Monday, November 13, 2006

Islamist Censorship in Somalia

Somalia's radical Islamist movement, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), continues to expand its draconian control over most of that unhappy country. As J. Peter Pham noted in an October 26 analysis, the ICU now controls over 70 percent of Somalia. Pham's essay lays out in detail the ICU's efforts to suppress free speech and expression as part of their drive for power. Here are the relevant passages:

After an initially light-handed approach, the ICU has also begun imposing its strict totalitarian rule on the areas it controls. Shortly after taking Kismayo, ICU forces closed down the local substation of the privately owned Horn Afrik Radio.

According to the Sheikh Abdirahman Mudey, minister of information and Da'wa ("Islamic call") in the ICU's governing council, the broadcaster was seized because it aired the voice of a woman who claimed she was raped by Islamist militia members as well as another news story that reported the breakdown of talks between ICU envoys and local elders. According to the sheikh, the reports were "unfounded" and hence the station had to be shut down. In early October, according to Reporters Without Borders, the ICU issued a list of thirteen "rules of conduct" for reporters, severely curtailing their freedom. According to the Paris-based nongovernmental organization, "The result of this draconian charter which Mogadishu's new masters want to impose on Somalia's journalists would be a gagged, obedient press, one constrained by threats to sing the praises of the Islamic courts and their vision of the world and Somalia."

A few days after the press gag order, on October 12, the United Nations announced that it was "temporarily" pulling its international staff out of parts of Somalia controlled by the ICU in response to "direct written threats," the nature of which the international organization did not elaborate on. The withdrawal, while understandable from the security perspective, has the unfortunate effect of imperiling an estimated 3.6 million Somalis who will depend on outside assistance to stave off famine if the rains fail to come soon.

Nor are the ambitions of the radicals limited to taking control of the ruins of the former Somali state. Increasingly, the democratic and secular Republic of Somaliland – which resumed its independent sovereignty upon the dissolution of Somali Democratic Republic in 1991 – has been targeted by the ICU.

In early October, moderate clerics like Sheikh Adan Haji Hirow of Hargeisa, Somaliland's capital, began received letters warning them to desist from their criticisms of the radicals or face the consequences. Similar threats were sent to the independent newspaper Haatuf, which has been outspoken in denouncing the ICU. On October 13, militants associated with 'Ayro's al-Shabaab appeared after Friday prayers in the Somaliland town of Buroa and publicly burned copies of the publication in ominous warning of what might come if they return in strength. The militants have also begun training dissident Somalilanders for a possible assault on their own country, a fact confirmed late last week with the publication of a fatwa signed by Sheikh 'Aweys and dated on the 6th day of Ramadan 1427 (September 28, 2006) which declared that the ICU had "decided to send thirty young martyrs to carry out explosions and killing of Jewish and American collaborators in the northern regions," including Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahin, Foreign Minister Abdillahi Mohammed Duale, and other senior officials.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Reporters Sans Frontieres has more details on the October 13 newspaper burning incident. Note that this happened in an area called Somaliland that is not yet controlled by the ICU. One can only imagine what will happen to intellectual freedom in Somaliland if the ICU does conquer that region.


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2:08 PM  

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