Al-Shabaab victims seek justice, government support


Four young men whose hands and legs were amputated by al-Shabaab attend an event hosted by the Somali Ministry of Information in 2009 to raise awareness about the atrocities committed by the group. [Warsame Afrah/Sabahi]
MOGADISHU — Victims of the harsh punishments al-Shabaab meted out during its rule in some parts of Somalia have asked the government for help as they are still suffering from the ill effects of al-Shabaab’s brutal actions.

Al-Shabaab’s punishments, issued under the guise of sharia law, are not sanctioned by Islam because they are carried out without proper trials and evidence, the victims say.

The victims, who include amputees, others who sustained permanent injuries and those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, say they feel isolated from society and that they cannot live a normal life.

In 2009, the group cut off the right hand of Mustafa Abdirashid Dahir, now 26, accusing him of theft, which he denies.

“I was living in El Bur and was one of the young people who worked in a quarry,” said Dahir, who hails from Mogadishu’s Daynile district. “One day I was summoned to the station along with three young men who were my friends.”

“After an interrogation, the other young men were allowed to leave and I was brought before an al-Shabaab court where I was accused of stealing money from a shop that was broken into,” he told Sabahi. “They later cut off my right hand after summoning everyone to the town square [to watch].”

Dahir said al-Shabaab did not have a witness nor any other proof that he had stolen the money. Nonetheless, the militants told him that he would only be released if he confessed to the crime.

“While in custody I faced constant harassment,” he said. “I was very distressed and did not have any one else who could rescue me, so I figured I would confess to the crime so that I would be released.”

But despite the forced confession, al-Shabaab still cut off his hand, he said. “I was told that my sentence had been reduced because I had confessed and I would have one hand cut off instead of the hand and leg that I had previously been sentenced to lose.”

Dahir said his life has changed for the worse ever since al-Shabaab amputated his right hand.

“I cannot work in the profession I used to work in before,” he said. “I have no other skill. I am not healthy. I have a wife and two children and they have no livelihood.”

Victims seek justice

“It is a good thing that people who are still fighting for al-Shabaab can take advantage of the amnesty and thus no longer injure or otherwise harm citizens,” Dahir said. “But at the same time, the government has forgotten about us victims. We have [poor] health and we cannot work.”

“I ask the international community and the Somali government to do something about my situation,” he said.

Dahir said the high ranking al-Shabaab officials who defect from the group should pay some monetary damages as part of their amnesty deals in order to help care for the victims of their crimes and their families.

Isse Yusuf Mohamud, 47, said he survived an al-Shabaab plot to kill him, but that he still suffers from the aftereffects of his ordeal.

“In 2010, the group put me in one of their jails located in Elasha Biyaha. I was accused of selling fuel to government vehicles at a fuel stand I owned in Mogadishu,” he told Sabahi.

“Two weeks later, I was put on a vehicle in the middle of the night without being brought before a court,” he said. “Another man and I were taken to a graveyard near Mogadishu where [al-Shabaab] nightly dumped the [bodies of] people they killed so that residents who visit during the day could bury them.”

“They blindfolded us and tied our hands. They took the young man out of the vehicle when we reached the destination and then they shot him.”

Mohamud said he managed to escape after untying the rope that was around his hands, taking off his blindfold and wrestling his captor for his gun.

After the incident, Mohamud said, he was treated at Mogadishu’s Madina Hospital for three months for pain and stress-related issues.

“I still suffer from insomnia at night,” he said. “The blows I suffered still cause me pain.”

The government has to fulfil its duty to ensure justice prevails for the victims of al-Shabaab’s crimes, Mohamud said.

Balancing amnesty with justice

Nasra Kadiye, a mother of five whose eldest daughter is now 14, said al-Shabaab killed her husband in Mogadishu’s Hawlwadag district in 2010, and she has had to assume responsibility for the family.

“I am raising these children as orphans,” she said. “I have been struggling with life since al-Shabaab killed their father. During the day I sell vegetables in Hamar Weyne market, and I sell milk at night so that I can provide for my children.”

“Praise be to God, we are among the hundreds or thousands of families that have been orphaned by al-Shabaab but are still surviving,” she said, adding that her biggest problem is that she cannot afford to send her children to school.

Kadiye said al-Shabaab victims and their families are mostly interested in two things: for justice to be served and for the government to provide services for those still suffering from al-Shabaab’s violence.

She said under the amnesty programme, the government should not treat every former al-Shabaab member equally, but according to the crimes they have committed. Secondly, she called on the government to launch a programme to assist the victims of al-Shabaab’s crimes.

Providing medical care, services for victims

The people who have been harmed by al-Shabaab do not have medical care and the government must come up with a way to ensure their needs are met, said Sheikh Mohamed Ali, a cleric residing in Mogadishu.

“The disabled people have to be gathered together, especially the people whose hands and legs were cut off by al-Shabaab,” he said. “They are different from other disabled people because they lost their limbs through violence and have not received medical care. They also suffer from psychological complexes.”

Ali suggested the government establish a committee to determine the needs of al-Shabaab’s victims and then build a centre where victims from across Somalia can gather to receive specialised treatment.

Somali government spokesperson Ridwan Haji Abdiweli said he was not aware of any government programme in place specifically to address the needs of al-Shabaab victims. He said he could not comment on any plans at this time, but he vowed to contact the relevant ministries to assess the situation.




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