In the seaside town of Kismayu in southern Somalia, many women mostly widowed or divorced, have for years eked out a living by selling or bartering vegetables and fruit for fuel and other commodities from ship crews. Now the al Shabaab group, which is linked to al Qaeda, and which controls much of southern and central Somalia, has issued a decree banning them from bartering with the male crew of ships calling at the port. A statement by a senior al Shabaab commander said any woman caught near the port or foreign vessels would be arrested.
Other Restrictions Imposed By Al Shabaab On Somali Women
The women cannot sit next to a man in a bus, they have to be accompanied by a male relative when travelling, they have to wear only uniform robes that they have to buy from the al Shabaab, and they cannot work in an office. The al Shabaab have also banned khat, a stimulant popular with men. Dozens of women caught smuggling khat have been sentenced to 20-day jail terms and fined 1 million Somalia shillings ($623). A khat seller told Reuters, “During the war we used to have a life and a little peace. Now Islamists control much of the south and mete out punishments for the slightest thing. They say women should do nothing”.
According to Abdiwahab Abdi Samad, professor of history at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, “We have been born and raised as Muslims and we don’t know where Islam says women can’t work. They have taken these ideologies from outside Somalia, from the Taliban and other militants”.
Terror That Somali Women Face
It is not just restrictions on their ability to earn a living that Somali women face. In October last year, a BBC programme described how women threatened with forced marriages and rape at the hands of the al Shabaab had to flee the country, many to Yemen. In doing so many had to leave their children behind. Even the staff of the World Food Program in southern Somalia faced threats, so much so that the program suspended operations there a year ago.
Think About It
What kind of thinking drives the al Shabaab to treat women they way they do? Do they not realize that some women have to earn a living? Will Somalia ever get out of the clutches of this group?
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