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Widows of war: clan conflict takes its toll on Somali women and children

Perennial clan clashes in Somalia have taken an enormous toll on the whole of Somali society, claiming an unknown number of lives and robbing families of livelihoods.  Women and children have borne the brunt of the violent conflict with the loss of their husbands, fathers, and breadwinners.

In one area struck by clan conflict in the rural areas of northern Somalia’s Sool region, three widows shared with Radio Ergo their stories of lives shattered several times over by clan-based violence.

The stories below of war widows Haweye, Amina and Khadra, living around 75 km south of Lasanod, all experience their most recent losses in October this year.

Haweye’s story

Haweye Elmi Warsame has been married three times but is now a widow raising her eight children as best she can.

In 2004, the year that the clan clashes erupted in the area, she married Mohamed Ahmed Ali in Dharkeyn village.  They lived happily together for eight years, during which time they had five children.

In 2012, the fighting took a more serious turn.  Ahmed was gunned down in a revenge attack by members of the opposing clan.

“There was fierce fighting between two clans living in the area. It led to the deaths of dozens of people and the displacement of hundreds others. My husband was killed while herding camels in a remote area,” Haweye recounted.

Some months later, she married again to Adan Ahmed Ali, the brother of her late husband, in a ceremony organized by her in-laws.

The ceremony locally known as Dumaal is a form of wife inheritance, which is common among Somali clans.

The couple started their new life together in Dharkeyn.

In 2015, as the clan conflict was rumbling on, there were yet more revenge killings. Her second husband was one of the victims.

“I had given birth to a child by my second husband.  He was trader and was not involved in any armed conflict, but unfortunately he was shot by gunmen in the village,” Haweye said.

Haweye married for the third time in 2016.  Abdirahim Ahmed Ali, her third husband, was also from the same family as her previous husbands and the marriage was arranged through Dumaal.

“He was a mason and he used to give me $100 dollars monthly to spend on food, water and other basics.  The amount was enough compared to what I survive on now, today,” Haweya said.

Abdirahim was killed in October, again as a result of ongoing conflict, leaving Haweya once again a widow.  She said he was targeted because of his clan as hostilities had once again arisen in the village.

Amina’s story

Amina Abdi Mohamud lost her first husband, Abdiaziz Awil Abdikani and their 14-year old son when armed clan militiamen stormed their village of Dhumay in 2014.

“They were killed in the morning. By that time there no clashes going on but armed men still attacked them. They were only killed because of their clan,” Amina said.

Months later, the village was attacked again. This time, Amina’s two brothers were killed.

“I was traumatized by these two attacks.  In just a few months, I lost four of my family members.  There are times when I feel overwhelmed by grief when I look at any of their belongings,” she said.

Three and half years later, Amina married her late husband’s brother, Abdirahim Awil, in a Dumaal ceremony.

“After I married Abdirahim, the life of my family returned to normal.  He used to help us very much,” said Amina.

But Abdirahim was killed in October after deadly fighting in Dumay village.

A mother of eight children, Amina fled the village and is currently living in a camp for the internally displaced in Sahder town, with over 500 other IDPs.

Khadra’s story

Khadra Adan Warsame’s first husband, Abdikani Ahmed Ali, was a teacher at a school in Darkeyn village.

According to Khadra, the death of Abdikani in 2012 was a revenge killing by members of an opposing clan.

“I have three children from Abdikani,” Khadra said.  “He was a school teacher and he never participated in clan clashes, but gunmen killed him on his way to work at the school.”

The following year, Abdikani’s brother Mohamud Ali Ahmed proposed to marry Khadra. She accepted the Dumaal marriage in accordance with the culture of the clan. But it was not long before tragedy struck again.

“I was remarried three years after my first marriage.  Mohamud was the brother of my first husband.  After two years of our marriage, Mohamud was killed in crossfire between two clan militias in Dabatag village. He was fetching water for the family when he was killed by clan militias.  I have two children from Mohamud,” Khadra narrated.

Similarly to Haweye, Khadra went on in 2016 to marry for a third time within the same family under customary laws.

They had one child, a boy. Abdullahi Ahmed Ali was also killed in October this year, when his son was two years old.

Khadra, widowed three times over, is living in Kalabayr village with her six children from three different fathers.

Source: Radio Ergo

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