ANOTHER COUNTRY BY M.M. Afrah
EXCLUSIVE TO BANADIR.COM
An extract from a new book by M.M. Afrah to be published
in Canada in the winter of 2002.
than half an hour of bone-jarring speed they were now in the
heart of an area controlled by the Islamic Share'a Courts
and the stronghold of Ali Mahdi. The Moryaan or the freelance
robbers could not operate in the area, but the inhabitants
faced dangers from rival clans in the south of the city and
ground offensive by retreating militia. The Quran's definition
of law and order is an eye for an eye and no provision for
a defence lawyer or appeal, no last rites, graves, and no
law, the Islamic code of justice found you guilty, period.
So gunmen loyal to south Mogadishu warlords cleverly avoided
crossing the notorious Green Line that divides the capital
into south and north. The late military dictator's judicial
systems included secular courts and courts under Islamic law
mainly for civil litigation presided by corrupt Kadhis. But
the people were disillusioned with these corrupt judges and
Kadhis, often hand picked from the president's own minority
clan. Now this part of the city is run by an uneasy alliance
between Ali Mahdi and the leading Islamic cleric in Somalia,
Sheikh Ali Dheere.
ago Sheikh Ali Dheere forced through the introduction of Share'a
to try offenders according to Islamic law and subject them
to its punishment. These are, by Western standards, ferocious
and inhumane. The theft of goods worth more than 25 dollars
means the loss of the right hand. If a gun is used in the
crime, the left foot is cut as well. Legal representation
is denied, but in some cases, such as adultery, witnesses
are called to testify at the hearing. But most of these usually
turn out to be what the Somalis bitterly call "Shahaada Suur"
(hired witnesses) and are automatically disqualified by the
clerics - with a stern warning. Matters came to a head when
the Council of Clerics suddenly announced that journalists
publishing or putting on air "unholy propaganda and falsehoods"
would be executed of have their hands cut off. Soon after
the announcement on handbills and posters, the daily HILIN
was banned by an Islamic Court for publishing an editorial
suggesting that fasting during the Muslim Holy month of Ramadhan
should be shelved temporarily due to the prevailing famine
compounded with the brutal civil war. It said the majority of
the people have nothing to look forward to breaking the fast
at sundown after a grueling 12 hours of fasting.
tabloid-sized newsletter, HILIN was determined to bring behind-the-scenes
news stories to a war-weary population and captured the bitter
row between the clerics and Ali Mahdi in a front-page banner
and equaled the clerics with medieval Europe where the church
hierarchy ruled with an iron fist. The analogy angered Sheikh
Ali Dheere and his followers and decided that enough was enough.
He immediately issued a Fatwa (an edict) against the editor
over the head of Ali Mahdi. "Questions like secularism, freedom
of the press and democracy are not compatible with the Share'a
law," the Sheikh announced. "They do not work in Somalia,"
he told a huge gathering of enthusiasts at the old Banadir
Stadium, who braved the hottest day in living memory. The
temperature hovered around a muggy 100 Fahrenheit.
and his staff of reporters fled the enclave under cover of
darkness, leaving everything behind.Their
printing press was subsequently put to the torch. Foreign
reporters continued to work from their bureaus in neighbouring
Kenya, citing obvious and insurmountable dangers. Of course,
at the time no one knew how much staying power the Sheikh
is going to have. The bet among the journalists was on. "Everybody,
except the merchants of death and importers of Khat, was happy,"
Tiffow said. But the introduction of the Share'a law in the
north of the city also prompted the wrath of the international
the Voice of America and the CNN, quoting a Reuters news dispatch
from Mogadishu, described the announcement as "barbaric and
inhuman." "The issue is closed," the Sheikh snapped at a Reuters
reporter who pressed him to comment on the foreign radio broadcasts.
"We will implement the Share'a law whether the BBC and their
American friends like it or not," he added. "Although the
reporter could not know it, he himself was on the hit list
the clerics were about to issue that afternoon. Also what
he didn't know was the cloak of secrecy the Mullahs threw
about the hit list before the operation is done with," the
driver whispered. "How did you know all this?" Keynaan asked
him. "I happened to be the only taxi driver who could criss-cross
the Green Line at the time.
picking him up, the reporter explained what happened." "How
did he know that his name was on the hit list?" "He said that
despite the secrecy, a member of the Council of the Clerics,
a close relative of his, tipped him at the eleventh hour."
Tiffow said, still whispering lest a supporter of the Sheikh
heard him. "What else did he say about the Islamic Courts,"
Keynaan asked him skillfully. "He said he avoided watching
serious cases, but he said he came across a severed hand and
foot lying abandoned in the dust. Obviously someone had just
suffered the penalty for armed robbery." Watching the spectacle
of hands being cut or adulterer stoned to death for some people
is ugly, degrading and inhuman. Yet this exemplary justice
has quietened the streets of north Mogadishu. The markets
were bustling with economic life, and you rarely see guns
beyond Bakaaraha arms bazaar. There were even a few policemen
the streets were properly lit - a rare sight in the besieged
capital. The reverberations of generators can be heard across
Ali Mahdi's stronghold, the old driver concluded his narration,
no longer whispering for obvious reason. After long silence
followed by reading verses from the Holy Quran, Tiffow said:
"Last week I watched a woman being stoned to death for committing
later transpired that the woman, a mother of five, was set
up by her husband by hiring four respectable looking Shahaada
Suur according to the Share'a law. But it was too late for
the poor woman." He lamented. "What happened to the husband
and why he framed his wife with false charges.
keep his younger wife and remain married to the mother of
his children at the same time?" Keynaan said, holding his
breath. "He was a wealthy old man who decided to get rid of
his nagging wife in order to marry a beautiful young flame
twice his age," Tiffow said with a smile, showing Qat and
tobacco-stained teeth. "You said "he was", what happened to
the old man and his hired witnesses?" "They were publicly
executed by a firing squad by the "New Islamic Soldiers" in
front of the Lido Beach," Tiffow snapped.
BBC obtained a tape filmed with a small video camera of a
man having his hand and foot amputated, it was so revolting
that the picture editor had to leave the studio in a lightning
speed to throw up. The amputation was done fast but casually,
and there is no anaesthetic. Later, when the picture was specially
screened for seasoned war correspondents who were made of
sterner stuff, it was decided not to put it on air. "Deeply
step to medieval barbarism," was the general consensus. It
would offend the sensibilities of the audience, they said.
But in north Mogadishu the vast majority of the inhabitants
overwhelmingly welcomed the Share'a law and even participated
at colourful ceremonies where hands are amputated or adulterer
stoned to death, shouting Allahu Akbar (God is Great). Ali
Mahdi refused to attend these ceremonies, saying he was very
busy, trying to subdue his arch rival, General Aideed.
© By M.M.Afrah 2001 All rights are reserved