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Monday, May 31, 2010

U.N. calls on countries to take Somali refugees

The United Nations refugee agency called on states on Tuesday to give shelter to people fleeing Somalia even if they do not meet formal refugee criteria.

The UNHCR said it was changing its guidelines, which influence government policies, because it believed asylum seekers from central and southern Somalia needed international protection.

The move reflects the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in a country where lawlessness has allowed pirates to attack shipping in the Gulf of Aden, a major artery for oil cargoes.

Al Shabaab Islamist rebels have been fighting Somalia's western-backed government since early 2007 and now control much of southern and central Somalia, hemming the government into a few blocks of the capital, Mogadishu.

"Conditions in Somalia have been steadily deteriorating for some time and are particularly acute in the central and southern areas of the country," UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

People displaced by the fighting between the government and different rebel groups had little chance of relocating in central or southern areas, or finding shelter in the northern breakaway region of Somaliland or the semi-autonomous province of Puntland, she told a briefing.

Somalia already has 1.4 million internally displaced people, and about 575,000 have fled to neighbouring countries. In 2009 Somalis were the third largest group of asylum seekers in industrialised countries, with more than 22,000 claims, after Iraq and Pakistan, according to figures from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNHCR is urging countries to take in refugees on a group basis if they cannot process individual applications.

That could involve giving people temporary shelter even if they do not get full asylum status -- an approach used by European countries during the war in Bosnia.

"It is our view that involuntary returns to central and southern Somalia under today's circumstances would place individuals at risk," Fleming said.

Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen are already taking in Somalis on a group basis, she said.

The UNHCR is in talks with the government in Kenya to help it improve screening. Kenya has officially closed its border to Somalia, although 17,000 people have arrived so far this year, she said.

As the Arab world's poorest country, itself beset by conflict, Yemen is hardly an attractive destination and refugees must risk a voyage across the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden to get there, but some are still choosing that option.

The new UNHCR guidelines broaden categories of people at risk in Somalia to include groups such as supporters of the government, individuals seen as in conflict with Islam, civil society workers, journalists, minority clans and religious groups, and women and girls.

(For UNHCR guidelines go to )

(Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay)

Source: Reuters

Somalia’s decreasing capacity

Somalia’s complex situation has deteriorated dramatically in the last three years. Indeed, Somalis are experiencing the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world with more than three million people needing emergency aid. More than 1.5 million people are internally displaced and another million are trapped in conflict areas with no access to any humanitarian support. The supply of humanitarian aid from the international community diminished after insurgents failed to guarantee the security of humanitarian workers. This, in an environment where humanitarian workers were being called terrorists and accuse of diverting humanitarian aid to be used as military supplies to fuel the conflict. As a result, most international aid workers in these conflict areas were forced to leave the country or limit themselves to short visits for monitoring purposes.
Local humanitarian organisations have since tried to salvage the situation and as much as possible meet the humanitarian needs of the people. Dozens of innocent aid workers have been killed after being accused of working for foreign agencies or kidnapped by criminal gangs for ransom.
In terms of Somalis’ capacity to feed themselves, most farmers lack basic farm inputs and as the security situation does not permit the import of agricultural inputs, the country’s productivity and food security is threatened. Moreover, traders who otherwise might be able to import goods have left the country in search of a safe haven.
On the political side, the space for dialogue and negotiations are shrinking or have totally disappeared as neither side is exploring alternative avenues for reconciliation. A military solution is not a realistic option as neither side has enough guns or soldiers to defeat the other. The traditional mediation role played by Somali elders has been eroded as the dynamics of conflict and the proliferation of weapons make it difficult to influence warring parties. Some insurgent groups are using religious ideology to justify their actions, but many Somalis hold that these beliefs and practices have no legitimate reference in the Qur’an. At this time there is a divided leadership which is not helping stabilise the situation in South and Central Somalia. This is being capitalised upon by armed opposition groups. In addition, the absence of sound institutional policies, competent management frameworks and lack of skills are drivers that could cause the TFG to fail. Civil society has been demanding that the international community commit to empowering transitional institutions, but as yet there are no visible impacts. Finally, without guarantees that Somalis will be protected during this difficult time, then no amount of political investment will work. Dead Somalis can’t vote. Unfortunately, human rights abuses have dramatically worsened over the past several years. During this period of political conflict, the scale of mass and systematic killing, tortures, kidnapping and rapes have been the worst since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime. These abuses are well documented by human rights groups, but almost universally ignored by the international community. Indeed, some donor governments have contributed to these abuses by supporting the wrong groups without much oversight over the impact of their support. Despite these daunting challenges, Somali civil society has been busy. Local NGOs and activists have been filling as many gaps as they can in the delivery of humanitarian aid. They are developing community security plans in order to protect civilians and are strengthening local and traditional governance systems based upon traditional Somali values. In the absence of state functions, civil society is trying to restore basic social services in urban and rural communities. In all these efforts, civil society is trying to bring a measure of stability and hope to areas of conflict and suffering. Although there may be many Somali voices in what is loosely called “civil society”, one thing is agreed: without wide dialogue (rooted in Somali tradition) then a genuine political process will be nothing more than an elusive mirage on the political landscape.

Jama Mohamed is Director of the Somali Organisation for Community Development Activities (SOCDA).


We can't turn our backs on the nine million people living in fear in 'failed' Somalia

Reading the daily news coming out of Somalia, one may be tempted to join those calling for disengagement from what many see as the “failed state” of Somalia.

After all, why support a country that for two decades now has failed to put its house in order? The answer to this somewhat baffling question lies in refocusing our attention on the people of Somalia.

While the debate continues as to whether or not Somalia is a failed state, the fact remains that nine million Somalis are living in that state.

This single fact must be the guiding force behind the world’s policies on Somalia. It is certainly the single most important element informing the African Union’s involvement in Somalia through its peacekeeping mission, Amisom.

We view all support to the Transitional Federal Government, which is part of our mandate, not as an end in itself, but as a means to assist the Somali people, the ultimate targets of our endeavours.

A partnership between the people of Somalia, the government of Somalia and the international community is really the most sustainable way to help Somalia. While the process continues of building the institutions that constitute the state, the Somali people must be assisted to live as normal a life as possible.

Why is this so critical?

The growing infiltration of foreign extremists into Somalia raises the spectre of an even more complex and more protracted conflict than at first appeared to be the case.

There is increasing evidence of the presence of foreign extremists in the country. Just this past week, a top al Qaeda commander was reported killed in Somalia.

There is rising concern that this phenomenon poses a threat to regional and international peace. But we need to understand that the bigger threat is first and foremost to the Somali people, who now live under constant threat to their lives.

The extremists’ menu for the people of Somalia keeps unfolding like a horror film, except that this is real life: Threats against and assassination of anyone they think does not support their agenda; assassination of journalists as a way to intimidate them into either silence or collaboration; the murder of civilians at their most vulnerable moments, be it students at a graduation ceremony, patients waiting for treatment at a hospital or people praying at the mosque.

To compound this, the extremists are denying the Somali people simple pleasures that other people around the world enjoy as a right, including music and dance, which the extremists say is taboo.

Their desecration of Somali shrines violates the people’s right to pay respect to their dead. Claiming to be the defenders of Islam, the extremists are committing acts that are totally against Islam and against Somali culture.

Their agenda? To make sure that Somalia degenerates into total disorder, the more easily to serve as a base for their international terrorist agenda. If we disengage from Somalia, we shall be leaving the people of Somalia to fight this international war on our behalf.

This is not the time to distance ourselves from Somalia. On the contrary, it is exactly the time to rally behind the people of that country who are faced with a double threat: from Somali extremists fighting to take power through terror and from international extremists bent on using Somalia to carry out an international terrorist agenda.

We owe it to the Somali people to help them deal with these challenges. So we must make them close partners in whatever we do, recognising that progress in Somalia will come only if the Somali people participate in the process to rebuild Somalia.

Issues of security constitute a major challenge to life especially in the capital, Mogadishu. Amisom recognises this.

One of the Mission’s major tasks is to assist in the provision of national security by strengthening the pillars of the state, which comprise the transitional government, the military and the police.

First, by providing support to the Transitional Federal Institutions in their efforts to stabilise Somalia and promote dialogue and reconciliation. Second, by providing training to both the police and the military.

Additionally, the Mission interacts directly with the Somali people by providing free purified drinking water as well as free medical services, treating around 12000 outpatients monthly.

All these activities complement Amisom’s support to the Djibouti peace process, an aspect of which is to encourage the TFG to reach out to other political players in Somalia. Earlier this year, Amisom was instrumental in the signing of the agreement between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jammah in Addis Ababa.

These activities constitute the essence of the partnership between Amisom, the transitional government, and the people of Somalia.

Last week’s conference in Istanbul, focusing on development and reconstruction, was an opportunity for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to help the people of Somalia.

Let us not entertain calls for disengagement of whatever type. For disengagement today will mean re-engagement tomorrow.

Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra is the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia.


Somali Short Stories Series

Somali Flag

In this series, entitled Somali Short Stories Series, I have in mind to focus on Somali literature, both fiction and non-fiction; I don’t want to dig into the deep treasures of the Somali literature.

Am I capable of writing a bestseller novel, which is my first book I have ever written? I mean how can I take hold of this magic writing power that can accelerate my success pace? How can I explore my creative mental warehouses and extract from them juicy results? Frankly, I have no idea how, but I know I have this feeling that my writing success potential is very promising and somehow I will be able one day to defeat the invisible monsters of the writer’s block. Just read on not to miss the gist of what I have to say!

The Internet is very informative and handy for those who want to do some research on anything—I mean anything under the sun, be it the Mayan 2012 Doomsday or how to make your lawn greener than your neighbor’s. Well, my intention is not to talk about the indispensability of the Internet in all areas of life, but the reason I mentioned it is that it is relevant in this topic—One day I used Google Search for Somali Short Stories and I found nothing tangible that can even outline for the reader the wit and wisdom of Somali storytelling—The Somali people are called by historians The Nation Of poets because their oral way of recording literature for generations before the Somali language was written in 1972. I don’t think enough of the Somali literature; especially storytelling was translated into English since then, and that is why scraps of it are scattered here and there in the Internet.

Recently, I happened to be one of the audiences of a meeting on the importance of education, organized by local former Somali students and held at St. Cloud Public Library. The panel was about five and the way they addressed the importance of education instilled ecstasy in me—It has been years since I had tearless sweet emotion that reminded me of my relationship with writing and the fact that I usually get writer’s cramp without yet excelling at it…in this meeting, my mind was preoccupied with what to say on this beautiful occasion whereby the audience, besides academic lecture, was thirsty for more entertaining realm yet equally educating venue—All I could think of was composing a poem and before I could milk my brain to complete the poem, the meeting was over and the writer’s block was to blame!

In this series, entitled Somali Short Stories Series, I have in mind to focus on Somali literature, both fiction and non-fiction; I don’t want to dig into the deep treasures of the Somali literature with wrong tools but I hope I will be convincing and brief in my upcoming writings on this subject using my rather blunt equipments. On the other hand, I feel destined to becoming bestseller novelist.

Source: Somali Bloggers

'No terrorist threat to Cup'

South African Arab and Somali groups have played down fears of terrorist threats to the World Cup, despite yesterday's Sunday Times report revealing that training camps for militants are operating in several provinces.

Soccer City, South Africa

" 'No country is immune to these things. We'll be vigilant' " Jacob Zuma

Yesterday, the newspaper reported that the Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that deals with terrorism, warned the US Congress that Pakistani and Somali terrorist cells in South Africa, linked to al-Qaeda, were planning "simultaneous and random attacks" during the soccer tournament.

"I believe there is an 80% chance of an attack," said the organisation's Ronald Sandee.

It was also reported that Pakistani and Somali militants from al-Qaeda and its Somali ally, al-Shahaab, were training in camps in northern Mozambique and were ready to cross into South Africa.

Ahmed Habiballah, chairman of the Arab Associations' Union in South Africa, said: "We would like to assure everyone that Arabs in South Africa are committed to having [the World Cup] successfully, and ensuring that there is no speculation of such attacks."

Abdul Hassam, regional chairman of the Somali Association of SA, said he had not heard of terror threats from any of its provincial offices.
"The Somalis who are in this country ran away from war; why would they want to cause war and terrorism? Somalis are only trying to survive," he said.

But conjecture about terrorism during the build-up to the tournament has caused international anxiety.

US Attorney-General Eric Holder discussed the possibility with the interior ministers of Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Poland and Britain at a security conference at the weekend.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said: "We proposed that, if a European team is knocked out of the competition, the agents who accompanied it to provide security will remain in South Africa to help their colleagues from other countries."

Last Tuesday, the US state department issued a travel alert that warned US citizens of a "heightened risk that extremist groups will conduct terrorist acts within South Africa in the near future".

It said that the US government had "no information on any specific, credible threat of attack that any individual or group is planning".
The UK foreign office warned travellers that: "Attacks, though unlikely, could be indiscriminate."
A crime intelligence police officer told The Times yesterday that officers were briefed to "be on the lookout for anything that would disrupt [the World Cup] - criminal or political [including terrorism], anything."

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that a special unit within police intelligence had been established to deal with terror threats.

State security ministry spokesman Brian Dube told French news agency AFP that no terror threat to the tournament had been uncovered.

"As far as we're concerned, there are no threats that we have identified linked to the World Cup," he said.
"No country is immune to these things, that's why we say we'll continue to be vigilant. But, really, there isn't any threat to the World Cup itself." - Additional reporting by Sapa


Kochi Police interrogating eight captured Somali nationals

Police and intelligence officials in Kochi, Kerala, are interrogating eight Somali fishermen who were spotted and taken into custody in Indian waters near the Lakshadweep Islands by the Indian Navy.

The Somalis were found near Kavaratti Island in a small boat. The Somalis were handed over to the Harbour Police in Kochi.

The first batch of three Somalians were discovered by locals at Minikoy Island in an unconscious state.

The eight have been identified as Abdullahi, 22, Saeed, 25, Mahad, 23, Abdi, 29, Gurey, 25, Endu, 31, Abbas, 35, and Farhan, 21.

After registering a case for illegal entry to India, they were taken to the Ernakulam General Hospital for a detailed medical check-up.

Assistant commissioner of police Mohammed Rafiq said a thorough interrogation would be carried out.

According to preliminary investigations, they claim to be fishermen and had drifted as their main ship had a technical snag in the engine.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Past, Present, & Future of Muslim Community in Minnesota June 5th, 2010 | Minneapolis, MN, USA

1. We are almost finishing a decade and I see this event says Past, Present, and Future of Muslims in Minnesota, what a relevant, how has this theme come up into your attention?

First, I would like to appreciate the dedicated young brothers and sisters at Dar Al-Hijrah Youth Council (DYC), and tell that I am very proud to recognize and acknowledge their achievements of the many projects that they have undertaken including this newspaper. We encourage them to continue this responsibility and leadership.

As for your question, we know that time is important and significant in a Muslim’s life. Allah talked about it in many versus in the Quran, so the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Since we are in 2010, just finishing a decade and inshaAllah starting another decade; we would like to analyze the past decade and prepare for the next decade. It is even more significant for Muslim Community and East African Community in particular. The majority of Somalis came to Minnesota after 1990’; therefore, it is imperative to look back for the last ten years as a community and get ahead for the next ten years. Also, our organization went through numerous structural changes, it is important as an organization for us to celebrate all these changes and inform the new changes that came to town (Islamic Civic Society of America).

2. Who is the intended audience for this event?

The audience of this event is everyone, young, old, man, woman, students non students, Muslims, non Muslims and Insha’Allah everyone will get a unique program just for them.

3. A lot of the programs here are tailored to the youth, what about the youth are you honoring?

Well, youth are a very important part of our community, and even more important within our organization. We want to honor all the graduates from all Quran, high schools, colleges and Universities, in addition to specific lectures and programs.
4. It is really interesting that there is an actual youth art work, so what will they, the youth, are demonstrating?

They will be showing a play which is very interesting as I have seen some of the script also an art show, competition, debate, and many more. I always like their programs, as they have presented very lively programs before.
5. What Time and where this event will be?

The event will be Saturday June 5th 2010, from 1-9pm. It will be held at South High School (3131 19th Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55407).

There will be free Admission, parking, Day Care, & Food!


Friday, May 28, 2010

Pediatricians now reject all female genital cutting

The American Academy of Pediatrics has rescinded a controversial policy statement raising the idea that doctors in some communities should be able to substitute demands for female genital cutting with a harmless clitoral "pricking" procedure.

"We retracted the policy because it is important that the world health community understands the AAP is totally opposed to all forms of female genital cutting, both here in the U.S. and anywhere else in the world," said AAP President Judith S. Palfrey.

The contentious policy statement, issued in April, had condemned the practice of female genital cutting overall. But a small portion of statement suggesting the pricking procedure riled U.S. advocacy groups and survivors of female genital cutting.

In the April statement, the group raised the idea that some physicians should be able to prick or nick a girl's clitoral skin in order to "satisfy cultural requirements." The group likened the nick to an ear piercing.

On Thursday the AAP stated the group will not condone doctors to provide any kind of "clitoral nick." The AAP also clarified nicking a girl or woman's genitals is forbidden under a 1996 federal law banning female genital mutilation.

"I cried and told them how grateful I am," said Soraya Mire, a Somali filmmaker and survivor of female genital cutting. "Thank you for understanding us survivors and hearing our voices."

Equality Now, an international advocacy group fighting to end female genital cutting, echoed a similarly appreciative response.

"We welcome the AAP's decision to withdraw its 2010 policy statement on FGM," said Lakshmi Anantnarayan, a spokeswoman at Equality Now. "This is a crucial step forward in the movement to raise awareness about female genital mutilation."

Up to 140 million women and children worldwide have been affected by female genital cutting, according to the World Health Organization. Any process that alters or injures female genitalia for non-medical purposes is considered to be female genital cutting, the group says.

Female genital cutting -- also referred to as female genital mutilation and female circumcision -- is a ritual dating back thousands of years. It's typically practiced in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In some communities, it's strongly believed that genital cutting marks a woman's journey to adulthood. The WHO reports that cutting typically occurs between infancy and 15 years of age.

Several types of female circumcision exist and may differ in each community, according to the WHO. The most brutal type of cutting requires stitching together the inner or outer labia. It's a procedure notoriously performed in parts of Somalia and Egypt. Other less-severe forms of genital cutting may require excising the entire clitoris or part of the clitoris.

Mire, the Somali filmmaker and survivor, received the most severe type of circumcision when she was 13 years old in her home country. She now lives in Los Angeles, California, where she helps African immigrant families in the United States, who she believes may be subjected to the pressures of female genital cutting.

While the female circumcision is outlawed in the United States, Mire and other advocates believe there are American girls in immigrant communities at risk of being sent overseas to have the procedure completed. The AAP's original policy statement increased the threat of cutting among immigrant and refugee girls in the U.S., advocacy efforts say, because the group suggested a "pricking" compromise was acceptable.

In the U.S., an estimated 228,000 women have been cut -- or are at risk of being cut -- because they come from an ethnic community that practices female genital cutting, according an analysis of 2000 Census data conducted by the African Women's Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Read about the pressures of female genital cutting in the U.S.

Last month, Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-New York, and Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-California, addressed concerns of female genital cutting being planned on U.S. grounds. The legislators proposed an amendment to the existing law that would imprison parents who send their daughters overseas for the procedure.

Mire said she was in disbelief when she first read the AAP's original statement about six weeks ago. She couldn't sleep. She couldn't eat. She's dedicated her time to calling legislators, survivors and advocacy groups to pressure AAP to change its original policy statements.

Her efforts worked, she learned on Wednesday from a personal phone call from the academy.

"I slept so well last night," she said. "I woke up smiling."

Source: CNN

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Somali youths rekindle hopes of a nation

Hundreds of Somalis marked the 67th Somali Youth League Day (SYL), a national holiday in Somalia over the weekend on Saturday at Nairobi’s Charter hall with pomp and colour and lots of Somali poetry and music on display in the hope of rekindling nationalism among today’s youth.

The holiday is normally marked to celebrate and honour the 13 SYL members who were instrumental in the liberation of Italian-colonized southern Somalia. The SYL is respected across the Horn of African nation and enjoys support across the country including Somaliland which was colonized by Britain.

The message to the youth, many of who are directly involved in the ongoing conflict as foot soldiers for the Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam militant groups waging war against the interim government and African peacekeepers was simple: Stop the bloodshed and destruction of your country and emulate the SYL who bravely fought the colonizers and helped Somalia regain its dignity and independence.

Speakers at the event included Somali ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur, Professor Abdirahman Badio of Mogadishu University, both called for the youths to embrace peace. The event was also attended by approximately 600 Somalis, mainly the youth some of who clad in the sky-blue Somali flag colours.

A 20 year old civil war is raging in Somalia pitting the Shabab and Hizbul Islam militant groups against fragile government and Ahlul Sunnah Sufist group. The capital Mogadishu is the epicenter of the bloody war where civilians suffer casualties more than combatants. There are also similar conflicts in the central regions of Somalia mostly pitting Shabab against the Sufist Ahlul Sunnah group.


“Its time for the Somali youths to take responsibility of their actions. Many of them have been brainwashed to fight in an unholy war that is only destroying their country and killing and maiming their own brothers, mothers and children. The war has gone too far, the youth who are the engine of this unnecessary war should be nationalist and stop the destruction,” Poet Abdirashid Omar, who launched his latest poetry album dubbed “Dheelmato” or the nightly mover, said after the show.

An African Union Peacekeeping mission or AMISOM based in the capital Mogadishu is poorly funded and has only 5,600 soldiers who are far much less than the insurgents and is struggling to help the interim government. The insurgents have also not spared AMISOM either which has so far lost close to 100 peacekeepers with many more injured from Iraqi-style roadside bombs and suicide attacks on its bases in Mogadishu.

The UN Special Envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah sent a statement calling upon “the Somalis Somali elites within and outside the country to show unity in their vision and actions to reject blatant interference undermining their independence and dignity.” He hopes the SYL day anniversary will “serve as a rallying cry for Somalis to stand up to retake their sovereignty as they began doing 67 years ago,”

Khadija Fodey, one of the Somali artists who entertained the huge crowd summarized the mood of this important day.

“We were happy when we used to celebrate like this back home in our country….. Our government taught us what a nation is, but the youths born after 1991 don’t know what a nation is. I am really surprised what changed the youth. I hope they will restore the country image another time,” She said, sweating from the vigorous jig they displayed amid a thunderous applause.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Helping Somali mothers in Minneapolis

As a high school teacher in Kenya, Paul Orieny identified behavioral problems in children that he was sure stemmed from their home environments. He felt that counseling children without addressing issues at home, with parents and family, was only part of the solution. He also knew that as a teacher he was ill-equipped to help his students beyond their classroom needs. It was this feeling of hopelessness that propelled him towards studying marriage and family therapy when he emigrated to the United States.

Now, Orieny is a psychotherapist at the Minneapolis-based Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) where he counsels families who have sought refuge in the United States following traumatic experiences in their countries of birth. The patients he now works with have suffered more trauma than the Kenyan high school children who first inspired him to pursue therapy.

Working at CVT's Parenting Through Change (PTC), Orieny is fulfilling his desire to reach out to kids by teaching their parents effective parenting. "In schools, when kids have psychosocial struggles, they are sent to therapy," he said, "but many times their parents' involvement is only secondary. The best place to begin is with the parents."

PTC is a parenting intervention program aimed at "preventing and reducing behavioral and emotional problems in children of parents going through transitions such as divorce and immigration." Now in its third year, PTC is a partnership with the University of Minnesota's Ambit Network run by Dr. Abigail Gewirtz. PTC was developed in Oregon by Marion Forgatch and, according to Orieny, has been modified to meet cultural needs of the different immigrant communities he works with.

In an op-Ed in the Star Tribune, Orieny describes PTC:

"To empower them, we focus on five core positive parenting practices that promote healthy child development: skill encouragement, limit-setting, monitoring, interpersonal problem-solving and positive development."

As Orieny explains, the parents he works with, mostly mothers, are experiencing more than simple immigration. His current class mostly comprises Somali immigrant mothers.

"Many of them are making a leap, not just a move to a new country, but a leap to modernization, from villages, refugee camps to a fast paced highly industrialized Minneapolis."

In a case of true cultural misplacement, Orieny describes how difficult it was for many of the women in his class to understand disciplining their children using time outs or privilege removal.

"We have to teach them that these are tools to keep the child in check," he said, "and that their children will still love them."

For older children, the program teaches parents to engage their children in decision-making.

As part of the program, the mothers are given assignments that are practical applications of their lessons. For example, a Somali woman in the program missed having family outings, an activity she enjoyed with her children and extended family in Somalia. Her assignment then was to find an activity. With her family, she decided on eating out. However, her family could not settle on whether they should go out for dinner or lunch. A simple decision for many people, but one wrought with emotional ramifications for the mother. She was hesitant to go out in the evening because she remembered late night gunshots in Somalia. Her son, on the other hand, wanted to go out in the evenings and spend time on the beach reminiscent of a safer and happier time in Somalia.

Even with its challenges, the program has had relative success, according to Orieny. "The group has gone quite well and we hear very good feedback from the participants," he said. "It is also true, however, that there are many barriers like trauma, lack of resources and huge cultural differences that make the intervention difficult to implement."

Copyright: ©2010 Nekessa Opoti

How 13 Years Somali Boy Escaped from Al-Shabab militias

In Somalia, young boys are nowadays easily lured to join armed militia with promises of money and ‘religious obligations’. The phenomenon is not new but it has now become lifestyle for many because of the widespread and systematic nature of recruitment.

The enrolment of the child soldiers has spread to refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Kenya where it’s now recognized as recruitment spots by the warring sides.

International Conventions on child rights ban the recruitment children in wars and term it as a "war crime", words which are non-existence in Somalia.

Hundreds of Somali children lost their life and important parts of their body in the worsening conflict in Somalia.

Hassan Nor Abdi, (First two names not real), 17 year old boy from Afgooye town, located some 30 km north of capital Mogadishu, was one of the children who were forced to fight against the government and AMISOM troops in Mogadishu.

Abdi rose in Mogadishu, which has gained a status as the most dangerous city in the world.

Got freedom back after three years of risk

I met him in Beledhawo, Somali-Kenya border town; Abdi joined Islamist militias early 2006 when the Islamic Union Courts militias captured Mogadishu and overpowered the warlords. Later early 2009 he wanted to leave the militias but he was forced to fight until he sneaked January 2010.

Abdi was not feeling free while he was militia, he told BIN “I used to dress an army camouflage with an AK-47 assault rifle every time, but now I am feeling free. I am just like the other youths around the world,”

While he was militias, he was not able to talk frequently or freely because his movements and activities like many of his friends were monitored daily by their masters.

“I got my freedom back after three years of risk, I am too young to die, I don’t want to go back, I like to be free from the militias. I want a normal life like other normal teenagers,” he cries.

Now he ran for hundreds of kilometers to Kenya from Somalia to escape the dangerous of the gang militias, but still he is in scare of them. He likes to study and become a doctor to survive his country for the feature.

Here is the interview of Hassan Nor Abdi, how he joined the militias and how his life was before, he was only 13 yrs when he joined the militias.

BIN: When did you start carrying a gun?

Abdi: It was 2006, just after I finished my Quranic studies and Ethiopians invaded our country.

BIN: Any one who influenced you to carry a gun?

Abdi: Well I can’t say or pin point any particular person but my elder brother played a great role and also my peers.

BIN: So your elder brother is also a ‘gun man’

Abdi: Yeah he is among the top commanders in the Al-Shabab militia.

BIN: Tell us about your life as a soldier.

Abdi: I grew up in a religious family. I have four brothers and two sisters. We are only survived by our mother. Our father died seven years ago out of illness. At my tender age, I was already used to guns because my father and uncle were both soldiers.

My elder brother, who is 19 years of age, started carrying guns while I was very young. He was part of Islamic Courts militia. I remember him coming home with his AK-47. So I gradually grew with the good perception of guns. I was never afraid of it even though I knew it kills.

The first time I handled a gun was 2006, just immediately after Ethiopian invasion. At that time I finished my Quranic studies and had nothing else to do. I used to go with my friends to a small play ground in our neighbourhood to pass time but the presence of Ethiopians deterred us from coming together.

Soon, my peers started joining the battle against Ethiopians and few of us were left. That is the time when my brother and friends encouraged me to join the jihad (holy war) against Ethiopians (passage omitted).

BIN: How does it feel to be a soldier at this age?

Abdi: At that time, I think for me, I saw myself as a warrior who defends his religion and people, not a soldier who is after money, but now I see it was very risk to be soldier in this age.

BIN: You are too young to hold a gun?

Abdi: Yeah but that time my religion was at risk, so I defended it from the infidels but later when Sharif was elected I decided not fight longer but I was forced to fight.

BIN: is there any particular group that you are fighting for?

Abdi: I fought for Al-Shabab militias.

BIN: Did you get any training?

Abdi: Yes, I was trained to fight on the frontline; a foreign teacher from Pakistan educated me how to fight with Ak-47 and garnets. I was in Far-Wamo training camp 15km Northwest of Bulogadud village of Kismayu city, the capital of Lower Juba region in southern Somalia.

BIN: Please describe for us your daily life. How you spend your time?

Abdi: Before I sneaked from them mostly my time I was free, but every morning I used to report my seniors who give us instructions for the day. We usually act as law enforcers sometimes.

BIN: Any ugly scene you encountered with since joining the militia?

Abdi: My worst nightmare happened mid last year, I think it was May or June. I was freshly deployed in Muqdisho’s Kaaraan area. That time, my group was fighting the government militia and we were ordered to join the battle at the front level.

We battled out with government side and took over some positions but they later retaliated and caught us off guard, pondering us with heavy weapons. I narrowly escaped the death but three of my friends were not so lucky. That is how far I went with death. It was terrible.

BIN: Do you regret joining the militia now that you know it is a matter of death?

Abdi: Now yes but before I believed in one thing that I will die the day Allah says so, I was thinking to hold gun high and live in accordance with my religion.

BIN: Now that the country is free from Ethiopian invasion and is headed by Sheikh Sharif, who is a well-known Muslim cleric. Do you think there is a need to wage jihad against your fellow Muslims?

Abdi: Not now, but Before I and my friends thought still there are enemies in the country. Our teachers and seniors were lecturing us to fight until we flash out whole the foreigners from out country they used to say to us every morning “What is the different between Ethiopians and the Ugandan? Absolutely nothing!”

BIN: Any future hopes and dreams?

Abdi: In the future, I would like to be a doctor and lecturer to survive my country and youth for the feature.


AMISOM Committed to Somali Government

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, center, Somalia's President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, left, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pose during the U.N.-sponsored Istanbul Conference on Somalia in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, May 22, 2010.

A top official of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) told VOA the group will continue to protect the Transitional Federal Government despite increasing threats from the hard-line insurgent group, al-Shabab.

Major Barigye Ba-Huko said the insurgents are just “blowing hot air,” but adds that AMISOM will not dismiss them.

“We do not take the threat lightly. Our mission, our mandate still stands as the same as it has always been. We do not believe that military solutions, use of violence, the use of the gun is the way to go. It has not been able to solve the problems of this country for the last 20 years and neither do we think that it will do it now,” he said.

Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with strong links to al-Qaida, al-Shabab vowed Monday to seize the presidential palace. The insurgent group reportedly controls large portions of land north of the capital, Mogadishu.

But, Major Ba-Huko expressed skepticism about the ability of the insurgent group to seize the presidential palace.

“We would advise those who are advocating for those actions that war begets war. We do not believe that they would be able to march into state house. We do not encourage it, but suffice it to say that we are very considerate over the population who continue to suffer at the hands of these fellows,” Ba-Huko said.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s government has been battling insurgents, including al-Shabab, who have vowed to overthrow the administration.

But, Major Ba-Huko said the latest threat is a mere insurgent publicity exercise.

“It’s unfortunate that, quite periodically, these people will come up they seem to be fighting on the two fronts; the front of propaganda and the front of the gun. So, I think it is just hot air [and] they want to keep the moral of their fighters. We think it [threat] is just a diversionary tactic,” Ba-Huko said.

He also said AMISOM will encourage dialogue among Somalia to resolve their problems instead of using violence.

AMISOM is mandated by the African Union, as well as the United Nations, to support Somalia’s transitional governmental structures, implement a national security plan, train the security forces, and to assist in creating a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since the overthrow of long time President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Source: VOA

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Al Qaeda reaps recruits from Somali refugees in Yemen

Al Qaeda's robust terror organization in Yemen is recruiting from a pool of hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees who have fled war in their homeland, according to U.S. and Yemeni intelligence officials.

Approximately 700,000 Somali refugees have made Yemen their home, and that population is expected to continue to grow in the face of the collapse of the East African nation, Yemeni and intelligence officials told The Washington Examiner. A significant number of those Somali refugees are believed to be members of Al-Shabaab Mujahideen, an Islamist insurgency group with strong ties to al Qaeda.

Two American tourists were kidnapped by gunmen in Yemen Monday, and local officials said it was likely the group holding them had ties to al Qaeda. The abduction highlighted the growing danger of Islamic extremists in Yemen, experts said.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who was an adviser to President Obama on Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, said the Somali refugee crisis poses significant national security concerns for the United States, and a golden opportunity for al Qaeda.

Riedel, who visited the Gulf of Aden last winter, said that although Somali refugees hope that Yemen will be their first stop to a wealthier country, "most never get beyond Yemen. Among them are dozens of young extremists who become recruits for [al Qaeda Arabian Penninsula]."

Al Qaeda in Yemen and Saudi Arabia merged into a single organization in early 2009, intelligence officials said. It calls itself al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and is based in Yemen. A number of Somali militants enter Yemen "to train with AQAP," a U.S. counterterrorism official confirmed.

American born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has emerged as a key player in al Qaeda's efforts to raise important new infrastructures in countries like Yemen which are outside the reach of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and where lawlessness and poverty prevail.

Al-Awalki, an American of Yemeni decent, is believed to be hiding in Yemen. U.S. intelligence officials say he is the new face of al Qaeda and recruits from the large number of Somali refugees entering that nation.

Al-Awlaki is the only American on the CIA's list of important targets to apprehend or kill. On Monday, in a video released by al Qaeda, al-Awalki, dressed in Yemeni traditional tribal clothing, called on believers to kill American soldiers and civilians.

Christopher Boucek, a Yemen specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in a recently published report, "There are increasing indications that al Qaeda is regrouping in Yemen and preparing to strike at Western and other targets."

A retired senior military official with direct knowledge of al Qaeda in Yemen said that as al Qaeda's recruiting pool grows, Western targets will become more vulnerable.

He said Somali refugees are just one group of potential recruits.

"With the Somali crisis in Yemen growing we have to be mindful of how these various groups, like Somalia's Al-Shabaab, are connecting, recruiting and developing ties to one another," the official said.

Another military official warned that the global links between the groups in Yemen pose a "significant danger to our own national security because the next attack in the U.S. may not come from someone we suspect but from a recruit born right here or someone else, like a Somali refugee," he said.

In April, The Examiner reported that 23 Somalis who entered Mexico illegally earlier in the year were believed headed for the U.S. after being released by Mexican authorities. Of the 23 Somalis, several were directly connected to Al-Shabaab, according to the law enforcement documents.

Intelligence suggested some were attempting to cross the southern border into the U.S. Intelligence officials say they have not been located.

Al Qaeda's ties with Somali refugees also have implications for the oil-rich Middle East.

Riedel warned that as al Qaeda solidifies its safe havens in Yemen and Somalia, it will become a growing danger to the shipping lanes in the world's most important waterways.

"Al Qaeda's leadership in Yemen has very ambitious plans to develop cooperation [with] the Shabab in Somalia so that al Qaeda can influence the control of the shipping lanes in the Bab al Mandab strait that separates Asia from Africa and which is the world's energy choke point," he said.

Rebels vow to capture Somali presidential palace

Somalia's al Shabaab rebels said on Monday their next target, after capturing the north of the capital, is to seize the presidential palace.

The U.N.-backed administration of President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif had hoped to drive the rebels out of the capital through a major offensive that has been on the cards since last year, but the insurgents have attacked, pressing government positions last week.

"We have ousted the government from the north of Mogadishu... and now our next step is to capture the palace," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab's spokesman, told reporters.

"There is no one between us and the Christians (African Union peacekeepers -- AMISOM), the so-called police who used to defend the AMISOM are now nowhere to be seen."

A spokesman for the peacekeeping force laughed off the insurgent's statement.

"We wish them success for their dreams," Barigye Ba-Hoku told Reuters.

"Their actions are illegal and they amount to a coup," Ba-Hoku added. The government was not immediately available to comment.

Somalia has had no effective central government for 19 years and Western efforts to install one to steer the country back to stability have been greatly undermined by the Shabaab insurgency and another smaller group, Hizbul Islam.

The fighting has killed at least 21,000 people since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, triggering one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Source: Reuters

German military security firm helps Somali warlord

German lawmakers have voiced concern about a deal between a German military security firm and a warlord hostile to the UN-backed government in Somalia.

Asgaard German Security Group, which hires former German troops, has signed a contract with Abdinur Ahmed Darman, who claims to be the Somali president.

MPs from three German parties said the deal would aggravate the conflict in Somalia and violate UN sanctions.

But a BBC reporter in Somalia says Mr Darman is a marginal figure in the war.

Mr Darman declared himself president in 2003, but has not lived in the country for about five years, and is regarded by most Somalis as a publicity seeker, the BBC's Mohamed Moalimuu reports from the capital Mogadishu.

Preparing for power

Asgaard says it will provide services, including military training, only when Mr Darman becomes the country's leader.

Mr Darman's Republican Party has an office in Mogadishu and occasionally issues statements - referring to Mr Darman as president - but is not considered a major political player.

"As soon as he assumes control of state affairs again, with the approval of the UN, Asgaard GSG will take charge of training, equipping and supplying the fire service, public health service and disaster control, as well as the police and military," a statement on Asgaard's website said.

"We want to do this in close co-operation with the German government, and we are in no way acting against their interests. At this point there are no German citizens in Somalia at the instigation of Asgaard GSG."

Somalia has been racked by violence for more than two decades.

A leading German MP in the left-wing Linke party, Paul Schaefer, said Asgaard's deal was worrying "because it's a kind of shadow foreign policy, beyond parliamentary control".

A German liberal FDP politician, Rainer Stinner, said such a deal "clearly violates" UN sanctions prohibiting arms deliveries or training for Somali militias.

Islamist insurgency

Islamist groups control much of the south of the country, with the UN-backed transitional government headed by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed limited to small parts of the capital.

President Ahmed - a former insurgent leader who was elected by Somali MPs in January 2009 - is in Turkey for a peace conference, where he told the BBC how he intended to tackle the Islamists.

He said he wanted to build up a government army while offering an olive branch to radicals who might be turned.

But the BBC's Mark Doyle in Istanbul says it is far from clear if the president, described in the West as a moderate, will prevail.

He has Western support now, because Washington hopes he will keep al-Qaeda at bay in East Africa, but Western support is a poisoned chalice in nationalist Somalia, he says.

Source: BBC

Monday, May 24, 2010

Somalia: World Vision appeals for civilian safety and more aid

As donors and other stakeholders meet in Istanbul, Turkey, from 21 May 2010 to 23 May 2010 to discuss the stability and future of war-torn Somalia, World Vision calls on the international community to do the following:

•Place the safety of Somali civilians at the top of their agenda and align their humanitarian, security and state-building plans accordingly. Donors should make every effort to extend the protection afforded by international humanitarian and human rights law to every Somali civilian.

•Provide additional humanitarian funding to build the capacities of local Somali agencies to respond to disasters by supporting programs that train them in humanitarian work. The low level and unbalanced funding trends in 2009 have continued into 2010, creating extreme concern within the humanitarian community in Somalia. The 2010 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) for Somalia is seeking US$689 million.

•Continue to be generous in its support for humanitarian operations. Donors should ensure that funding for humanitarian operations remains a key priority.

•Ensure that foreign policy/political decisions do not contradict or obstruct ongoing humanitarian assistance to thousands of needy Somalis.
•Engage more closely with humanitarian partners on aid delivery in a complex environment, in order to develop a better understanding of how to support aid operations.

•Pursue a comprehensive peace framework that incorporates all parties involved in the conflict, including war affected communities.

Key Facts and Figures:

The above appeals are based on the dire humanitarian state in Somalia where:

•3.6 million People (47% of the population), are in need of HEA and/or livelihood support until June 2010

•240,000 children under 5 years of age in Somalia are acutely malnourished, of which 63,000 are severely malnourished.

•The IDP and refugee status is getting worse, with 1.4 million internally displaced and another 500,000 are international refugees.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Somali accused of assaulting policeman - defence says migrant was actually the victim

A Somali man who was today charged with having assaulted and slightly injured a policeman said in court through his defence counsel that he was actually the victim of assault, in a racially motivated incident.

Mustafa Muhammed Isse, 36, who lives at Marsa open centre, was accused of slightly injuring the policeman, damaging his uniform and breaking public peace.

He was granted bail against a personal guarantee of €5,000.

His defence counsel, Joseph Brincat, said that what had taken place was the opposite of what the prosecution was claiming, and his client was manhandled in what was a case of racism.

The court ordered the Police Commissioner to investigate the claim.


U.N.'s Ban calls Somali government chance for stability

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that international support for the current Somalia government was the only chance to stabilize the chaotic country.


Ban was speaking at an international U.N.-backed conference which resulted in a pledge to work with the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed to end the cycle of lawlessness and violence which plagues Somalia.

The fragile Western-backed transitional government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed only controls a small area of Mogadishu, with the help of African Union troops, and faces near daily attacks from Islamist rebels.

"The Transitional Federal Government represents Somalia's best chance in years to escape from the endless cycle of war and humanitarian disaster," Ban told the Political, Security and Reconstruction Conference for Somalia in Istanbul.

"The only way to restore stability is to support this government -- both in its reconciliation efforts and, where necessary, its fight against extremism."

Ban voiced specific support for Sheikh Ahmed, saying he needed to be in power and needed to strengthen his leadership.

The conference declaration said it was critical to put a renewed emphasis on economic recovery, appealing for the timely disbursement of funds pledged to Somali security institutions.

It also expressed grave concern over the increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia. For its part, the transitional government pledged dialogue and reconciliation efforts.

The government is beset by near-daily attacks from the Islamist al Shabaab group, which Washington terms as al Qaeda's proxy in the region, and Hizbul Islam, another hardline group.

Ban called for the authorities in Somalia to overcome their differences.

"I urge the Somali authorities to demonstrate the will and commitment to work together, resolve their internal disputes, and unite against the threat of extremism," he said.

Speaking separately at the conference, Ahmed said work was under way to elect a new speaker of parliament, and appealed for help from the conference delegates in bringing stability.

"What we would like from you is to help us bring peace and stability to our country," he said.

Somalia has been mired in violence and lacked effective central government since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991. Islamist fighters have waged a three-year insurgency that has killed more than 21,000 people.

Ban called on the government to improve public services, start paying regular salaries to security forces and continue with efforts to build up security sector institutions.

Somalia Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Jama told Reuters the security issue needed to be prioritised to achieve stability.

"If we take over a province or an area, we have to create life, employment, rebuild schools, hospitals and airports so that the people can say, yes we have peace. That is when we can achieve permanent stability," he said.

More than 40 percent of the population -- 3.4 million people -- require humanitarian assistance, including 1.4 million uprooted by the insurgency.

The international community, including the United Nations, has been trying to resolve and contain the crisis for the past 20 years, with more than $8 billion spent in various forms of assistance including humanitarian aid.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Source: Reuters

Saturday, May 22, 2010

UNHCR Calls for Deportations of Somalis to Stop

The United Nations refugee agency is calling on all states to stop forcibly deporting Somali asylum seekers whose lives might be in danger if they are returned home. Officials with the refugee agency say they are very concerned about Saudi Arabia's recent deportations of Somalis.

The U.N. refugee agency says it is not safe to send Somali asylum seekers home. Agency officials say all deportations to Somalia must stop given the precarious situation in the country.

The United Nations' agency is urging all states to uphold their international obligations and refrain from forcibly returning people to Somalia, a country plagued by armed conflict and generalized violence.

Spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, says returns to central and southern Somalia must take place strictly on a voluntary basis.

"The practice of states with regard to assessment of protection needs regrettably varies quite a lot," said Melissa Fleming. "In recent months, there have been incidents of returns. Since the release of our eligibility guidelines, these have included a further reported deportation of over 100 Somalis from Saudi Arabia to Mogadishu in mid May."

Fleming notes Saudi Arabia has not ratified the 1951 International Refugee Convention. But, she adds, this does not absolve Saudi Arabia of its international obligations to protect people in distress.

She says other countries that are not party to the convention have been very generous toward asylum seekers. For example, she says Syria, Lebanon and Jordan have not signed the convention. Nevertheless, they are housing tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees.

"We have been undertaking a very intense diplomatic effort with Saudi Arabia," she said. "This has not been the first deportation. In fact, this has been ongoing for several months. We are talking about numbers that could be as many as 4,000 who have been returned by Saudi Arabia over the past year."

Fleming says there are other cases in other countries where borders have been closed, registration possibilities have been minimized and in certain individual cases people have been sent back.


The Feminist

As a Somali native who was raised as a Muslim and grew up to become one of the most outspoken critics of Islam, you fled to Amsterdam and served in the Dutch Parliament before fleeing again, to America. What kind of security do you have here?

I don’t go from A to B without being escorted by people who are armed. But please, let’s not talk about my security.

In your new book, “Nomad: From Islam to America,” you urge American Christians to try to talk to American Muslims about the limitations of their faith.

We who don’t want radical Islam to spread must compete with the agents of radical Islam. I want to see what would happen if Christians, feminists and Enlightenment thinkers were to start proselytizing in the Muslim community.

That could be dangerous for the proselytizers.

It may be, but in the United States we have a police force and the rule of law; we can’t just say something is dangerous and abstain from competing in the marketplace of ideas.

What Islam really needs is a reform branch — Reform Islam, which, like the Reform Jewish movement, would reconcile an ancientfaith with modern ways.

The problem is that those of us who were born into Islam and who don’t want to live according to scripture — we don’t have what the Jews have, which is a rabbinical tradition that allows you to ask questions. We also don’t have the church tradition that the Christians have.

You have the mosque.
The mosque is not the church.

True. It seems like more of a men’s club.
It’s like a men’s club, and it’s a place where you discuss politics. There are some mosques with facilities for women; it’s usually a back room with a back-door entrance.

In this country, you’ve been embraced mostly by conservatives, especially those at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, where you’re now a resident fellow. Do you see yourself as a conservative?

I don’t. I call myself a liberal, a classical liberal as in John Stuart Mill.

Your own life has been a case study in female subjugation. At age 5, you underwent genital mutilation under the supervision of your Somalian grandmother. Did that include stitching you shut?

Of course I had the stitch-up part. If your family is convinced that you should remain a virgin until your wedding night, they’re going to apply the approach where you get sewed.

You were expected to enter into an arranged marriage with a cousin of yours.

I just looked at him and told my father, I don’t want to marry him. He said, “My child, your presence is not required.” He went on and conducted the marriage without me.

Have you seen the new film, “Women Without Men,” by Shirin Neshat, which is about four Iranian women in 1953 who are driven to the brink of insanity by the ways of the Muslim men in their lives? One of the women is prohibited from leaving the house by her brother, who dreads being humiliated by her.

That is the main difference between the position of Western women and the position of Muslim women. A Western woman is not her brother’s or her father’s property. She’s just herself. She can choose her own lifestyle. But in a Muslim family, the honor of the man is between the legs of a woman. What they think is that she has to be chaste so that their honor can be preserved.

During your years in Amsterdam, you collaborated on the film “Submission” with the journalist Theo Van Gogh, who was consequently killed by an Islamic extremist. Have you been in touch with his mother?
Yes. That poor woman. She is one of the strongest women I have ever encountered. She went on national television in Holland and said, I don’t want Ayaan to feel guilty.

Are you in touch with your mother?

I talk to her on the phone. She says, Please go back to being a Muslim because that’s the only way that you’re going to have any kind of redemption in the hereafter.


St. Cloud area officials hope Census provides insight into Somali population

Pinpointing the number of Somali immigrants who have moved to the St. Cloud area has been an elusive goal. It has city and Somali leaders eagerly awaiting the results of the 2010 census for a better answer.

Government officials and those who work to assist the people who have continued to move to St. Cloud and the surrounding area in the past decade have been relying on estimates that most agree are unreliable.

Estimates of the local Somali population range from 6,000 to 10,000. No one really has a solid number and government officials and support organizations say that makes it difficult to plan for jobs, housing, parks and recreation, English instruction and social services. The city also has a growing population of Sudanese and Ethiopian immigrants.

''There is no concrete number for my community. Nobody can estimate how many are living in St. Cloud or Central Minnesota," said Ali Yusuf, who is the operation coordinator for the Somali Elder Council, which has an office near downtown.

The census short form does not ask about the resident's country of origin, but many believe the 2010 count, along with the American Community Survey that asks more

specific questions over time, will provide a better handle on who is here. Among the questions the longer survey asks are when someone entered the United States, what country they came from and what languages are spoken at home.

St. Cloud school district has been able to get a handle on how many Somali students it has by tracking the primary languages spoken by its students.

The lack of solid demographic data has been a challenge for the city of St. Cloud. Matt Glaesman, planning director for the city of St. Cloud, said it is important to know who is living in the community and where because it helps planning.

''The 2010 census will be the first real look at the total for our community. I think the others are projections that I don't have great confidence in," Glaesman said.

To that end, a local census committee put effort into significant outreach to make sure Somalis filled out their census forms. Leaders from the Somali community and support organizations were included in the "Complete Count" committee that had discussions about engaging difficult-to-reach residents.

Yusuf has worked out of his office to spread the word, including helping people fill out the forms and going to doors with census counters to translate or help with whatever else is needed. Somali immigrants have the legal paperwork to be in the country and to work in the United States, Yusuf said. So there should be no fear of deportation that some immigrants might have.

Yusuf has a bag of trinkets in his office at the Elders Council on St. Germain Street that he hands out to bring attention to the census. The poster on the wall promoting the census is written in Arabic.

At the St. Cloud Area Somali Salvation Organization in east St. Cloud, staff and volunteers have worked to make sure Somalis fill out the 10-question census form that asks for the number of residents in the household.

Efforts have included talking to people about the importance of filling out the census to sitting down and filling out the forms for Somalis who don't speak English, said Mohamoud I. Mohamed, executive director of SASSO, which provides support for Somali refugees.

''I want to help the area receive enough budget to support the population in here," Mohamed said.

Gary Loch has developed a relationship with Somalis through his work with St. Cloud school district and St. Cloud Technical and Community College. He said the estimates for the St. Cloud Somali population create challenges in determining needs from housing to jobs.

He said the school district has the burden of dealing with some of the issues that confront the newcomers from Somalia. The district has more than 700 students who list Somali as their primary language. Programs for non-English speaking students continue to grow. The transition of the new residents is a community issue not just schools, he said.

''If we have a better handle on how many people are here, we will be able to get the resources to address some of these things," said Loch, diversity coordinator for SCTCC who used to have the same position at St. Cloud school district. Loch is also chairman of the board of directors for the St. Cloud Somali Elders Council. The board Loch chairs is helping the Elders Council seek nonprofit status.

The person who directs Lutheran Social Service employment and housing services for refugees said the face of St. Cloud has changed dramatically in the past 10 years.

''I think it will be incredibly insightful when we take a look and see what those numbers provide." said Joel Salzer, who is director of housing, employment and refugee services for Lutheran Social Service in Minneapolis. The organization has an office in St. Cloud that works with Somali immigrants.

Salzer said that while he is eager to see the census numbers, he cautions that the numbers still won't be solid. Immigrants tend to move from community to community and neighborhood to neighborhood and can be difficult to reach, even through the massive efforts of the U.S. Census Bureau. He said the number will be a snapshot in time using best efforts and available resources.

''I hope we use it as a community resource. What does it tell us about what the new face of St. Cloud has that it didn't have 10 years ago? It will also tell us what does it mean to have these new numbers," Salzer said.


Pressure for female genital cutting lingers in the U.S.

Fatima Mohamed, a 45-year-old Somali immigrant living in America, was faced with a question most parents will never worry about: Should my daughter be circumcised?

The United States has outlawed female genital cutting, but cultural and religious pressures to circumcise girls linger among some African and Muslim immigrant families. Mohamed says the decision was an easy one for her to make after going through the painful experience herself in Africa as a child. She strongly opposes the idea of cutting her 11-year-old daughter, an American-born Somali with long curly hair, who plays soccer and likes watching "American Idol."

But not every family in her African community in Massachusetts feels that way. Nor can they they swiftly make the decision to reject circumcising their daughters, because it's a cultural ritual integral a woman's identity, she says.

"They say they don't want to hear it," Mohamed says. "Some think I'm disrespecting my own culture. Some will say, 'You act like an American now. You forgot about who you are.' "

Female genital cutting is often a coming-of-age ritual practiced in various parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but the procedure isn't just invoking concerns in the developing world. Religious and cultural beliefs fueling female circumcision often follow immigrants and refugees who move to America. Rarely have cases of female genital cutting been documented in the U.S., but much more likely, cutting has moved underground in the U.S. and overseas, advocacy groups and doctors say.

In the U.S., an estimated 228,000 women have been cut -- or are at risk of being cut -- because they come from an ethnic community that practices female genital cutting, according an analysis of 2000 Census data conducted by the African Women's Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital. The Census reports there are roughly 150 million women living in the United States.

The World Health Organization estimates up to 140 million women and children worldwide have been affected by female genital cutting. The WHO defines female genital cutting as a process that alters or injures female genital organs for nonmedical purposes.

There are several types of female circumcision. The most severe types require the inner or outer labia to be sewn together, a procedure performed in parts of Somalia and Egypt. Other forms include excising the entire clitoris or part of the clitoris.

Genital cutting dates back at least 5,000 years, says Marianne Sarkis, a professor of international development at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Some women desire the procedure because they believe they are dirty or unmarriageable if they are not cut, she said. There are cultures that begin cutting women as early as infancy, while some wait until adolescence.

Communities divided

Not all families in communities where female genital cutting is commonplace will want to participate. In Mohamed's immigrant community in Massachusetts, families are divided, she says. Some refuse to allow the procedure, as she does. Others say they want it, and many remain silent.

Occurrences of the practice have been documented in the U.S. In March, a Georgia mother was charged with female genital mutilation after the father noticed an infant's genitals "appeared to be have been circumcised," according to the Troup County Sheriff's Office. Officers wouldn't comment further on the family.

Several advocacy workers say the more common scenario involves sending girls back to their home country to have the ritual performed. Over the past few years, Taina Bien-Aimé, president of the women's advocacy group Equality Now, has heard several anecdotal stories of girls being sent back to have the procedure.

With summer vacation approaching, one 34-year-old mother from Senegal, living in New York City, says she knows several African families in limbo about genital cutting. One of her female friends abandoned her husband earlier this year when he asked for their 6-year-old daughter to be cut in Africa this summer. The friend, who speaks little English and is jobless, fled to a shelter with her daughter.

"A lot of them, it doesn't matter if they [the daughters] were born here, they want the procedure done," said the mother, who declined to be named out of fear of being ostracized by her community. She was also cut in Africa as a child.

National surveys determining U.S. immigrant attitudes toward female genital cutting are nonexistent, because cutting affects few American families, advocacy groups say. Neither have studies been completed to track whether parents are sending their girls to their country of origin to be circumcised. Conducting such studies, doctors and advocacy groups say, would be near impossible since most families remain hushed about the taboo topic.

Legislators, doctors get involved

In response to suspicions of genital cutting being planned in the U.S., Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-New York, and Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-California, proposed an amendment to close a loophole in the 1996 federal law banning female genital mutilation. The legislation, introduced in April, would criminalize parents who force their daughters to have the procedure abroad.

This spring, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a contentious policy statement suggesting that some physicians who work with immigrant communities that want the procedure should have the ability to prick or nick a girl's clitoral skin in order to "satisfy cultural requirements." The academy says the pricking procedure is harmless, like an ear piercing.

The pricking method is illegal in United States, but it could be effective in certain African communities in reducing harm, said Douglas S. Diekema, a Washington physician and former chair of the bioethics committee at the academy.

"We are very disappointed," said Asmaa Donahue, senior program officer at the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women in New York. "By offering to a person to do it, it undermines the education and advocacy work being done to stop it."

Despite the mixed feelings about the pricking procedure, both advocates and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that the pressure for American girls in some immigrant communities to undergo genital cutting is a reality.

"It's naive to think they don't have some equivalent of a Jewish mohel," or person who performs a circumcision, said Diekema, the academy's former bioethics chairman. "Not all circumcisions are done in the medical setting, either."

Reaching out to the immigrant community

Soraya Mire, a Somali film director and activist, works with the African immigrant population in the U.S. and knows that the pressures exist. Her 1994 documentary "Fire Eyes" chronicles her experiences with female circumcision when she was 13.

From her Los Angeles, California, home, Mire has counseled hundreds of genital cutting survivors and immigrant parents by letters and phone calls, including a few who have contemplated sending their daughters abroad to be cut. She sleeps with her cell phone tucked under her pillow, so she can answer at all hours.

"You don't have a right to do this to your children," Mire tells the immigrant community. "You are continuing the abuse."

Mire has received death threats from the Somali community. Some threats stem from her role in helping law enforcement officials in Atlanta, Georgia, prosecute the first case of female circumcision in the U.S. In 2006, Khalid Adem was convicted of aggravated battery and cruelty to children for cutting the genitals of his 2-year-old Ethiopian daughter. He is incarcerated and tentatively eligible for parole in 2012.

Back in Massachusetts, Fatima Mohamed's recollection of the genital cutting at her grandmother's rural Kenya home is clear: Her grandmother's wise voice telling her the procedure was for her own good. Sitting in a chair as the strange women pulled her legs apart. The pain of the incisions.

She was only 9 years old.

"I just thought it was something that had to be done," said Mohamed, who added that she was lucky because many Somali women undergo more severe circumcisions in which their labia are sewn together.

"They go through hell," she said.

Mohamed, too, is reaching out to Somali women in her Massachusetts community. The first step to eliminating the genital cutting, she knows, is discussing the topic. She spearheaded an organization last year called the East African Community Outreach, where part of her job is educating women about the dangers of genital cutting.

Her 11-year-old daughter is too young to comprehend genital cutting, Mohamed says. Instead, they discuss her daughter's dreams to become a pediatrician. Perhaps in a few years, Mohamed will tell her the truth.

"I would never do it to my daughter," she said. "I don't want it. This has nothing to do with religion or culture. I believe nobody should control my child."


Friday, May 21, 2010

Somalia: Pirates or Protectors?

The devastating Somali civil war since 1991 forced the Somali marine and fisheries sector to an abrupt collapse and almost all Somali fisheries activities shut down. The vessels of the Somali national fishing fleet were abducted and have never been returned. It is estimated that at least 200,000 people lost their jobs and the Somali fishing communities are still struggling to recover.

However, illegal fishing by foreign fleets and the more serious nuclear and toxic waste dumping from the industrialised world pose since then an environmental, socio-economic and ecological threat, which is unparalleled.

Very sophisticated factory-style fishing-vessels, which were designed for distant-water fishing and travel from faraway countries, whose harbours are thousands of miles away from Somalia and whose own fisheries resources are either under tight legal protection or already drastically overexploited, poured into the unprotected Somali waters.

They are in search of high-priced tuna, mackerel, swordfish, grouper, emperor, snapper, shark and of course the other valuable species in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. With impunity they rob rock-lobster and shrimps for the tables of the wealthiest in this world, and dolphins, sea turtles and sea-cucumbers for the deranged tastes of the Far East. They have diminished the extraordinary population of dugong to near extinction.

Their task is solely oriented toward short-term gains, knowing the ecological limits, since Somalia does not only experience political but also resource displacement. Besides civil strife and outright war, the massive foreign fishing piracy, bringing criminal poaching and wanton destruction of the Somali marine resources for the last 19 years, may be one of the most damaging factors for the country, economically, environmentally and security-wise.

While biased UN resolutions, big power orders and news reports continue to condemn the hijackings of merchant ships by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, pirate fishing was and is ignored. Why are the UN resolutions, NATO orders and EU decrees to invade the Somali seas persistently failing to include the protection of the Somali marine resources from IUU violations in the same waters?

If a response to both piracy menaces would be balanced and fair, these condemnations would have been justified. But though the European Union (EU), Russia, Japan, India, Egypt and Yemen and others are all in on the anti-piracy campaign, they are only concentrating on the safety of merchant ships; at the same time, they cover up and protect their own illegal fishing activities.

Not only is this outrageous fishing piracy disregarded, but the illegal foreign marine poachers are being encouraged to continue their loot, as none of the current resolutions, orders and decrees refer to the blatant IUU fishing, which now continues unabated along the Somali coasts.


IUU (Illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing is a serious global problem; it does not respect national boundaries or sovereignty, it puts unsustainable pressure on stocks, marine life and habitats; it undermines labour standards and distorts markets.

According to Mr Mohammed Waldo, a Somali specialist working with ECOTERRA International, IUU fishing is detrimental to the wider marine ecosystem because it flouts rules designed to protect the marine environment, which includes restrictions to harvest juveniles, closes spawning grounds and demands gear modification designed to minimise by-catch of non-target species. This negligence, he says, has impacted on the country in several ways - the given outright theft of an invaluable protein source from some of the world's poorest people and the ruining of the livelihoods of almost all legitimate fishermen; incursions by trawlers into the inshore areas reserved for artisanal fishing; risk of collision with local fishing boats; destruction of fishing gear and deaths of fishermen.

It is estimated that the worldwide value of IUU catches stands at US$4 to $9 billion, with a large part of it from sub-Sahara Africa, particularly Somalia; IUU activities practice fish-catch laundering through mother-ship factories, uncontrolled transshipment and re-supply at sea. With these means allowing vessels to remain at sea for months, refuelling, re-supplying and rotating their crew, IUU fishing vessels never need to enter ports because they transfer their catches onto transport ships.

Illegally caught fish and other marine products are laundered by mixing the loot with legally caught fish on board of the transport vessels. Fish-catch laundering, which generates hundreds of millions dollars in the black market, is no less criminal than money laundering, but is not yet punished. Sea ports used for Somali fish laundering includes harbours in the Seychelles, Mauritius, Kenya (Kiunga, Mombasa) and the Maldives.

As the EU closed much of its fishing grounds for five to 15 years to allow for fish regeneration, as Asia overfished its seas, as the international demand for nutritious marine products increased and as the fears of a worldwide food shortage grew, the rich, uncontrolled and unprotected Somali seas became the target of the illegal fishing fleets of many nations.

Surveys by UN, Russian and Spanish assessors just before the collapse of the President Barre regime in 1991 estimated that at least 200,000 tons of fish per year could be harvested sustainably by both artisanal and industrial fisheries, but this has now become the looting target of the international fishing racket. Australian scientists put this figure to at least 300,000 tons.


Mr Waldo, who keeps a close watch of his country, traces the origin of sea piracy and pirate fishing in Somalia back to 1991 when the Siad Barre regime fell, resulting into the disintegration of the Somali navy and coastguard services.

'Following severe draughts in 1973/74 and 1986, tens of thousands of nomads, whose livestock were wiped out by the draughts, were re-settled along the villages on the long, 3,300 km Somali coast,' says the analyst. The resettled groups were developed into large fishing communities whose livelihoods depended mainly on inshore fishing, as well as the processing of the offshore catch.

From the early beginnings of the civil war in Somalia (as early as 1988) illegal fishing trawlers started to trespass and fish in Somali waters, including in the 12-nautical mile inshore artisanal fishing waters. The poaching vessels encroached on the local fishermen's grounds, competing for the abundant rock-lobster and high value pelagic fish in the warm, up-swelling 60km deep shelf along the tip of the Horn of Africa.

ECOTERRA International and Waldo describe the deadly events that were to follow in the war torn country thus: 'The piracy war between local fishermen and the IUU ventures started here. Local fishermen documented cases of trawlers pouring boiling water on the fishermen in canoes, their nets cut or destroyed, smaller boats crushed, killing all the occupants, and other abuses suffered as they tried to protect their national fishing turf.' ECOTERRA International has many well documented cases that fishing nets provided by the emergency funds from the international community to ease the disaster of 1992/3 were wiped from the coast by foreign trawlers just days after they were provided to the impoverished fishing communities of Somalia.

Later, the fishermen armed themselves. In response, many of the foreign fishing vessels armed themselves too and with more sophisticated weapons and began to overpower the Somali fishermen again. It was only a matter of time before the local fishermen reviewed their tactics and modernised their hardware. This escalation and cycle of warfare has been going on from 1991 to the present. It is now developing into fully a fledged, two-pronged illegal fishing and sea piracy conflicts, which in addition soon will become politicised and radicalised if nothing stops the foreign impact.

According to the High Seas Task Force (HSTF), there were over 800 IUU fishing vessels in Somali waters at one time in 2005, taking advantage of Somalia's inability to police and control its own waters and fishing grounds. The fish-poachers, which are estimated take out more than US$450 million in fish value from Somalia annually, neither compensate the local fishermen nor pay taxes and royalties and they do not respect any management, conservation and environmental regulations - norms associated with regulated fishing.

It is believed that the IUU fish-catch by vessels linked to the EU alone takes out of the country more than five times its aid to Somalia.

Illegal foreign fishing trawlers which have been fishing in Somalia since 1991 are mostly owned by EU and Asian fishing companies - Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Russia, Britain, Ukraine, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India - as well as Yemen, Egypt and Kenya among others.

Illegal vessels captured at the Somali coast by Somali vigilant groups during the years from 1991 to 2009 included Taiwanese trawlers Yue Fa No. 3 and Chian Yuein No. 232, FV Shuen Kuo No. 11; FV Airone, FV De Giosa Giuseppe and FV Antonietta Madre - three Italian vessels registered in Italy; FV Bahari Hindi -Kenyan-registered but owned and managed by Marship Co. of Mombasa., Russian-owned Gorizont-1 and Gorizont-2, Chinese-owned Tianyu No. 8 and Korean-owned Dong Wong 168, Korean-owned FV Beira 3, FV Beira 7 and FV Maputo 9, Greek owned GRECO 1 and GRECO 2, Spanish fishing boats Alakrana and Playa de Bakio, Taiwanese fishing boat Win Far 161, Egyptian fishing boats Ahmed Samar and Momtaz-1 among many others.

A number of Italian-registered SHIFCO vessels, Korean and Ukrainian trawlers, Indian, Egyptian and Yemeni boats were also captured by the said vigilant groups and fines of different levels paid for their release by their criminal owners.

Many Spanish seiners, frequent violators of the Somali fishing grounds, managed to evade capture at various times. The Basque fishing fleet is specifically cunning and now well armed. At least 19 Kenya trawlers have been illegally fishing along the Somali territorial waters, contrary to the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) instruments.

Waldo, the Somali analyst, says that following the collapse of Somali government in 1991, arrangements with Somali warlords and mafia-like companies were formed abroad for bogus fishing licensing purposes. He points out that jointly owned mafia-like Somali-European companies set up in Europe and Arabia worked closely with Somali warlords who issued fake fishing 'licenses' to virtually any foreign fishing pirate willing to plunder the Somali marine resources.

The UK and Italy-based African and Middle East Trading Co. (AFMET), PALMERA and UAE-based SAMICO companies are singled out as some of the most corrupt groups, issuing counterfeit licenses as well as fronting for the warlords who shared the loot.

Waldo avers that among technical advisors to the Mafia-like companies - AFMET, PALMIRA & SAMICO - were supposedly reputable firms like MacAllister Elliot & Partners of the UK, while warlords General Mohamed Farah Aidiid, General Mohamed Hersi Morgan, Osman Atto and ex-President Ali Mahdi Mohamed, who officially and in writing gave authority to AFMET to issue fishing 'licenses'. Local fishermen and marine experts simply call this a 'deal between thieves'. The analyst submits that AFMET alone 'licensed' 43 seiners (mostly Spanish) at US$30,000 per 4-month season. Spanish Pesca Nova was 'licensed' by AFMET while French Cobracaf group got theirs from SAMICO at a much discounted rate of US$15,000 per season per vessel.

In October 1999 the Puntland Administration gave carte blanche to yet another Mafia group known as PIDC, registered in Oman, to fish, issue licenses and to police the Puntland coast.

'PIDC in turn contracted the UK based Hart Group International and together they pillaged the Somali fishing grounds with vengeance, making over US$20 million profit within two years,' Waldo discloses.

The deal was to split the profits but PIDC failed to share the spoils with the people behind the Puntland administration, resulting in a revocation of their licenses.

Fisheries experts say that tuna catches in the South-Western Indian Ocean fell by as much as 30 per cent last year as pirates blocked access to some of the world's richest tuna waters off Somalia.

Reports indicate that, the Somali pirates threaten the tuna fishing industry, which is worth up to US$6 billion across the Indian Ocean region.

France and Spain, which both base fleets in the Seychelles, expected to haul nearly two-thirds of the year's catch off Somalia between August and November 2008. About 50 trawlers use Victoria port, through which up to 350,000 tonnes of tuna are handled each year. But catches have suffered for two consecutive years as stocks fall.

Seychellois fisheries experts say foreign currency earnings have fallen as a result of the dwindling tuna catch, hurting hopes for an economic recovery in the debt-laden archipelago. In the Seychelles, tuna and related industries - the re-export of fuel to vessels, port services, electricity and water for vessels - account for up to 40 per cent of the foreign exchange earned. The financial implications for the Seychelles are hard to assess, as the tuna fishing industry is shrouded in secrecy.

The Seychelles is paid per tonne of fish landed for port facilities - an important source of foreign exchange for the archipelago. Reduced catches mean fewer calls to port. From August to November, the waters of Somalia's Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles (nm) EEZ) and beyond hold some of the planet's richest stocks of yellowfin tuna. 5 In 2006 there were hundreds of illegal fishing boats in Somali waters at any one time, mainly chasing tuna. Somali pirates turned to hijacking to stop the foreign fishing vessels destroying their marine resources as well as their small boats and equipment. In 2008 Somali pirates attacked tuna boats at least three times, leading to one ransom of over US$1 million.

The fines and ransoms earned then simply increased the appetite of criminal Somali groups for hunting other ships.

The notorious sea piracy of merchant ships is unlikely to be resolved without simultaneously attending to the fraudulent IUU fishing.


As 2009 drew to close, it was clear that there is no end to Somali piracy and there is no end to the solutions being proposed. The total number of piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the East coast of Somalia in 2009 overtook the figure for all of 2008, according to statistics from the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre. In 2008 there were 111 incidents, compared with 114 attempted attacks in 2009; of these attacks, there have been 42 successful hijackings in 2009 compared with the 142 vessels hijacked 2008.

However, 2009 saw a surge in activity off the east coast of Somalia, with 43 attacks by December 2009 compared to 19 in the whole of 2008.There was also an increase in the number of vessels fired at in these regions, from 39 instances in 2008, to 54 cases by December. In addition, the number of crew-members taken hostage is set to rise if the trend continues. In 2008 a total of 815 crew members were held captive, while the total number of hostages taken in these regions during 2009 already stands at 753.

A total of 32 vessels were hijacked by Somali pirates in the first nine months of 2009, with 533 crew members taken hostage. A further 86 vessels were fired upon and as of 1 December 2009, 14 vessels with over 275 crew held hostage, were still under negotiation. Nigeria remains another area of high concern. While only 20 attacks were officially reported to IMB in 2009, information received from other sources indicates that at least 50 per cent of attacks on vessels, mostly related to the oil industry, have gone unreported.

A list of recent piracy incidents and negotations appears at the foot of this article.


When acts of piracy occur, the public attention is mainly focused on the heinous manner of the attackers and on the question of how the hijack will be resolved. The ship owners on their part are mostly concerned with the means of rescuing the crew, the vessel and the cargo.

Therefore the concern and the anxiety of many abruptly ends the moment the vessel is successfully rescued or simply released. But we forget that the end of hijack ordeal is to crew members the start of traumatic nightmares that they may live with for the rest of their lives.

The question is: Are the world, the shipping industry and the welfare lobbies giving enough attention to the plight of seafarers who happen to fall into the hands of pirates? Sadly NO! The following are some of the challenges facing such crew:

(a) The after effects of attacks on the mariners

(b) The frequent abandonment of many of the hostages and the ships by the ship owners

(c) The neglecting of the affected seafarers by some ship operators and flag states in terms of wages and benefits.

All stakeholders should seriously reflect on these issues as well as the psychological needs of these unfortunate seafarers.

For instance there is no logic at all for denying the seafarers their entire pay and benefits for period they remained captive.

I would also expect that the seafarers' families should be briefed and provided for whenever a pirate attack or hostage taking occurs. The seafarers and families members need constant assurance about ongoing efforts being made to have them released while in the meantime their families should be given financial support.

The seafarers should have a long-term medical care long after surviving a pirate attack; traumatic events like being held hostage affect different people in different ways. Some conditions resulting from a pirate attack may manifest significantly later, hence provisions should exist to address these situations.

It is worrying to see that there is very little data on what happens to seafarers after they have endured a pirate attack. Some of them definitely continue working; others might opt out of the profession following the ordeal, while others might take a break for some time to recover.

The fact that there is no data on survivors of pirate attacks is a clear pointer to a lack of concern for them; this scenario should change. There have been several studies that have looked into effects of traumatic events on police, fire-fighters, military persons, and others, yet little literature exists on the psychological effects of the hostage-taking of the seafarers and specifically on the aspects of piracy.

In the light of this, there is a great need for players in the industry and welfare groups with means to carry out a clinical study of the psychological impact of pirate attacks on seafarers. The study should take into account the unique nature of seafaring including its multicultural nature.

The results of such a study will help determine how best to care for seafarers who have survived a pirate attack.

Truly the International Maritime Organization and the industry's guidelines exist for preventing and suppressing pirates. But the same lack guidelines for caring for seafarers who have survived a pirate attack, other than guidance for debriefing seafarers for military or prosecutorial purposes.

Some shipping companies have provided an extensive array of studies and care for their crews following a piracy incident, which is very encouraging. Lessons from such shipping companies on the care of the crew can greatly assist in the process of preparing harmonised international guidelines.


Another major problem closely connected with the IUU fishing is industrial, toxic and nuclear waste dumping in both offshore and onshore areas of Somalia. Somali fishermen in various regions of the country have for a very long time complained to the international community about waste dumping and other ecological disasters.

These crises of waste dumping, warlords/mafia deals and the loud complaints of the Somali fishing community and civil society have been known to UN agencies and international organisations all along since the late 1980s, when Mustafa Tolba, then UNEP director general, helped ecologists not to be targeted by the dumping mafia, by not revealing the sources of thorough investigations of cases, where murder was implicit.

The UN agencies and organisations, which have been fully aware of these crises, often expressed concern and lamentations, but - except for Mustafa Tolba - never took any positive action against these criminal activities.

Waldo feels that the UN agencies apparently failed to inform the UN Security Council of this tragedy before it passed its resolutions 1816,1815,1814,1846 and 1838 and 1851 on sea piracy in the years up to 2008. It must be noted that there is no mention of the illegal fishing piracy, hazardous waste dumping or the plight of the Somali fishermen in any of these UN Security Council resolutions.

The threat of toxic waste dumping, pirate fishing by foreign vessels and over-fishing of Somali stocks could adversely, and perhaps permanently, affect the ecosystem of the entire region. Due to non-policing of Somali waters, many foreign vessels indiscriminately pollute by dumping hazardous waste in the waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. European nations have been dumping toxic waste and radio-active medical waste into offshore Somali waters now for several years.

Those identified as perpetrators include an Italian firm (Progresso) and a Swiss firm (Achair Partners) but there are many others and numerous unidentified cases.

These cases were 'justified' by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) recently, by saying that these firms had supposedly entered into contracts with Somali government officials to dump into the Somali waters, but it is obvious that no Somali can negotiate a hazardous waste disposal contract within the country's sovereign borders in the midst of war and instability.

Achair Partners and Progresso were set up specifically as fictitious companies by larger industrial firms to dispose of hazardous waste. These are violations of international treaties in the export of hazardous waste to another country, in particular like Somalia.

Reports indicate that every month a number of local people die or suffer from the effects of such dumping within the coastal communities. For instance, at Eel-Dheer district of Galgadud region in central Somalia, dark blue long barrels were washed ashore in April 1992, which turned out to Be filled with an oily liquid.

When samples were taken from them and investigated, the analysis indicated that they contained deadly nuclear waste. Similar incidents happened at Adale district in 1996.

In 1998, a massive fish die-off was recorded, affecting all fish species, which were washed ashore in large quantities along the coastline from Mogadishu to Warsheekh - a coastal stretch of 45km. Fish and humans dying are all consequences of the hazardous waste dumping in Somali waters. All over the world, countries have policies to deal with such events, but in Somalia - the country with the longest coastline of any African nation - it is unfortunate that there is no basic strategy to deal with these matters. Somalia currently has no provision to deal with potential oil spills or other marine disasters and has no capability to monitor and control her coastal waters and, if necessary, provide sea search or rescue operations.

Somalia is recognised as one of the five richest fishing zones of the world and previously unexploited. It is now being ravaged and poisoned, unchecked by any authority, and if it continues to be fished at the level it is at present, fish stocks are in danger of being depleted. Secondly, the Somali people are being denied any income from this resource due to their inability to properly license and police the zone and the UN as well as the naval armada is turning a blind eye to the activities of illegal foreign fishing vessels whose operators are criminals from their home countries. In any other circumstance the persecution and punishment of the illegal dumpers and poachers would be enforced by the international courts of law - but Somalia is left to be a free for all and to die.

Justice and fairness have been overlooked in these twin problems of pirate fishing and sea piracy.

It is likewise disturbing to hear that President Issaia Afeworki of Eritrea and President Berlusconi of Italy secretly passed an agreement in 2005 so that Italy could dump 136 tonnes of nuclear waste in Eritrea in exchange for US$12 million. It is reported that the extremely dangerous material was dumped in Edage and Twalet in Massawa region. It is also disheartening to realise that even Iran has dumped 680 tonnes of wastes in Eritrea, in exchange for oil and money.


The EU, NATO, Chinese, Russian and US Navies can, of course, annihilate and obliterate the fishermen-turned-pirates and their supporting coastal communities - but that would be an illegal, criminal act.

Though it may temporarily reduce the intensity of the sea piracy, it would not result in a long-term solution for the problem.

The risk of loss of life of foreign crews and the impact of a major oil spill would be a ecological catastrophe of gigantic proportions for the whole coastal regions of East Africa and the Gulf of Aden.

In their current operations, the Somali fishermen pirates genuinely believe that they are protecting their fishing grounds (both 200-mile territorial and EEZ waters). They also feel that they are exacting justice and compensation for the marine resources stolen and the destroyed ecosystem by the IUUs. And their thinking is shared and fully supported by the coastal communities, whose protectors and providers they became.

The matter needs careful review and better understanding of the local environment. The piracy is based on local problems and it requires a number of comprehensive joint local and external partner's approaches.

Firstly, the practical and lasting solution lies in jointly addressing the twin problems of the sea piracy and the pirate fishing, the root cause of the crisis.

Secondly, the national institutional crisis should be reviewed along with the piracy issues.

Thirdly, local institutions should be involved and supported, particularly by helping them to form coastguards, the provision of training and coastguard facilities. These may sound like asking too much of the UN agencies. But we should ask what it means to those who paid tens of millions dollars of ransom and to their loved ones held hostage for months.

Fourthly, a joint Somali and UN oversight agency - like at present the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) does it for the Somali airspace - should be considered for the Somali waters. The problem of piracy will not be completely eradicated unless there is a restoration of stability on the ground and there are effective institutions and structures in Somalia that can address the piracy issue in its totality.


- Immediate action by the international armada of navies against illegal dumping and illegal fishing in and around the Somali waters

- Revision of Somali fisheries and environmental protection legislation and institutions

- Strengthening decentralised governance and legal structures in Somalia

- Enlisting the support of influential Somali political, business and civic groups

- Rehabilitation and development of infrastructure in Somali coastal communities

- Development of coastal income generation possibilities and the fishing industry in Somalia

- Development of a national legislation on piracy for all Somalia

- Establishment of Somali Law Enforcement Authorities (navy, coastguard)

- Support of the pastoralists and proper range management in Somalia

- Eliminating the illegal arms trade and human trafficking from, to and through Somalia

- Establishment of a regional action plan against IUU fishing and dumping of toxic or nuclear waste

- Establishment of RCICPs (Regional coordination and information centre on piracy).


- Factsheet on Somali Piracy [PDF]

- 2010 All hijackings in Gulf of Aden and in the West Indian Ocean [PDF]

- 2010 hijackings by vessel type and state [PDF]

- For a list of recent hijackings and negotiations in 2009/10, please see the notes at the foot of this article.

Andrew Mwangura runs the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme.



FV WIN FAR 161: The Taiwanese fishing vessel was seized on 6 April 2009 near the Seychelles. She is said to have been observed earlier fishing illegally in Somali waters. After the sea-jacking, it had been involved in the attack on MV ALABAMA and is now still moored about 7nm from Garacad at the north-eastern Indian Ocean coast.

The crew of 30 (17 Filipinos, six Indonesians, five Chinese and two Taiwanese) is still together and on board, but in awful condition. The ship's skipper and first engineer are Taiwanese nationals and the 700-ton long-liner is owned by a Taiwanese company, which regularly sent their vessels into Somali waters from the Seychelles - a key transshipment point for poached tuna from the Indian Ocean to Japan. The Government of the Philippines seems to be pretty helpless to even find the manning agency, which lured the 17 Pinoy sailors into the fish-poaching operation. Naval fire damaged the vessel, but it is said to still be able to sail. It was moored on three heavy anchor obtained from another, former sea-jack hostage - the MV Hansa Stavanger - near Garacad. The vessel was freed on 11 February 2010.

MV ARIANA: Seized 2 May 2009. The Ariana was seized north of Madagascar, en route to the Middle East from Brazil laden with soy-beans. The 24-strong all-Ukrainian crew has run low in food and water. The ship, flying a Maltese flag, belongs to All Oceans Shipping in Greece, which fronts for a British conglomerate. So far the shipping company has not responded to calls for urgently required medical attention. Two female sailors are on board, one of them in serious condition. The vessel received some fuel from MV KOTA WAJAR and is at the moment held close to it north of Hobyo. The Ukrainian Human Rights ombudswoman had appealed to her European counterpart in order to achieve immediate relief to the suffering of the crew-members, who have run out of food and clean water. Promises by the Ukrainian government to facilitate the offered evacuation of two female sailors, one of whom was in a life-threatening medical condition and still would require to be flown out, were broken. The vessel and crew were held near Hobyo at the Central Somali Indian Ocean coast, and freed on 10 December 2009.

MV CHARELLE: Seized on 12 June 2009. The relatively small 2,800-tonne general cargo ship carrying mostly empty containers was captured 60 miles south of Oman. The Antigua and Barbuda flagged vessel is owned by shipping firm Tarmstedt International and operated from New Zealand. Seven of the 10-member crew are Sri Lankans, three are Filipinos. The New Zealand shipping company, who owns the vessel, confirmed that negotiations for the release of MV CHARELLE had broken down, because the sea-shifta did not honour the reached agreement and negotiations had to start all over again. The new negotiations reached final agreement on 3 December and the ill-fated ship was released and sailed out to safe waters at 17:00hrs on the material day.

MV KOTA WAJAR: Seized on 15 October 2009. The 24,637-tonne container ship, seized 300nm north of Seychelles, was heading for the Kenyan port of Mombasa from Singapore. It has a multinational 21-man crew on board, of which two are Singaporean, five Sri Lankan and four Indian. It was used to lift a sea-jacked British couple, John and Rachel Chandler from their 38-ft yacht S/Y LYNN RIVAL, seized 22 October 2009 en route to Tanzania and later recovered by a UK naval ship. The ship was released on 28 December 2009.

MV DE XIN HAI: Seized on 19 October 2009. The 76,000 tonne Chinese bulk carrier with 25 Chinese sailors was en route from South Africa; it was carrying about 76,000 tonnes of coal and there were 25 Chinese crew aboard when it was hijacked in the Indian Ocean 550nm northeast of the Seychelles and 700nm off the east coast of Somalia. The bulker is owned by the state-owned Qingdao Ocean Shipping Co. Negotiations for the release seem not to have started in earnest, though the Chinese Shipowners' Association secretary general Zhang Zuyue confirmed that the Chinese side was willing to pay a ransom. The vessel was freed on 28 December 2009.

MV AL KHALIQ: Seized on 22 October 2009. The Panamanian-flagged 22,000 dwt bulker was abducted around180 miles west of the Seychelles . The crew consists of 24 Indian sailors and two Burmese nationals. EU NAVFOR patrol aircraft confirmed the hijacking, with six pirates seen on board and two skiffs in tow. A third, the 'mother ship' had apparently already been winched onto the ship's deck. The vessel with over 35,000 metric tonnes of wheat grain is now moored near Harardheere and the crew is on board.

FV THAI UNION 3: Seized on 29 October 2009. Pirates on two skiffs boarded the tuna fishing boat with a crew of 23 Russians, two Filipinos and two nationals from Ghana about 200 nautical miles north of the Seychelles and 650 miles off the Somali coast. During the attack the Russian captain was shot in the left elbow. The Russian and US navies tried to provide medical aid to the captain, while the captors themselves took him to hospital, had him treated and returned him to the vessel. The fishing vessel and its crew are held just around 1.5nm to where the Spanish fishing vessel FV ALAKRANA was held, near Harardheere at the central Somali coast.

SHAXAR: A Somali militia seized overnight on 30 October 2009 a Yemeni fishing Vessel - crew members are composed of four Yemenis and 6 Indians - in the Indian Ocean after a gun battle, in which at least one Somali was killed and another one wounded. The government of Yemen has confirmed the abduction.

MV DELVINA: Seized on 5 November 2009. The 53,629 dwt bulk carrier had a 21-man crew, consisting of seven Ukrainian officers and 14 Filipino sailors. The vessel was seized 250nm northwest of Madagascar and was laden with wheat. It arrived near Harardheere at the central Somali coast, The ship was released on 17 December.

AL HILAL: Seized before 9 November 2009 near Ras Hafun while having engine troubles. The white-coloured fishing vessel was said to be of Libyan origin, but it was neither found in the regular ship register nor in the list of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. A Yemeni connection was also reported.

The vessel was then stranded on 9 November 2009 at a place called Diin Kudhac, from where the crew was brought on land and to Eyl. It was reported that the vessel was completely looted, including the engine and would most likely never sail again. The crew - consisting of sailors from India and Bangladesh - was split up by around 14 captors. Negotiations for their safe release started, while some of the Indian sailors went on hunger strike. The crew members of this vessel were released on 18 November 2009 but were held in Punt land awaiting repatriation back home.

MV FILITSA: Seized on 10 November 2009. The 1996-built, 23,709 dwt cargo-ship had a crew of 22, including three Greek officers and 19 Filipinos. The Marshall Islands-flagged ship had been heading from Kuwait to Durban in South Africa when it was attacked 513nm north east of the Seychelles as it was sailing from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the port of Durban in South Africa loaded with fertiliser. The ship, which belongs to the Order Shipping Co. Ltd, was released on 2 February 2010.

MV THERESA VIII: MV Theresa VIII, with a North Korean crew of 28, was seized on 16 November 2009 while en route to Mombasa from Indonesia laden with palm oil. The captain, who fired flares during the attack, was injured so badly by gunfire that he died one day later. story circulated by some media that he was taken ashore to receive medical attention is wrong, since the vessel by that time had not yet arrived at the coast. The tanker was released on 16 March 2010.

VLCC MARAN CENTAURUS: The Greek flagged super tanker was taken on 29 November 2009 afternoon some 585nm north east of Seychelles while under way to New Orleans from Jeddah. Crew members on board were composed of nine Greeks, 16 Filipinos, two Ukrainians and a Romanian. The tanker, owned and managed by a Greek shipping company, was freed on 18 January 2010.