For those of you who live in the UK and frequently consume black fashion magazines or those who recently tuned into BBC 3 documentary Escape from the World’s Most Dangerous Place about her experience of Somalia, model Samira Hashi of Somali descent is a familiar face.
Having travelled to Somalia for the first time at the age of 18 and experiencing the hardships faced by refugee women daily, fresh off her trip Samira has kicked off a petition against the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres as well as UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron; to Provide Security To Prevent Vunerable Somali Refugees From Rape.
“I care deeply about this very important issue and feel it should be addressed immediately. The security and protection system that has been put in place to protect Somali refugees for the past two decades has been defective as well as a gruelling experience for the refugees,” says Samira.
The model is looking for 1000 signatures to help raise more awareness and establish a new protection system to prevent the dehumanising torture and abuse these vulnerable Somali’s have to face on a daily basis.
Here is Samira’s letter and the link to the website where you can sign the petition to support Samira’s cause:
Provide Security To Prevent Vunerable Somali Refugees From Rape
Dear Mr Antonio Guterres,
It is with a paramount urgency and esteemed respect that I write to you as an advocate of the Somali women and children situated in the UNHCR managed camps of Dolo Ado ‘Hilaweyn’ camp. I write to you as a fellow human being and because you have the power and influence to make significant improvement on the living conditions of at least thousands of refugees. Somalia has been in war for the past 21 years which has affected millions of women and children who have been fleeing in their thousands to look for security, food and shelter. The long duration of this disaster has meant the Somali women and children have been suffering in silence since 1991. Having no power or control over their lives Somali refugees have relied on international aid organisations and communities for support. Lack of media awareness has forced these refugees into a shell of darkness with no visible light at the end of tunnel. Even with the traumatic effect of the war naturally glooming over their shoulders; Somali’s are still endured with a constant daily battle of survival.
I am writing this email as a request for support in protecting the rights and welfare of thousands of Somali refugees under your care. I recently returned from filming a BBC3 documentary which enabled me to return to Somalia where I was originally born. The 60 minute programme that will be aired in the United Kingdom on the 30th of April at 9 pm will highlight the on-going struggle Somali’s have to face for example; the conditions in the refugee camps and the long over-due war in Mogadishu. The number of sexual abuses that occur in the refugee camps was extraordinarily high in comparison to the number of rapes recorded. UNHCR has put into place many services which are currently available to assist victims of rape however all efforts to prevent rape in the refugee camps was very rare. I was further shocked when the women themselves approached me personally to voice their endless battle of sexual abuse and lack of police interference or government intervention. In the documentary I interviewed two young Somali women who had been previously gang raped by a group of men who lived locally in the area. As a result of collecting firewood which is the only means for cooking in the refugee camps, the group of men held both women captive for many hours where they took turns to sexually abuse and violently beat the Somali women refugees. Both women were released late hours in the evening on the condition that they didn’t return to the area to collect firewood and if they did their lives would be at risk.
When the Somali women emphasised the torture of life as refugees I was appalled to discover the endemic nature of the occurrence of rape in the camps. Failure of UNHCR tackling this issue turned the Somali refugees into protesting against the lack of security and protection in the camps outside the UNHCR compound in Dolo Ado. The refugees were hopeless therefore turned to myself with the hope that airing their issue to the world their voices would be heard so they could escape from their punishing lives. I felt extremely safe during my ten days in a secure compound as a guest of UNHCR in comparison to the thousands of vulnerable Somali’s refugees on deserted lands who are hosted by UNHCR. One of the main laws of UNHCR is to protect refugees thus making it extremely disheartening to see major concerns like sexual abuse in refugee camps hardly ever raised in the media, in the United Kingdom or in fact anywhere else. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Including the support of the large Somali diaspora, international agencies, government institutions and authorities, UNHCR needs to establish a beneficial system where Somali women within the ‘Hilaweyn’ refugee camp our guarded from rape and gender based violence.
Women and children need outreach workshops on self-defence; they need to be educated in the prevention of security lapses. Safer strategies for the collection of water and firewood must be implemented. Strategies like armed escorts to watering holes and firewood collection location will decrease the opportunities for the perpetrators. Women proceeding into outskirts only in large groups or men collecting the firewood with the women or even a half way meeting point will prevent sexual abuse in the refugee camps. Global awareness will assist in raising money for night light in the camps, a safe system to call for security when in danger, night patrol and cameras in high risk areas. This will assist in ensuring and shielding the well-fare of not only the mental mind state of Somali women and children but also protect their health and future. Somali refugees are exploited, mistreated, branded inferior and completely disregarded as well as viewed as the forgotten society. Over two decades of neglect from the world by now Somali refugees deserve to be priority and be worthy of their rights as humans.