More than 20 years of conflict, inadequate health service and discrimination have left people with disabilities in Somalia at risk of rape, violence, forced marriage and forced eviction, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today (12 March 15).
In ‘Somalia: Prioritise protection for people with disabilities’, Amnesty reveals how the lack of respect for the rights of people with disabilities exposes them to further abuses, and called on the Somali Federal Government to act decisively to ensure their rights are protected in law and in practice.
During a recent fact-finding mission to Mogadishu in February, Amnesty researchers spoke to dozens of people, mostly with physical disabilities, who spoke of the abuses inflicted on them including rape and beatings.
Forced marriage, rape and violence
Women and girls with disabilities said they are forced into marriage to older and/or abusive men in their families’ bid to rid themselves of the perceived burden of having disabled children.
Hannan became disabled when she was a baby. She described how her family forced her into marriage:
“I was 13 years old. My family decided to give me to this man, I refused and ran away. My family sent strong men after me. They caught me, tied my arms and legs and threw me in a room with the man. He beat me since the beginning. His family would say that I was disabled, that I shouldn’t complain. He beats me, slaps, kicks and throttles me…When I escape and go home, my aunt says that I am disabled and returns me back.”
Amnesty spoke to several women who were attacked specifically because they were disabled and seen as easy targets.
Amran was raped because her attacker knew about her physical disability:
“I woke up in the night, and found that someone had already entered my shelter. The attacker put a knife to my neck, and told me to keep silent. He told me he would kill me if I shouted. I was crying as I knew I couldn’t do anything. He knew everything [about my disability], so he raped me repeatedly because he knew I was disabled and couldn’t defend myself.”
Threat of eviction of people who have already fled conflict
The threat of evictions hangs over everyone who have been forced to flee the conflict in other parts of Somalia. People living with disabilities are forced to live in specific areas within makeshift camps and settlements while some decide to live in separate settlements to support each other. Their problems are compounded as they endure intimidation, theft of food aid
and neglect of their specific needs by service providers. They are also at an increased risk of exploitation and violence during forced evictions.
Safiya was raped and her family forcibly evicted from their home last year. She told Amnesty:
“At first they threatened us. They said ‘if you do not remove everything this night, you will see.’ They went away but then came again that night. Four men came with their faces covered. They wanted to rape my daughters. My husband shouted and tried to defend them, so they shot and killed him… My daughter was crying, they had taken her and raped her… Early the next morning they came back and destroyed our shelters.”
A group of disabled women have been forced to move to the Afgooye corridor where insecurity is rife and access to Mogadishu is difficult. They have been forcibly evicted multiple times in the last few years.
Leyla does not have full use of her hands. She said:
“The businessmen wanted to build houses there [Hodan district, Mogadishu]. Five of them came with guns while one started measuring the land. They told me ‘even if you take your house by your mouth, just move.’ They told me ‘you are disabled, we don’t want to see you near us, just move.’”
Amnesty International’s Somalia Researcher Gemma Davies said:
“People with disabilities in Somalia are excluded, neglected and abused at every level. The Somali Federal Government must now act to show its commitment to ensuring the human rights of all people without discrimination. It must give people with disabilities the chance to actively engage with decision making processes, especially those that most affect them, including in the ongoing constitutional review process and in drafting legal and policy frameworks for people with disabilities.”