""Our goal is to have Sharia as the permanent law of our country"
The Somali news site Garowe Online reports that a number of local journalists have been forced to flee that country following death threats from Islamist insurgents:
A group of Somali journalists have fled their home country after receiving death threats and facing intimidation from the government and insurgent groups vying for power in Somalia.
The group consists of 13 journalists, who represent various government-owned media outlets and privately-operated news agencies.
"The al Shabaab group does not want [published] reports of positive steps taken by the Transitional Government and the African Union peacekeepers," says Ali Muhiyadin Ali, formerly a Mogadishu-based reporter for Somali news network Garowe Online.
(Link via Long War Journal)
Al-Shabab is the name of the jihadist movement fighting to restore the repressive Islamist regime that briefly ruled Somalia in 2006. Their rule was epitomized by the brutal Taliban-like censorship of any form of expression deemed "un-Islamic". This April BBC profile of Al-Shabab confirms the group's extremist worldview through the words of one of its members:
"Our goal is to have Sharia as the permanent law of our country, and to get the infidels out of our country, whether they are Ethiopians or Americans."
His message to those Somalis who do not pray five times a day is clear.
"First of all, we will call them to return to Islam and pray - because what differentiates a Muslim and a non-Muslim is praying five times," he says.
"If they refuse we will call them again and again to pray. If they entirely refuse, we will jail them and we will keep them without food until they return to praying."
The same article contains this account from a young woman who lived in Mogadishu in 2006 when the Islamists ordered the closure of a local cinema. After a boy living with her family condemned the move, Al-Shabab came looking for him:
"There were many of them - they came to our house in two pick-up trucks," she recalled.
"Then two of the men came and knocked on the door. I opened it - and they said, 'bring the boy out of the house.'
"I said: 'The boy is not here'. They said: 'Bring him out.' I told them: 'He's not here.' Then they started kicking me, they kicked me to the ground.
"Then they started shooting."
"They shot me three times in the legs - one into my right leg then two into my left. It was terrible, my mother was in the house and she shouted: 'Why are you shooting my girl?'. They started beating her. They threw my mother on the ground and they kicked her."
According to the BBC, "The cinema was closed, and those who had been using it had their heads shaved to mark them out."
This May 11 article from the Times of London confirms that Al-Shabab is back in the business of closing down movie houses:
When Ibrahim Saeed Abdullah saw a neighbour’s cinema burnt down by a barrage of grenades, he realised that he had no choice but to heed the death threats he had received from the big men with guns in their hands and hatred in their hearts. Last week he closed the doors of his own cinema for the last time.
It was two years since Abdullah had opened for business in Mogadishu, the largely ruined capital of war-torn Somalia. The location may have been inauspicious but the timing seemed right: the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamist coalition that briefly took over much of the country in 2006, had just been driven out by an American-backed Ethiopian invasion.
Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al-Shabab does not approve of the showing of films.
Soon Abdullah’s cinema was the last one standing in Mogadishu and he was threatened repeatedly. “They came with weapons, surrounded my cinema and told me, ‘We will kill you if you don’t close’,” he said.
Somalia has been mired in chaos and civil war for almost two decades now. The return of the Taliban style totalitarianism of Al-Shabab will only deepen that country's misery.