Target: President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Goal: Stop the imprisonment of rape survivors and the journalists who report their stories in Somalia
Rape is a touchy subject all over the world, and rape victims are unfortunately often subject to suspicion, skepticism, and blame. Somalia, however, has institutionalized victim-blaming in a horrifying way: a recent case saw one woman and two male journalists jailed over the woman’s rape accusation. The accused rapists are still free. Push Somalia to pursue justice and to create a safe space for victims to come forward.
The woman at the center of the case is a nineteen-year-old journalist, who in November gave an interview to Radio Shabelle in which she accused two other journalists of raping her at gunpoint. In the aftermath of the interview, the woman was charged with “defamation and lying.” A judge gave her a six-month suspended sentence, “during which…she will be confined to her home.” The judge also handed down sentences for Abdilmalik Yusuf, who is the manager of Radio Shabelle, and Mohamed Bashir, another journalist who listened to the woman’s story. Yusuf was given a prison term of one year for “offending state institutions,” while Bashir was given six months in jail for “defamation and making false rape accusations.”
In the wake of the trial, the United Nations and the United States have both expressed their concerns with the judge’s ruling, with the UN in Somalia demanding a “proper investigation” into the woman’s accusations. Neither of the men she named were even arrested.
Somalia has a history of siding with the accused rather than the accusers; a similar case in February 2013 saw a woman and a male journalist declared guilty of “offending state institutions” after the journalist reported on the woman’s rape. Amid pressure from Human Rights Watch and other sources, both the man and the woman were released after serving two months in prison.
Somalia’s treatment of rape is unacceptable and must be changed. Sign the petition and urge the Somali government to pursue true justice–no matter who the accusers or the accused are.
Dear President Mohamud,
I am writing to express my grave misgivings about the recent sentencing of Abdilmalik Yusuf, Mohamed Bashir, and an unnamed nineteen-year-old woman. Yusuf has been found guilty of “offending state institutions,” while Mohamed Bashir and the woman have both been imprisoned for “defamation”–all because Yusuf and Bashir reported the woman’s rape accusations on Radio Shabelle.
Rape is, without a doubt, a horrific crime, and it is often difficult to address both personally and politically. One thing is certain, however: it is extremely dangerous to foster a political and cultural environment which favors the rights of rapists over the rights of rape victims. Once a rape has been reported, the police have an obligation to fully and impartially investigate the accusation just as they would any other alleged crime. The United Nations in Somalia has expressed deep concern over the way the woman’s rape complaint was handled, demanding a “proper investigation” into her claims. Indeed, neither of the men she named was ever arrested for the crime. Meanwhile, the woman is serving a six-month suspended sentence.
Somalia has a responsibility to create a safe space for rape victims. As long as institutions side with–or are perceived to side with–rapists rather than rape survivors, there will be a culture of fear that will prevent rape victims from coming forward. Rapists will go unpunished, and the problem will spiral even further out of control.
Somalia officially condemns rape and violence against women, calling them “unacceptable,” but its actions leave a lot to be desired. Let this moment be a turning point for Somalia. Launch a thorough, impartial, and fair investigation into the woman’s claims of rape. Stop imprisoning journalists for reporting the stories of rape survivors. And do everything in your power to ensure that the only people threatened by Somalia’s criminal justice system are actual criminals.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: cascade_of_rant via Flickr