Statement on the killing of Somali journalist Sagal Osman

SIHA decries the killing of the Somali journalist Sagal Osman, who was working for state-run radio called “Radio Mogadishu”. Sagal Osman was a university student of Computer Science at Plasma University. She was killed few minutes after she went for a meeting preparing for her final examination at the University campus, on 5th June around 3.30pm. Sagal was standing outside the front gate of the university with her friends, when three armed men attacked her with pistols. She sustained fatal injuries. The perpetrators managed to escape.


According to a Human Rights Watch report, in 2015, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Somalia at the top of its list of countries where journalists’ killings go uninvestigated. Since 2014, 10 journalists have been killed in Somalia, four in apparent targeted attacks. In addition, six journalists survived assassination attempts, and three have been injured while reporting. The report further highlights, the particular obstacles for female journalists in Somalia,  due to social and cultural restrictions, which puts them at increased risk, as they might be targeted not only because of their work as journalists but also simply for the fact of being a woman. Al-Shabab in particular seeksto curtail, often through threats of violence, women’s participation in public affairs. Fadumo Yusuf Saud ‘Taxadar’, a female Somali journalist, when speaking to HRW in March 2016, spoke about the threats to her life she had received.  “Your voice is Haram. You are a woman, so stop speaking on the radio, otherwise we will kill you.” SIHA previously in December 2015 reported on the killing of Hindia Haji Mohamed, who worked as journalist for a state-run radio station and TV channel in Mogadishu has lost her life, after bomb which was planted underneath the seat of her car, exploded. The perpetrators managed to first escape but were later found and convicted to the death penalty by the Somali Military Court. Since 2005, five female journalist were killed in Somalia according to CPJ, Kate Peyton, Duniya Muhyadin Nur, Mahad Ahmed Elmi, , Hindia Haji Mohamed and Sagal Osman .

The killings however do not only affect journalists but can be seen as a wider trend within areas controlled by militant Al-Shabaab. Women are accorded no public role; and a staggering numbers of Somali women are presently illiterate, subjected to domestic violence, forms of gender-based violence, discrimination and oppression, demonstrating that, women’s empowerment and gender equality in the country falls short.  Al Shabaab’s rejection of public roles for women and girls as a component of their militant religious ideology in combination with the specificity of the Somali context, as part of being involved in warfare for decades, economic hurdles, and patriarchy deeply embedded in traditional culture, has put a heavy burden on women. Thus more and more women became breadwinners, as a result of the altered economic and social expectations placed upon communities, a trend which was seen against the ideology and perceptions of morality presented by Al-Shabaab. In aiming at overturning women’s power and agency and diminishing the substantial contributions of women to the economy, Al Shabaab increasingly seems to build on a combination of militant ideologies and making use of patriarchal structures with targeting those, who won’t let themselves be suppressed.

Decrying the killing of Sagal Osman, SIHA further wishes to express its concerns regarding the continuous suffering of women in Somalia. The great chances of women in contributing to stability and sustainable peace are being undermined by militant ideologies and patriarchal society structures, subordinating women and subjecting them to discrimination and abuse. SIHA wishes to encourage those, working on gender equality and justice for women, to continue their journey despite setbacks, obstacles and challenges encountered. SIHA further demands the Somali government to take immediate investigation on the killing of Sagal bringing the perpetrators to justice. SIHA urges the Somali government, to implement effective protection mechanisms for women journalists and human rights activists in Somalia, and appeals to the international community to support Somali women journalists by advocating for them and provide capacity building on protection mechanisms.