The late Hamdi Mohamed Farah was a student who was murdered in September 2020. She was invited to the site of the crime by a man who, according to local media reports, she thought to be her friend. Upon reaching the site, a group of assailants brutally gangraped Hamdi and pushed her off a six-floor building in Mogadishu’s Wabari district.
This appalling incident sparked outrage in Somalia, and immediate calls for justice and concerted efforts to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence across the country. SIHA Network quickly released a statement highlighting Hamdi’s case and the need for more action in order to bring about justice. Later, with support from Urgent Action Fund – Africa, SIHA mounted an advocacy campaign, #JusticeforHamdi, and supported Hamdi’s family to access legal aid and trauma counselling.
Hamdi’s family was intent on holding her perpetrators accountable to the law, despite the many challenges they knew they would face. One of the first hurdles in the legal battle was securing Hamdi’s medical examination report from the doctor to be submitted for evidence. This proved difficult because clan leaders pressured the doctor not to release the report – a common occurrence in sexual or gender-based violence (SGBV) cases in Somalia. Another challenge the family faced, was access to the court itself. Initially, the family was told that they could not attend the court proceedings, and that a lawyer appointed to them would attend.
Following the #JusticeforHamdi advocacy event on the 20th of March, and the social media outcry that followed, the Chief of Banadir Regional Court, Hon. Abdikhadar Mohamed Hassan, called one of the lawyers who had taken part in the campaign, asking him to bring the family to the court. Both Hamdi’s father and her sister were taken to court to meet the Chief who briefed them about the status of their case, while also assuring them that justice would be seriously pursued, and that the perpetrators would be held accountable.
This was first time the family members were allowed to physically meet with court officials and raise their concerns, at which point, they were assured that, “your case is still under process and we will ensure that it we be justly and fairly prosecuted, we are waiting for further evidence to be submitted especially with the medical papers and witness testimonies,” by Abdikhadar Mohamed Hassan, Chief of Banadir Regional Court.
On 27th April 2021, a letter was released from Bandir Regional Court, communicating the final decision on the trial of the three suspects: Mohamed Ibrahim Osman, Yaquub omar Keynaan and Mohamed Abdi Dhumaal. The letter announced that Mohamed Ibrahim Osman had been found guilty and sentenced with the death penalty, while the other two suspects were released from custody, as the court cited a lack of sufficient evidence to declare them guilty. The letter concluded that the case could be re-opened if strong evidence against the two perpetrators Yaquub Omar Keynaan and Mohamed Abdi Dhumaal were found.
SIHA, together with WHRD’s, CSO’s, and others, recognize this decision as one step forward toward achieving justice for many girls and women in Somalia.
“Hamdi’s campaign was an eye opener, and this shows our voices have been heard, this gives us more strength to fight for justice and to push for policies that protect women, and we will not stop, this is just the beginning. I believe with God’s grace many girls who have been survivors of rape will achieve justice.” – Said Farhiya Ali an activist living in Mogadishu.
Dr. Marwo Bashir Ahmed, from Somali National Women and who took part in Hamdi’s campaign, said “the court found one of the perpetrators guilty this is great news for all women fighting for women’s legal rights, this will change a lot, I am so glad I witnessed Hamdi’s journey to justice and we pray for the rest [of the perpetrators] to be charged accordingly.”
Amina Mohamed from Somali Women and Child Care Association (SWCCA) said, “the government is trying hard, and we are very thankful for their collaboration, the government needs to take up more roles in fighting for women’s rights and providing a safe environment for girls and women in Somalia.”
“As an activist, I have experienced many challenges, defending women’s rights in Somalia. It is not easy. There have always been bumps ahead and not everyone was willing to join call for justice, but Hamdi’s case has now given me more reason to fight for justice for women and girls who have been assaulted,” says Ayan Saiid.
Tragedies like Hamdi’s have become a common place in Somalia with over 7,200 cases of SGBV being reported in 2016 alone. The targeting of women and girls through gang rape follows identifiable patterns in the Somalia region, which are intertwined with women’s subordination in social, economic, and political areas of life. The highly militarized spaces in rural and urban settings coupled with prevalent anti-women’s rights discourses, undermine efforts to eradicate violence against women and girls. The legal pluralism existing in Somalia (Xeer, Sharia, and the formal code of laws) gives perpetrators the ability to choose the court that gives them the most advantage. Additionally, the absence of a clear and coherent Sexual Offences Act weakens the potential for holding perpetrators accountable, even under the formal law codes.
More recently, Somalia’s ongoing elections have provoked tensions in Mogadishu, leaving women and girls more vulnerable to be caught in the crossfire. Earlier this month, on May 14th, three women were brutally gangraped in Daynile, Mogadishu. Currently, three of the perpetrators are in the custody of the Criminal Investigations Department, while two others escaped.
The government has not yet spoken about this incident, but women’s organization and WHRDs have been in consultation with the government, and talks are still ongoing.
SIHA together with its members will continue to advocate for justice for SGBV survivors, breaking the silence on violence against women and girls, and fighting for gender equality in Somalia and across the Greater Horn of Africa. Having consulted with SIHA Network members in Somalia, we make the following recommendations.
- Immediate action be taken to support the three survivors and hold the perpetrators accountable.
- Extensive reform of legal and justice system institutions, structures, and policies in order to strengthen the rule of law and ensure accountability mechanism function well and survivors are protected from risks of attacks, threats, or other means to attempt to keep them silent.
- Ratification without reservations the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).
- Investment in the work of women’s rights activists in Somalia, who are ready to mount compelling advocacy campaigns, but often lack the initial funding to do so.