Thursday, October 06, 2011

From one trauma to another in Somalia

One hidden side of of the crisis in East Africa is the lack of safety that women experience. The trip to refugee camps were dangerous for many. Some women were forcibly raped at gunpoint by the armed gangs that patrol the Somalia countryside. Arriving at the camps still provided very little security as the forced rapes continued there. The women have no locked doors to hide behind but instead they have only tent flaps between them and intruders.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Isaiah Esipisu received a first hand account from one of the victims.

When Aisha Diis* and her five children fled their home in Somalia seeking aid from the famine devastating the region, she could not have known the dangers of the journey, or even fathom that she would be raped along the way.

Diis left her village of Kismayu, southwest of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, for the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya’s North Eastern Province in April.

"I was in a group of many women and children, but four of us had come from the same village, hence, we related (to each other) as one family. Along the way, we stopped to make some strong tea since the children were feeling very tired and hungry. One woman remained behind with the children and the three of us went to search for firewood," Diis told IPS through a translator.

"We were ambushed by a group of five men who stripped us naked and raped us repeatedly," she said as tears rolled down her cheeks. "It is something I have not been able to forget. But I wouldn’t like my children to know about it."

"Gender-based violence is a hidden side of the famine crisis," said Sinead Murray, the gender-based violence (GBV) programme manager for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) at Dadaab.

"As per the rapid assessment done on GBV in Dadaab released by the IRC in July, rape and sexual violence were mentioned as the most pressing concerns for women and girls while fleeing Somalia and as an ongoing, though lesser concern, in the camps," Murray told IPS.

"Some women interviewed during (the IRC) survey said they witnessed women and girls being raped in front of their husbands and parents, at the insistence of perpetrators described as 'men with guns.' Others were forced to strip down naked, and in the event they were raped by multiple perpetrators," said Murray.

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