop. Fatima told him to stop the man beating her. The man still beating Fatima, said to the officer “arrest this woman. She beat me up. Arrest her for me.”

Women carry machetes to the beach for protection against their protectors in Mogadishu/file

Fatima pleaded to the officer “to let go of her and stop the man beating her.” Some women passers by told the officer to do the right thing and stop the man beating Fatima. The officer stopped the man and told Fatima “He would take both Fatima and the man who beat her to the police station.” When Fatima told the police officer that she was beaten up, bleeding and needed medical care he responded “you were the one jumping on the man.”

At the police station Fatima found out the man who beat her up was a non-uniformed police officer. The man who beat Fatima admitted that he grabbed her hand while she was unknowingly passing his parked car and that he beat her up and caused her all the injuries she sustained. At the police station Fatima was told that the man who beat her up was arrested and she should come back. She kept going back and forth to the police station and each time she was told to come back again. After all her efforts to press a charge on the man who beat her up, she was finally told by officers at the police station, that the man was sent to his division. Fatima did not understand what this meant, “sent to his division,” as that is not a punishment. Disappointed and disheartened Fatima gave up and went home, her wounds untreated and unable to pay for the medical fees she needed to attend a medical clinic.

The same week I read another article on another Somali news website about the story of a 4 years old girl who was beaten to the point that her body was unrecognisable. The story told that the innocent 4 year old was beaten by her step uncle (the husband of her aunt) who was her guardian, as she is an orphan. The man is an officer working for the Somali Federal Government in Mogadishu, Somalia. The justification of this brutal beating was that the innocent child had wet his bedding.

These incidents are not isolated. I come across articles on Somali news websites and stories on Somali news channels on the violations against women and children in Somalia and Somaliland all the time.

Recently, Somaliland’s Minister of Presidency Hersi Haji Hassan, while delivering a speech to a large audience in Liverpool, bragged about the beatings of women and children by saying “a man in my family used to practice his wrestling skills on his two wives and two children after he drank a lot of goat’s milk. He would have one wife on each side of him, and a child on each leg, and then he would throw them to the ground”. The implication of his story is that each woman is worth only a half of a man, and each child worth only a leg. Comments like this one are humiliating and dangerous to women and encourage the attitude and behaviours of men like the one who beat up Fatima in the streets in Hargeisa in Somaliland.

On 7th April 2014 the Somaliland government heavy handedly raided the premises of Haatuf Newspaper which was the biggest newspaper in Somaliland, confiscated their equipments and closed the newspaper, after they reported cases of corruption against Somaliland’s Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Mr Hussain Abdi Duale. Few months before the Somaliland government closed Haatuf Newspaper, they closed Hubaal Newspaper for a similar reason. The mistreatment and unjustifiable arrests of journalists are common in both Somalia and Somaliland.

The British Government is one of the biggest donors to both Somalia and Somaliland governments. Recently the Sheffield Local Council recognised Somaliland as an independent state.

We are a group of British women tax payers living in Sheffield and we request the British government to urge the Somalia and Somaliland governments to deliver justice to women and children. We demand the urgent arrests and rightful punishment of the man who beat up Fatima and the man who beat up and disfigured the 4 year old girl. We demand that both Fatima and the 4 year old girl are given full protection, proper medical care and compensation for their injuries from the Somalia and Somaliland governments who are receiving substantial donations form our government in the UK and from the tax we pay. We demand free media, freedom of press and speech. The press is the lifeline of women and children in Somalia and Somaliland. A voice for the voiceless and the only way to know what is happening in these troubled countries is through the media.

Sheffield Local Council must urge the Somaliland government to adhere and fulfil the democratic requirements and treatment of women as equal human beings before Somaliland becomes acceptable to the rest of the world as an independent state.

Whilst there is international pressure to fight against global terrorism, let us not forget the terror against women and children in Somalia and Somaliland still goes on.

Urgent action is needed from all of us, as human being to protect the basic human rights of all human beings.

Amina Souleiman

Somali Women’s Political Forum, Sheffield UK.