FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Woman of Courage in a Ravaged Land

by Dr. CESAR CHELALA

Somalia can be considered one of the most troublesome countries in the world, one frequently called a “failed state,” ravaged by violence and instability. But in such unfavorable place a valiant woman has quietly emerged as a presence of dignity and hope. Dr. Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe has, for years, been taking care of thousands of Somalis and is a voice of peace in the war-torn land.

A physician trained in the Ukraine, the 63-year-old Dr. Abdi returned to Somalia in 1983 and opened her own one –room clinic in the outskirts of Mogadishu, a city lacking in government health facilities. Since then, that one room has grown into a huge 400-bed hospital surrounded by 1,300 acres of farmland where 90,000 now make their home.

In Somalia, fighting between rival warlords and an inadequate response to famine and disease have marked the life of this nation and led to the deaths of up to one million people in recent decades. Presently, almost a third of the population depends on food aid and the country hasn’t had an effective government since 1991.

The country, divided into clan fiefdoms, is in desperate need of a working government and the rule of law. In January of 2009, a moderate Islamist and former rebel, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected president of a transitional government. His government, however, only controls a few blocks of the capital with the support of the United Nations and African Union troops.

Most of the country is controlled by insurgent groups, particularly by Al-Shabab, which means “youth” in Arabic and which wants to impose a strict version of Islam throughout Somalia. Mr. Ahmed had been elected by the Somali parliament which was sitting in neighboring Djibouti to be safe from the violence back at home.

With very few exports and living mainly through remittances from Somalis living abroad (they sent an estimated 20 million dollars a month to Mogadishu alone) and a climate of lawlessness in the country it should not surprise that piracy has become a serious threat to international shipping.

In the meantime the country, with an estimated 1.2 mn displaced in South-central Mogadishu alone, is undergoing one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Added to these severe social challenges is the Somalis’ lack of access to adequate heath care. It is in this context that Dr. Hawa Abdi and her two daughters are working to address not only the health needs of tens of thousands of internal refugees in the country but also other social and educational needs.

Dr. Abdi achieved international notoriety in May of 2010 when 750 armed militias from the group Hizbul Islam surrounded her hospital, held her at gunpoint and demanded that she stop her work. They also allowed dozens of adolescents to ransack the hospital, destroy anesthesia machines, tear up medical records and destroy hospital infrastructure.

Undeterred, Dr. Abdi confronted her assailants and asked them to explain their behavior. When they threatened to kill her she calmly responded, “If you want to kill me, kill me, no problem. Someday I have to die.” When the incident was known internationally there was widespread outrage. Dozens of Somalian women stormed the hospital in a show of solidarity and insisted on the departure of the militia.

Facing strong condemnation for their actions, and after keeping her under detention for seven days, the leader of Hizbul Islam, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys ordered her release. When the militia left, Dr. Abdi was able to resume her work. She had won an important battle.

In 2010, the U.S. magazine Glamour named Dr. Abdi and her two daughters, Dr. Amina Mohamed Abdi and Dr. Deqa Mohamed Abdi “Women of the Year,” and called them the “Saints of Somalia.” As they continue their work, these valiant women represent a ray of hope in a bleak land.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail