WTF Friday, 3/8/2013, Somalia-Yet-Again Edition

This week’s WTF Friday goes to Somalia (again), for its continued ability to take a ridiculous situation and make it so much more ridiculous.

Somali journalists protest the imprisonment of their colleague. Photo credit: Badri Media

For those just tuning in now, a recap: members of the Somali security forces allegedly raped a woman last August. She told her story to a journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim. When she reported the rape last February, the Somali government arrested her and subjected her to a two-day coercive interrogation without a lawyer, during which they allegedly forced her to give up the names of any journalists she had spoken to about the rape. The police then arrested Ibrahim, and brought criminal charges against both him and the alleged victim. Then, for good measure, they also threw in charges against the woman’s husband, and two acquaintances of hers who were accused of introducing her to journalists. A lower court convicted both the woman and Ibrahim of “insulting a government body,” and sentenced each of them to one year in prison.

How could this situation get any more ridiculous, you ask? Were costumes perhaps involved, or a salad featuring both mayonnaise and jell-o as ingredients? Take it away, Human Rights Watch:

“On March 3, 2013, the court of appeals upheld a lower court’s conviction of journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, but reduced his sentence from one year to six months. The judge stated that Abdiaziz Abdinur had not respected the laws of the country and the ethics of journalism by not reporting his interview with the alleged rape victim. It is unclear what laws specifically he is found to have violated.”

That’s right – while he was first convicted of “insulting a government body,” even though he never actually published his story, his conviction was upheld on the basis that he failed to report the story!  Attention all journalists in Somalia: if you are either reporting or not reporting a story, you are probably committing a crime.

(There is a small silver lining here: the conviction against the alleged rape victim herself was vacated on appeal.  I am very pleased that she is now free, but in light of the above, I will not be awarding any Lucky Charms to the appeals court.)

Amanda Taub

2 Comments

  1. Yes, I’ve been following this story (elsewhere) as well. I’m glad this blog has twice now recognised the terrible crime that rape is – at the same time, is it really that surprising that a woman that tries to report a rape has this happen to her? Really? There are hundreds or cases each day, easily as “WTF” as this or worse, that would not even make the news, esp in places with no press or no objective press. The very fact that the Somalian journalists of the man jailed can stand outside and be photographed in obvious condemnation of the sentencing is an impossibility in many countries. In parts of India as well as Saudi, Yemen, the Maldives (etc) – a woman who is brave enough to even report rape (as opposed to the hundreds of women that live with it silently) can receive lashes (for lying or being a “slut” and having sex with a man – that it was forced is, of course, neither here nor there) and in extreme cases, burned or in Saudi, executed. Add on some layers of fear (as I mentioned yesterday) of living in a culture that overtly supports the perpetrator (whether this is defined as government security forces, militia, or even a culture that encourages and condones the treatment of women as second-class citizens [if that] with no rights or voice – Saudi again, especially, has a history of this) – and put yourself in the position of the woman – who for good measure often has no social support structure for this kind of crime, and may have little to no eduction to be able to understand any written charges brought against them for reporting rape – and then try and be as brave as them by reporting a crime.

    And yet in this blog, your ongoing commentary is that rape statistics are far less (let alone more or the same) as reported. And that they are particularly overstated in places like DRC, although from what I have read on this elsewhere (not on this blog) from what I can see your issues are merely based on some need to seem like you are critiquing something and to agree with “Texas in Africa” (who has a good blog – but, like you, is not omniscient). In the field of development, conflict, law – it’s easy, as a Westerner to dismiss things, we have that great privilege – we don’t live it so we can simply choose to critique, unpack, disassemble, see the holes, see the flaws – and while this is, of course essential, in order to understand an issue fully, it is equally important to, as the saying goes “not throw the baby out with the bathwater” and not become so determined to see something in one way that it becomes something else. In the case of this blog – from what I can see – a need to come across as “controversial” and cool , a need to argue against anything some people (e.g. Nicholas D. Kristof) say because you have decided that they are less worthy, less intelligent and of less value than what you think. The outcome is that, as mentioned yesterday, your views and commentary are lessened and become juvenile.

    (Note – “throw the baby out with the bathwater” is an old saying, originally in reference to slavery and the use of “baby” is simply the word used in the saying and should not be implied to refer to some idea that non-western countries are less in any way. I assume you know this, but it is possible some other readers might not.)

    Btw – this was in the news today – and these women, in a European country, at the time educated – could not even discuss what was happening to each other. Oh, but of course, I forgot – at “Wronging Rights” anything about rape would usually be written as – “Rape! tm” haha!! it’s sooooo overblown! haha!! Oh, wow we are such intellectuals! Rape!! yay! ” – I hope these two recent articles you have posted herald a change of attitude.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10870210

  2. The really sick thing is that this outrage was perpetrated by the “legitimate” government of Somalia, the more-or-less secular and democratic government supported by the UN, not by the reactionary Muslim savages of al-Shabab who control most of the country.

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