Picture: Plastic huts in Badbaado Camp, Mogadishu. July 2011 (Kate Holt/IRIN)
MOGADISHU — The number of reported rapes in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, has risen sharply, creating “a climate of fear”, according to a civil society source.
“We have had the problem of rape in the city but what we are witnessing now is on a scale never seen before,” said Mama Hawo Haji, a women’s rights activist. “For instance, in the last two days alone, we have taken 32 rape cases to the hospital; in the past four months we recorded 80 cases.”
The numbers could be higher, Haji said, as many women do not report rape, fearing that the perpetrators could return to hurt them.
“In many cases, the perpetrators are government security forces who are supposed to protect the women; this has led to a climate of fear in the camps,” she said.
Haji said one of the reasons for the surge in rape cases was the fact that there were many more IDPs without protection in the city – “be it protection from the clan or the government”.
Mohamed Moge, a human rights activist, told IRIN the government was not in control of its own security forces. “The TFG [Transitional Federal Government] does not really have complete control over those it claims are its forces.”
He said the disorganization within the ranks of the TFG was “a big contributing factor to the overall insecurity, not only rape”.
A civil society activist, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that in Badbaado, one of the largest camps in the city, a baby was killed few days ago when men jumped over a fence in an attempt to rape the women. “One of them landed on the baby, who died instantly.”
Many of the IDPs fled their homes for Mogadishu because of drought and famine and violence in the south and central parts of the country in search of food and safety.
Jooqey* arrived in Mogadishu in June seeking food for her family. In November, men in uniform attacked the IDP camp she was in and looted her food rations before raping her.
“I had received the food that afternoon and they knew it; they took my food and honour,” she said. “I want to go back home as soon as I can. I know who some of them are and cannot do anything.”
Jooqey said she was afraid to report the rapists to anyone. “I don’t want to suffer again.”
Roar Bakke Sorensen, communications specialist with the UN Population Fund, told IRIN: “UNFPA is extremely worried about these allegations we hear almost daily now from Mogadishu. We are scaling up our activities… Last month we trained staff in the newly developed information management system, which is a tool that we use to collect and analyze data, so that we can target our response and give the survivors adequate assistance according to their human rights.”
Abdullahi Shirwa, head of Somalia’s National Disaster Management Agency, told IRIN his organization had forwarded a proposal to the cabinet to protect all IDPs.
“We proposed the creation of a special unit to protect the camps; we also proposed that any member of security forces or outside who rapes should be arrested and charged quickly and given tough sentences,” Shirwa said.
He said his agency was waiting for the cabinet to act on the proposal – “I hope we will get a positive response soon.”
However, Haji said rape was on increase yet the government was not addressing it and “giving the attention it deserves. They [government] seem busy fighting each other instead of protecting the public.”
She said women’s groups were raising awareness of the issue and would continue to do so “until someone listens to us. We will continue shouting from the rooftops until rape stops.”
Calling on Somali men to join women in stopping the menace, Haji said: “I want all Somali men to remember that their mother is a woman, their daughter is a woman, their sister is a woman and their wife is a woman. How would they feel if any of them was raped? I want them to feel angry whenever a woman is raped.”