Two teenage girls gang-raped by a group of six youths armed with knives in Galdogob district in central Somalia’s Mudug region are being treated in Dhaga’ade hospital in Galkayo town.
A video clip recorded by the men showing how it happened has gone viral on Somali social media, leading to widespread condemnation and sparking a hot debate over what should happen to the rapists.
The family of the girl most brutally attacked is demanding that justice be done. They are refusing to submit to pressure from the local elders, who use traditional ways of resolving such cases that often involves making a rapist marry his victim.
Fowzia Omar Barre of Radio Ergo interviewed Shukri Abdullahi, the mother of one of the girls, by phone. The interview is transcribed below.
Radio Ergo: When and where did the rape occur?
Shukri: It took place on 7 December. At around 8 pm, she [my daughter] was abducted and put in a car and taken to a rural area on the outskirts of the town. They raped and tortured her. She also has two stab wounds: one in the back and the other one in her private parts. She suffered beatings at the hands of the rapists and she has wounds all over her body; the worst being the chest and the stab wounds, especially the one in her back that penetrated deep inside the skin. The other wound, they used the knife to cut and open the scar from circumcision over her vagina but the doctor repaired it now. She has been in this hospital for the last 28 days. Apart from the pain, she is mentally unstable and not herself anymore.
Radio Ergo: How many people were involved in the rape of the two girls?
Shukri: We have learnt that the act was committed by six men between 18 and 20 years old. My daughter is 14 years old. They were mature people who knew what they were doing. They abducted her in the evening and took her to the outskirts of Galdogob town where they committed the crime. My daughter and the other girl left home around sunset to escort and accompany her friend who had visited her at home. When they were coming back, they were confronted by two men who stopped them. Then a car came and four men got out and pushed her and the other girl into the car and drove off.
Radio Ergo: Did you recognize the perpetrators?
Shukri: They are known, except one, but the other five are well known to us. Their fathers and brothers are our neighbours. Before this incident, they used to follow her and we complained to their families several times. One of them who masterminded this rape picked a fight with her one day but she overpowered him, so it was an issue on the table for a long time and I complained about them to their families many times. Her father was unchained just yesterday after he suffered a psychological disorder. He was chained up following the horrific incident. Even me I feel so abnormal sometimes and the children are also feeling the same. We are a family of 12, seven girls, three boys, father and mother. There is also another girl who lives with us.
Radio Ergo: When did you find out what happened to the girls?
Shukri: We were still looking for her. When she came to her senses in the morning and found herself bleeding, she cried and tried to walk by foot to Galkayo town so as not to come back to this her hometown. They [the perpetrators] left her around 3 am. She and the other girl reached a rural village near where they had raped her. At this place, they waved down a vehicle and the driver took them to Galkayo. She was not familiar with this town and so she did not request the driver to take her anywhere particular because she did not want people to know what had happened to her.
Radio Ergo: When did you see your daughter again after the incident?
Shukri: I didn’t see her that night or the following night either. For seven days, the issue was kept secret and she was just moving around Galkayo town. The man had given her a lift to the town while she was bleeding. She was afraid to come back home. All that time we were conducting searches all over. She called me later and said ‘My mother, please don’t claim me and say I am your daughter, I will commit suicide by lying down in the middle of the road so vehicles can run over me, because if you claim me I will destroy your reputation so don’t do it.’ I told her I would come and that she should wait for me. I sent some girls who were my relatives to go to her. I arrived in Galkayo and took her to a hospital immediately I found her. I took her to two hospitals. Currently, we are in Dhaga’de hospital where we received a good reception. Initially they were charging us for the hospital beds but now here it is free.
Radio Ergo: Where is the father of your daughter?
Shukri: He is around. After seeing the video clips he fell ill and became psychologically tormented. He pulled a gun and people feared that he may cause harm and the gun was taken from him. He is mentally disturbed, still shocked about the incident and doesn’t talk anymore. Although he is now free people are keeping an eye on him.
Radio Ergo: Were the suspects caught?
Shukri: One ran away. The other five are being held in custody and we are demanding that the suspects be charged in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.
Radio Ergo: How do you want the issue to be solved?
Shukri: We will not accept elders to interfere in this issue because this incident ruined our family. We are neither alive nor dead. We don’t know where to go; our hearts sank, even our children have become confused and traumatized. We can’t send them out anywhere and they don’t even go to school. We will accept whatever the Islamic law says in regards to this issue. If we are denied justice and the rapists are not tried under Islamic law, we will call all Somali people around the globe to stand with us until justice is delivered. I do not want wealth or to sell the blood of my daughter, although nobody needs wealth today more than I do, but the family image and reputation matter and it is at stake now. Now the religious leaders are handling the issue and they said they can pass judgment but they cannot execute and enforce the law. An Islamic Sharia court that rules under Islamic law doesn’t exist in Somalia. But we don’t want the issue to be solved by traditional elders.
Radio Ergo: There are courts in Puntland which hear such cases. Have you contacted them?
Shukri: When the incident happened and we wanted to forward it to the courts immediately, the parents of the boys said ‘there is no need to forward the case because we are ready to accept what Sharia law says and comply with it.’ And we accepted their suggestion. Again there is fear, because the Muslim clerics are asking who will enforce the ruling. They informed us that they can give the ruling but they cannot enforce it. If this fails to work we will go anywhere else where the law can be enforced.
Radio Ergo: Tell me something about the other girl who was with your daughter?
Shukri: They started raping my daughter first, so when she [the other girl] saw what happened to her friend she surrendered and thus was not beaten the way my daughter was beaten. They had a grudge against my daughter. So the other girl did not fight back and she just cooperated with them. She is also in hospital but she is in a better condition.