Scarred Somali women take stock after al-Shabaab withdrawalBy ABDULKADIR KHALIF in Mogadishu | Wednesday, September 14 2011 at 09:59
The day seems to be getting brighter in Somalia districts that bore the brunt of fanaticism under the al-Shaabab militants as former residents return to savour the new feeling of freedom.
Al-Shabaab surprisingly withdrew from their strongholds in the capital on the morning of August 6, and the city has been slowly waking to the new realities even as residents remain cautious over the threat posed by remnants of the fundamentalist group.
Women in any conflict situation are often the worst hit, but over the weekend a gathering of 300, also joined by social workers and government officials gathered in the district of Bondhere, a former al-Shabaab base to take stock.
The festivities were organised by the Centre for Community Dialogue, a local not-for-profit that strives to forge understanding among war-torn communities in Mogadishu.
"Thanks Allah our district is free from the callous clutches of the fanatical Islamists," said area district commissioner, Abullahi Hersi Wardhere.
"I see this reunion as a thanksgiving to the Almighty,” he added.
"This congregation named as Maxaan waayo badan u soo joogay (Let us let it out) is intended to give the participants an opportunity to share experiences upon coming back to their neighbourhoods," said Mr Warsame Mohamed Hassan, Mogadishu's deputy mayor.
Most people fled the district some two years ago when it became the epicentre of al-Shabaab offenses aimed at capturing Villa Somalia, the state house.
Ms Hawa Abdullahi Qayd, a woman legislator, who participated in the emotional assembly, said that the people of Bondhere district and other places abandoned by the al-Shabaab would slowly rebuild their lives.
The chair of the Somali Women Association, Asha Omar Gesdir, praised women in Bondhere for the stoicism and fortitude at the height of the attacks by Al-Shabaab fighters.
Ms Gesdir recalled an incident in 2010 when three women died and scores were wounded when a roadside landmine exploded in Bondhere at a site being cleaned by women volunteers.
At the end, participants vowed to restore the place’s nickname of Bondhere Libaax (Bondhere the Lion).
Lt Bashir Hassan Arabey, the district police commander, urged everybody to help his force in registering all households in order to be vigilant against what he called ‘wolves’ (a reference to Al-Shabaab militants) that may jeopardise the peace and stability.
"We expect women to be especially watchful of moles," he said, a reminder that this was still a dangerous period for the city.
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