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A washingtonpost.com article from: alvi_saima@yahoo.com
by alvi_saima
19 July 2002 16:30 UTC
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You have been sent this message from alvi_saima@yahoo.com as a courtesy of the 
Washington Post - http://www.washingtonpost.com 
 The impulse to begin an indigenous Somali human rights movement came after 
Belgian soldiers serving with a U.N. intervention force tied up a young boy and 
held him over a fire in 1993, and Italian soldiers inserted a flare inside a 
woman's vagina.

 To view the entire article, go to 
 The Mother Courage of Somalia
 By Nora Boustany
 M  ariam Hussein Mohamed, a Somali woman with skin as silken as dark honey and 
soft features framed by beaded locks peeking under her loose shawl, refused to 
circumcise her only daughter when she was born 16 years ago, defying that 
brutal tradition in her East African nation.
  The widow of   Ismail   Jumale, an activist, journalist and human rights 
lawyer who died in exile in Rome in 1990, is emerging as the mother courage of 
destitute Somalis. Battered women, orphans, displaced people and the 
defenseless tradesmen and artisans not protected by large, powerful clans and 
landowners have all become her charges.
  Before her husband's death, Mohamed contented herself with visiting poor 
families on Fridays, laden with chocolates, halvah, sugar, oil and cardamom. 
But just before he gave in to an ailing heart, he asked her to continue his 
work and take care of abused minorities.
  She was 35, but understood that the weaker elements of Somali society needed 
protection from the terror imposed by the elite tribes of herdsmen, Mohamed 
  " 'Promise me that after I die, you will follow in my footsteps,' he always 
urged me. He always talked to me about their rights," she recalled.
  Mohamed, 47, moved by the suffering of women and children around her, has 
surpassed her husband's expectations. She is not only monitoring and 
chronicling human rights violations in her native Somalia but is also 
organizing awareness campaigns, workshops and festivals and standing up to ad 
hoc Islamic courts trying to serve up crude justice to a hapless, powerless 
  Her recent protests and the rallying of human rights groups, journalists and 
elders forced a court to back down from severing the hand of a suspected thief, 
said   Dave Peterson, the senior program officer for Africa at the National 
Endowment for Democracy. "She has been doing interesting and innovative work in 
resisting these Islamic courts," he added.
  When a 10-year-old Ethiopian Christian boy had a cross branded into his arm, 
her group reported it to human rights organizations.
  In 1998, Mohamed organized a peace march, bringing together women to walk 
over the so-called Green Line that divided Mogadishu, the Somali capital, into 
two hostile camps. Theater productions and festivals were held to promote peace 
and bring together young people from different clans. She got Somalis from all 
walks of life -- faction leaders, elders and young men -- to sign the Universal 
Declaration of Human Rights.
  Since then, her center has held conflict-resolution workshops for police 
officers, members of the judiciary and even clan elders.
  The heart of Mogadishu is broken, crumbled from years of civil war, drought 
and lack of resources. Mohamed's center, however, stands out as an island of 
peace for thousands of women seeking respite and sympathy following campaigns 
of rape and intimidation that continue daily.
  "They come to my center and I interview them," she said. "Some girls who are 
raped are only 12 years old. They come with hatred and resentment toward all 
men -- those who rape them and their children and those who stand idly by and 
watch without even attempting to rescue them."
  When Somalia was ruled by dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, Mohamed recalled, 
people did not dare complain or protest. "Now when something happens, I invite 
the media to our center and I use a loudspeaker to inform them. They come and 
write about it," she said. "Now we have the chance and opportunity to say what 
we like, though the government is still weak in the countryside."
  Her most painful experience, she said, was the deaths of two pregnant women 
and their unborn children as she tried to help them deliver without anesthesia 
or medical supplies at her home in the middle of the war. "I can still see 
them. That image is impossible to forget," she said.
  The impulse to begin an indigenous Somali human rights movement came after 
Belgian soldiers serving with a U.N. intervention force tied up a young boy and 
held him over a fire in 1993, and Italian soldiers inserted a flare inside a 
woman's vagina.
  When Mohamed left Somalia for Djibouti in early July on her way to Washington 
to collect an award from the National Endowment for Democracy,  a 
fundamentalist judge appointed by Somalia's weak transitional government 
summoned her to appear in court. "I knew that if I went back as instructed on 
July 4, he would have arrested me and prevented me from traveling," she said in 
an interview here last week. "I am not afraid. I am going back and I am still 
going to talk openly about what he is doing. 
  "I am not necessarily courageous, but I cannot remain silent if something is 
terribly wrong. If they do things wrong, I will say so, and if they do 
something good, I will also speak up. I have always been like that."
  Mohamed said Somalis who claimed to back Osama bin Laden were brainwashed in 
some mosques and Islamic schools. "They don't know who bin Laden really is and 
what he stands for," she said.
  One grocery store she often visited in Mogadishu, run by a woman, used to 
have pictures of bin Laden on the walls. "I went there recently and the picture 
was no longer there, so I asked the woman: What happened?" Mohamed said. The 
woman told her never to mention bin Laden's name, because he was going to 
"bring American planes to bomb us."
  "The Somali people are victims, especially the women and children. There is 
no work for them, no food and no education," she said. "Shame on the world for 
leaving Somalia to suffer."


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