Militants in a town in war-torn southern Somalia have imposed an unthinkably harsh restriction on the women who live there by refusing to allow them to work, leaving many families destitute. The country is partially controlled by the al-Qaeda-backed militant group Al-Shabaab, which is currently trying to overthrow the weak, UN-backed government, has imposed other harsh restrictions in various towns, including forcing women to wear long, heavy black robes and threatening unrelated men and women who walk or speak together publicly with beating or even execution.
A woman in the town of Kismayo who asked not to be identified reported that women had been forbidden to work in the port, in cafeterias, or sell food on the street. This is, naturally, devastating for families that depend heavily on women’s income for their survival, and women have to decide whether they will risk death in order to feed their children and husbands.
The clothing restrictions have also been difficult for women who can’t afford to buy a new robe. One woman said that she was beaten for wearing Somali traditional dress on a bus instead of veiling completely.
The Somali insurgents are thought to be unpopular because of the harsh and arbitrary restrictions, which often vary from commander to commander, and also because they kidnap children to become fighters. They have also banned movies, music and bras, saying that they are un-Islamic, even though most Somali Muslims are Sufi, which has a rich musical tradition.
“The last time I listened a song or music, was two years ago, before the insurgents managed the full control of my village,” said one man. Now, he told the BBC, the sound of music makes him afraid.
There are some African Union troops in the capital, but they’re clearly not making a difference for most Somalis, who are subject to the whims of a cruel rebel government. It’s obvious that for Somalis, these arbitrary restrictions can mean life or death.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
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