Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) & Somali Women Development Centre (SWDC)
Mogadishu: Student Gang – Raped
Iqra Osman Mohamed, a 15 year old student studying in the teacher training program at Mogadishu University, recently suffered a gang-rape after armed assailants forced her off a bus as she was traveling from Medina Hospital in Mogadishu, where she had been visiting her sister, to her residence in Dharkenley District.
Iqra hails from the town of Bal’ad, which lies about 30 KM north of Mogadishu. Both her parents are farmers and she left her home town after she was offered a scholarship in January this year. By mid-February, she had begun her studies and was living with her maternal aunt in Dharkenley District in Mogadishu.
On 22nd of June 2015, Iqra’s older sister, who is suffering from a throat tumor, was admitted to Medina Hospital, one of Mogadishu’s primary health care facilities. The next morning at 7:30 AM, Iqra was asked by her mother to return home to prepare food for her sister and bring some clothes back to the hospital. They walked together to the gate of the hospital where they found a mini-bus. Iqra embarked on the bus, which was empty besides the driver and his assistant.
Although they told her that they were going to her destination, five minutes after beginning the journey, the driver pulled over and produced a knife, with his assistant telling Iqra,“If you try to scream, we will stab you – come with us.” Iqra was taken to a nearby abandoned building where she was raped by both men. They also took her mobile phone and left her helplessly on the ground. A passerby saw Iqra and let her use her phone to call her mother who rushed to her and took her to the hospital. Iqra was later referred to Somali Women Development Centre (SWDC), one of SIHA’s member agencies in Somalia, for assistance.
On the 24th of June, the case was taken for filing at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) by one of SWDC’s paralegals. The police officer in charge of the station refused to write the complaint and openly said, “These organizations make money out of these false cases.”
After an argument between the police officer and the paralegal, who was accompanied by Iqra and her mother, the police ordered the arrest of both SWDC staff as well as the mother of the survivor.
They were forced to turn off their phones and a fearful and shocked Iqra was put into the custody of three female police officers. Meanwhile, the results of the tests that were brought forward had confirmed the rape incident, as there were clear internal injuries suffered. However, Iqra’s testimony was undermined by a senior police officer who subjected her to mistreatment and asked her questions such as, “How was it done to you?”, “Are you on your period?”, “Why did you follow this lady (indicating the SWDC paralegal)”, and “Is she is your relative?” despite his demonstrated unwillingness to assist Iqra.
Iqra did not respond to any questions and during the questioning, SWDC staff and her mother remained in detention. Another SWDC staff member reached the office and negotiated the release of the mother and the paralegal. Iqra was taken again to the hospital and a medical examination re-confirmed that it was obvious that a rape had occurred. Iqra was brought to the SWDC office, where she is currently receiving psychosocial support, yet only one of the perpetrators of the crime as well as the offending officers remain free.
SWDC and SIHA Appeal for Justice
SWDC and SIHA are demanding justice for Iqra who, despite surviving her rape, is facing stigma and discrimination from her community as well as her class-mates. Her psychological well-being was severely negatively impacted as a result of this brutal gang-rape. The perpetrators need to be brought to justice for Iqra to feel safe again and to continue her studies in a country plagued by trends of non-education of women and lack of educational opportunity. SWDC and SIHA strongly condemn the practice where victims of rape and those supporting them (even family members) are criminalized, harassed, and humiliated, often at the hands of those (e.g. police, authorities) put in place to protect their rights. Not only has the incident violated Iqra in a physical sense, but it has also led to the embroiling of others defending her into the incident as well as stripped Iqra of her ability to pursue education. Thus, another incident of rape in Somalia has demonstrated a well-established truth: Rape does not only affect an individual, it affects the whole community.
The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a coalition of over 80 women’s civil society organisations from across the Horn countries inclusive of Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea and Uganda. The organisation works on women’s access to justice, promoting and protecting women’s human rights, activating women’s political participation and supporting economic empowerment.
For more information, please contact the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website.
For more information about Somalia Women Development Centre (SWDC), please visit their website.