6 Somalia mayor grilled 11/07 non-gay background story
May 3, 2004
Death Hangs Over Somali Queers
by BTM Correspondent, Faro, in Somalia
The problems for queers in Somalia relate to the lack of a central government, loosely applied Islamic law and pressure from families, reports one of the leaders of Queer Somalia. Faro, is one of the leaders of Queer Somalia, a community based organisation based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He makes frequent visits to Somalia to make contact with small groups of queers there and on a recent visit he sent back startling information that shows that for gay and lesbian people in Somalia the issue of death looms large.
Whether through suicide following pressure from families or via loosely applied Islamic law that is uncontrolled due to the lack of a central government, their greatest fear is death – a sentence that can be brought upon them just for being homosexual, or for being perceived to be homosexual. "My people don’t understand what a homosexual is. They only know that through their religious law the solution is to kill. There is no law to protect or help queers in Somalia and Queer Somalia (a community based organisation) cannot be public or make demands on the government because there is no government with whom we can talk. The situation for queer people in Somalia is very dangerous."
Without official recognition and without a government to lobby, Queer Somalia can do little more than report on the plights of individuals and to host meetings with small groups, acting as a link to the outside world. "There are a lot of people who are queer [in Somalia] but they are afraid they will miss their basic rights if they express themselves. We can say still there is no opportunity to find great numbers of queers." On a recent visit to Somalia Faro met with a group in Hargaisa. At the meeting he was able to report back to them on the All Africa Conference, which was held in Johannesburg in February 2004 and which he attended. "They were very glad to meet between us and I passed information about the conference held in South Africa. They welcomed it heartily. They feel they will need help in every aspect of organisation later on.
The Somali Queers need great help in order to get their rights but our biggest problem is because we haven’t got a central government and effective national laws. However the idea of an East Africa Alliance as part of AARI (All Africa Rights Initiative – founded at the conference) is a surprise, and a welcome one, to them." Young queers in Somalia look to neighbouring countries for help and sanctuary but have difficulty finding it, as both Ethiopia and Kenya do not look favourably on gay issues either. "Two boys, who were placed in an orphanage in Addis Ababa, ran away after pressure from their families. One is now living on the streets in Kenya. All I can do is look for more information on them and try to stay in contact."
From Mogadishu, Faro learned that, "If a person comes to know that another person is queer the children and women will kill them. There are secret houses that queers meet at and rooms that then have rented. I contacted one of the Somali queers who is living in Mogadishu but he was afraid while I talking to him. When they want to meet each other they have great difficulty, sometimes they do wear women’s clothes, which is a veil (hijab) – muslim clothes." "I communicated with another person that is living in Dhagahbur and he told me that he is in bad situation if he doesn’t leave there – he is afraid of death. His family are against him. For many queers in Somalia their greatest worry is their appearance, they have problems coming from their family and that problem is that their family compels them to marry a women and so some commit suicide.
This happened to one boy recently in Bosaso in Somali – he killed himself because of the problems he had from his family and normal friends." Osmin, another member of Queer Somalia, reported to Faro that in the city of Burao he witnessed gangs of men with guns searching the streets for people they suspected of being gay. "I asked one of the people there, ‘who are these men with guns’ and afterwards I was told that these men were looking for men who have been accused of having sexual relations with other men. These men will go to gaol and be tried by Islamic law." According to Osmin one of the men was being rounded up simply because he was not married and was considered old enough to have married. "He will get at least 100 lashes for that, another man, who was married, will certainly be killed."
Soul mates: The price of being gay in Somalia
by Afdhere Jama
As a young gay boy, Ali Abdulle read a lot. He mostly read novels, he says. The concept of soul mates always seemed to be a present thought in the genre he was interested in, romance. Abdulle, however, really didn’t believe in it. At the age of ten, his family had to move. The decision was hard for the family, who lived in the neighborhood they were moving from for almost twenty years. "I remember mother cried," says Abdulle. "It was very hard leaving all of our friends and neighbors."
The new neighborhood was what it was expected to be; new. The family had to start from scratch. This is where Ismail Sakariye, then eleven-year-old, comes into the story. Abdulle’s family moved next to Sakariye’s. The two kids naturally went to the same school. They became friends.
– We became friends rather quickly, remembers Sakariye. "I never made friends that fast. We just had more in common than either of us anticipated." The boys found out they liked and disliked just about the same things. But what really brought them together, remembers Abdulle, was their common dislike for sports.
A year after meeting, the boys had "accidental" sex one night. "We were just playing and it just happened," says Sakariye. Well, it happened and happened and happened. For another three years, the boys had sex on a regular basis. In Somalia, where the couple is from, it is not uncommon for boys to have sex with each other. What is uncommon, however, that these boys’ sexual "experiments" had gone beyond the age usually expected to stop.
At the age of 16 and 17, the boys were still having sex. "After a certain time, I couldn’t imagine living without him." Abdulle says. So, love came and knocked on their doors. To fall in love with a man when you are expected to marry a woman is a big problem, most of all with you. At the age of eighteen, Sakariye’s family had proposed that he marry a third-cousin of his. The boy was overwhelmed and told the family he was gay.
All hell broke loose, as his family were religious Sunni Muslims and believed homosexual acts are something that certainly promised you a lifetime of hell in the world to come. "Oh, they were way so angry. My father was in a full rage and was running around with a knife," says Sakariye. "It was far more than I thought it would be. It was crazy. I can’t even begin to tell you how they all seemed like they were about to explode."
Though Sakariye did not out his lover, the couple were forced to deal with the situation. "I was extremely in love with him," Abdulle says. "There was no way I was going to watch them kill him. We had to do something." They did something, alright. They ran away together to another city. "Ali just came to my bedroom late one night and he had a bag with him," remembers Sakariye, laughing through it all. "I remember I looked at him and said ‘where are you going?’ and he said ‘we are going to Shalaamboot.’" Shalaamboot, about 70 miles south of Mogadishu, was an accepting city, the couple was told. It was their only hope of ever being together.
Their fancied city became an ugly dwelling when the couple learned that it was worse to be there than it would have been in Mogadishu. "After we arrived in the city, we found this lady that we were looking for. She put us in her home and was very nice," remembers Abdulle, who was related to the woman. "And then she casually went into town. When she returned, she returned with a bunch of men dressed in women’s clothing."
– Drag Queens? Uhm, not exactly. In parts of Somalia, gay men are expected to either remain in the closet or wear women’s attire. "Of course, the choice was clear." Sakariye says. "We told them we would just be in the closet then."
A whole new world was possible for the couple. They were in a city where they had the choice to be in the closet. "We really didn’t care to not be out as long as we were together," says Abdulle. "We couldn’t have asked for a better situation. In Somalia. Together. Safe. All things we never thought were possible after Ismail came out." The couple, however, was shocked when they learned the locals were not happy with their decision. The locals – who were not all queer – decided to boycott the couple. It started with their good hostess kicking them out. Then they couldn’t even find a place to rent or a job. They had to live with a supportive woman, secretly.
Weeks of agony and fear followed that. The couple was running out of money, as money got tight when the groceries would not even sell them anything and the couple were forced to eat at restaurants. "We only had money we could survive on a week or two," says Sakariye. "We were getting scared we would not even have enough to return to Hamar [Mogadishu.]" Suddenly, the "accepting" city has become the guys’ worst nightmare. It was time to reconsider things. "I proposed we just go to another city," remembers Abdulle, who was against the idea of even considering having to go drag. "I was up for anything but becoming a drag Queen. I told Ismail that I would rather die."
Love conquers all, a concept so ever-present in the books Abdulle read, was suddenly becoming less and less true. "They were killing our thoughts, our souls," says Sakariye. "I thought we should reconsider their offer. It was the only choice." The city elders have made an offer to the couple. The offer, to live in the city and be supported as long as they made changes to their attire, seemed outrageous to Abdulle.
– Ismail helped me see that we could beat them in their own game, says Abdulle, who after a while decided to go with Sakariye’s plan of agreeing to the attire while the couple would not do it in the privacy of their home. "Then we went to them and told we wanted to take up on their offer." Strangely enough, the ban was lifted and the couple was provided with a job and a place to rent.
The couple got smart. They worked half of the day together and they stayed in half of the day together. While they stayed in, they dressed as men. "You have no idea how much wearing a jeans means to you in that situation," says Abdulle, laughing. "I would start undressing when my eye could see the first glimpse of the house. You simply can’t wait." What is with all this fuzz about clothing? Many Somalis believe gay men are imitating women, say the couple. "It is their way of making us pay for being gays," says Sakariye. "You make up all these beliefs to punish people who you disagree with. It was like ‘damn you for being a queer.’"
When the civil war broke out in 1991, the couple ditched the drag and emigrated to neighboring Kenya. "I think we are the only ones who are grateful for the civil war," says Sakariye, who admits he is joking. "I was just so happy to leave there. We lived in a bad situation back there." Once in Kenya, they applied for asylum as refugees. Three years after their application, they arrived in America. "We didn’t know you could apply asylum for being gay back then," says Abdulle, laughing. "If we knew that, we would have come earlier than that, even when Somalia was still okay. But we are here now and that is all that matters."
Now, far away from all that in a land where they are told ‘be all you can be,’ Abdulle wholeheartedly believes Sakariye is his soul mate. He realizes that life can bring you good out of what seem like unthinkable situations. "That first move was hard on me, but it brought me love," says Abdulle. "That civil war put us through the hell of having to be refugees, but it brought us freedom." The universe does work in mysterious ways. Well, at least for this couple.
Afdhere Jama is the Editor of Huriyah Magazine (http://huriyahmag.com)
October 22, 2007
Transsexual wins landmark case after epic 10-year battle
by Allison Bray
The Government is legally obliged to revise the law on the rights of those who have changed sexes following a landmark decision in the High Court yesterday. The ruling on the identity papers of transsexuals found the State breached the European Convention on Human Rights. In a decision that made legal history yesterday, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie ruled that the Taoiseach must go before the Dáil within 21 days of the publication of his ruling to outline how the Government will bring Ireland in line with the Convention. The ruling centres on the high-profile case of dentist Lydia Foy (59), who changed her sex from man to woman through gender-reassignment surgery 15 years ago.
Although she changed her sex physically, she has been engaged in a decade-long legal battle with the State to alter her name and sex on her birth certificate to reflect her new identity. The judge ruled that the States failure to provide for meaningful recognition of her new identity violated her human rights and she was entitled to court costs and compensation for her lengthy court battle. He also found that the State was remiss in not recognising the rights of transgendered people five years ago when most other EU countries were doing so. Justice McKechnie, who is expected to let several weeks lapse before issuing his court order to allow the Government time to consider it, said the State for whatever reason had decided not to act and was very much isolated within the Council of Europe states in that regard.
Gender Dysphoria, a syndrome in which a persons sexual identity is at odds with their physical attributes, is a recognised psychiatric condition and a living tragedy for many people who often had a burning desire to have their new sexuality legally recognised, the judge said. That desire was the reason why so many were driven to embark on a fight for legal identity which was humiliating and often unsuccessful.
Everyone, as a member of society, has a right to human dignity, he stressed. While the judges decision does not strike down any laws here, including laws dealing with the system of birth registration, it puts an onus on the State to address the situation of transgendered persons. The judge indicated that one means of bringing the State into compliance with Article 8 would be to introduce laws similar to the Gender Recognition Act in the UK under which a person may secure identity documents and new birth certificates reflecting their new sexual identity without their original birth or marriage certificates being affected. Dr Foy had also claimed her right to marry under Article 12 of the ECHR was being violated by the absence of legislation here. However, because Dr Foy is not yet divorced, the judge said a legal impediment to her remarrying existed which was not related to gender issues.
However, the judge made clear that, were Dr Foy divorced, it would inescapably follow there would be very compelling reasons under Article 12 of the convention to facilitate the remarriage of post-operative transgendered persons. He was delivering his 70-page judgment on the 10-year legal battle by Dr Foy of Athy, Co Kildare, for a birth certificate describing her as female and for a number of declarations under the ECHR. Born Donal Mark Foy, she married and fathered two children before undergoing gender realignment surgery almost 15 years ago. The marriage ended in the 1990s and Dr Foy changed her name by deed poll in 1993. Dr Foys estranged wife and children had opposed the proceedings, expressing concern about implications for the legality of the marriage and succession rights.
Welcome to the Somali Gay Community
As a gay person it is important to realise that despite the struggles we face in accepting ourselves and in society, it is crucial to recognise that we are not alone and that there is a big gay community where one can find all manner of support and acceptance. A lot of people view sex as the most defining aspect of being a homosexual, this is not only stereotypical but also offensive to some. Not to be mistaken, in the gay community, sex is the easiest thing to obtain but love between two men or women is also common. This includes a physical, emotional and spiritual connection. Love and attraction between two men is universal and documented throughout history in various cultures. Homosexuality is not an appalling habit or lifestyle that one can pick up when living in the west as many of us have heard being said by our family, friends and community.
Gay friendships are also a vital as in most cases become our second family. The people that some become increasingly reliant on when cut-off from traditional families. As a young gay man or lesbian somalian, coming out is a daunting experience as it involves reconciling with our religion and culture that is largely against homosexuality. However there are two kinds of coming out; coming out to oneself and coming out to the public. The more important of the two is coming out to one-self, accepting that you are attracted to the same sex and they are innate feelings that cannot be changed and does not mean you have to tell anyone else about you homosexuality. Furthermore, this acceptance does not necessarily mean you have to abandon or neglect other aspects of yourself such as your culture, religion or most importantly yourself in pursuit of what you might think a gay man or lesbian should be.
Be who you are! It is a liberating feeling to embrace every aspect of yourself rather than live in denial and unhappiness.
November 7, 2007
Somali Online Gay Community Causing Worldwide Outrage
by Andrew Prince,Editor, UKBlackOut
London (UKBlackOut) – When we think of very homophobic communities we automatically think of places like Jamaica, but recently I have come to know that there are other dimensions to homophobia…..one from the Somali community. At least in the Jamaican community they are more informed idiots (pardon the pun), but what I have been witnessing over the past few days goes beyond anything one could identify on planet earth. Recently I was asked to develop a website for a group of gay Somalis in London, www.somaligaycommunity.org. (click HERE for the main page in the Somali language)
This is the first website of it’s kind anywhere in the world and as it happened, it drew a lot of attention during it’s first week online with over 133,000 hits. To say the least, there have been a lot of excitement and news coverage, with some of the major online news sites, including ones serving the mainly Somali Muslim community, carrying the story and asking for interviews from the Moderator of the website. Somali gays and lesbians worldwide have welcomed the site as long overdue and although it is only a web presence it will help to unite Somalis online where they can share experiences, learn from each other and at the same time knowing that there are others like themselves out there.
Then the bombshell dropped.
The international Somali community is up in arms and the forums, weblogs, and sites dedicated to Somali news are awash with hate writers.
I mean really vile stuff.
One individual calls for them to be “hunted down in the street and stoned like dogs” while another said, “Allah will punish them”, another, “It’s a western illness”, and yet another, “motherfocker if i ever see you on the street, am gonna chop you to pieces then feed ur crap to dogs” – this last one from a Muslim woman. One Somali woman even mentioned that there was less than 100 gay people in all of Somalia. How does she know this? Did she take up a census? Then there is that old nemesis in African countries that seems to keep rearing it’s head throughout all this – the clan. North Somalis blames the south Somalis saying that is the part of the country where all the gay and lesbian people come from. With all the genocide going on in their country and the murder of innocent women and children of which you don’t hear a peep out of them on, I am amazed that they have so much energy hating a group of people who only wants to share their experiences on a website and improve their quality of life. Where is the threat?
What strikes me in all of this is the fact that most of these people are refugees themselves, living in countries all over the world. These same countries allows them the freedom to be who they are regardless of which clan or region they are from and yet, they wish to take away that same freedom from their countrymen and women. If they are such patriots why did they flee their country, why aren’t they still there or in other Muslim countries where their extreme views are more appreciated? I guess it’s because, according to one person on the SomaliNet Forums, “muslims own the entire world, soon or latter everybody will become muslim, so shut da fock about why did you come to a christian country”.
To this I say, wake up, get your head out of the sand. It will never happen. What I would like to know is this: How can a devout Muslim person preach such hate when there is nowhere in the Koran (I am told) that says they should go out and hurt people for not conforming to their idea of what a good Muslim should be? As with all cultures, people twist things to suit their needs and then hides behind religion to justify their vile actions. The saga continues. I was then made aware that my name, address and telephone number was made public on a particular website forum, along with one of the guys from the group. Someone with a little bit of internet savvy (a woman) did a Domanin Name Whois lookup (Oops my mistake, I should have made it a private listing) and found out some details that one would rather not have flashed around the world on the internet. But this person thought that they would be harming me. What she did not realise was that I am one of the most OUT black gay man in London and I’m no stranger to having my face or name in the public domain.
The site was threatened with being hacked so I had to take extra security steps to protect the site so that it stays online to serve the community that it was intended for. The good thing that came out of all this is the fact that the website was actually promoted around the world by people who are against it, something that these guys could not pay for in the form of advertising. So next time you think of violent homophobes, don’t all only look to Jamaica, you can find it in other cultures too.
¦ Since writing this article, the website with my name and address on their forum has been deleted. Another forum with really vile threats have been entirely deleted, albeit without our intervention.
28 November 2007
Somalia mayor grilled
by staff writer
afrol News – The mayor of Mogadishu Mohamed Omar Habeb has been grilled for decreeing what media rights watchdogs referred to as "unacceptable and ridiculous draconian restictions" on the coverage of fighting between the government forces and rebels. Since the ousting of the Islamic Courts Unions from power in December, Somalia has been in a state of anarchy. This claimed the lives of thousands as well as displaced a million people. A few journalists still remain in Mogadishu today mainly because of targeted murders. This year alone eight journalists have been murdered by gunmen.
But the Mogadishu mayor, a former warlord and governor of the central city of Jowhar, is unnecessarily making life unbearable for the few journalists. Habeb on Monday decreed the banning on reporting "military operations by the federal transitional government and Ethiopian troops without the written agreement" of the authorities. He has also embargoed interviews with government opponents inside the country or abroad. Violators of the decree will be treated as criminals.
“The rules decreed by Muhamed Omar Habeb are ridiculous, especially as they have no legal basis,” the Africa Director of the Paris-based Reporters sans frontières, Leonard Vincent, reacted. A city in which the most popular news media have been closed arbitrarily, dozens of journalists flee each week and those that stay risk being arrested or murdered needs a mayor who offers safeguards and who is open to dialogue. Instead it has one who imposes the rule of martial law.”
29 November 2007
Somali gay bloggers receive death threats
by Rainer Chr. Hennig
afrol News – After the website Somali Gay Community was launched earlier this month, the staff behind the site has received death threats. The news about the website, which major Somali media picked up from afrol News, caused a storm of debate that included threatening hate messages. But it also gave the new gay site very many hits and members, documenting needs in Somali society.
Muraad Kareem, one of the Somalis behind www.somaligaycommunity.org, was astonished by the row of events that followed the publishing of an article about the website by afrol News. "Major Somali news websites have picked it up the article that you .. published. People were outraged to see such article on ‘Hiiraanonline’ which is a major news website. People could not believe that a major Somali news website would publish such article. They have asked it to be removed and their messages were horrific and hateful," Muraad tells afrol News. "One of the messages was saying that they will hunt us down beyond enemy lines," he continues. "I was ignoring these messages but when I started to worry when my name, address, telephone number and that of Andrew Prince was posted on Somaliland.com."
Andrew Prince, a UK-based gay activist and web developer, stood behind the technical aspects of the Somali website. Also he was surprised by the amount of "hate writers" attacking him and Muraad on Somali blogs. He recalls: "One individual calls for us to be ‘hunted down in the street and stoned like dogs’ while another said, ‘Allah will punish them’, another, ‘It’s a western illness’, and yet another, ‘motherfocker if I ever see you on the street, am gonna chop you to pieces then feed ur crap to dogs’ – this last one from a Muslim woman."
The two reveal that several individuals were going a step further than just threatening. Some investigated the whereabouts of the two and published this information on a Somali website. According to Mr Prince, "the site was threatened with being hacked so I had to take extra security steps to protect the site so that it stays online to serve the community that it was intended for." Muraad adds there were indeed attempts to hack the website. While both try to play down the threats, they still have had to react to them. "I have taken measures to secure my safety, and that each member of the group," Muraad told afrol News. "Also the crime is been reported to the police. We have laws that protect us from these ignorant people and nothing they will do will stop us."
And some Somali news websites have understood they should not contribute more to these threats. Somaliland.com has removed the personal information about the two posted on the site by readers and Somalinet.com has removed the forum that they have dedicated to the Somali gay website. Muraad nevertheless is more encouraged than scared by the experience so far, he reveals. The enormous amount of reactions to his project has indeed been mostly positive, documenting the great need among Somalis for a gay forum. During its first week online, the site registered over 133,000 hits. "Somali Gay Community is growing and we are getting positive feedbacks from our members," he says. "We are focused on our aim to reach out to those who need us the most."
"I do not think that the threat will stop there. People will continue to find who we are but we are not scared. We are aware that we have broken a big social code and people would want to take revenge but what we are trying to achieve is well worth the risk we have taken," concludes Muraad.