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.”

February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
Shamus Cooke
Can the Establishment Fix Its Bernie Sanders Problem?
John Hazard
The Pope in Mexico: More Harm Than Good?
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau & the Saudi Arms Deal
Zarefah Baroud
The Ever-Dangerous Mantra “Drill, Baby Drill”
Anthony DiMaggio
Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis
Colin Todhunter
Indian Food and Agriculture Under Attack
Binoy Kampmark
Warring Against Sanders: Totalitarian Thinking, Feminism and the Clintons
Robert Koehler
Presidential Politics and the American Soul
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: The Banality of Evil on Steroids
Cesar Chelala
Is Microcephaly in Children Caused by the Zika Virus or by Pesticides?
February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail