HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING :
HUMAN TRAFFICKING :
SEX SLAVERY :
COUNTRIES: MOMBASA, SOMALIA:
The Sex Slaves of Al-Shabab
The sex slaves of al-Shabab
By Charlotte Attwood
25 May 2017
When Salama Ali started investigating the disappearance of two younger brothers last year she made an awful discovery – not only were radicalised young Kenyan men leaving to join the al-Shabab militants in neighbouring Somalia, but women were being seized and trafficked by the group as sex slaves.
Salama’s search for information about her brothers had to be carried out quietly and confidentially, as any hint of a connection with the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab can arouse the suspicion of the security forces.
So she met discreetly with other women in Mombasa and the surrounding area, sharing stories and seeking information about male relatives who had vanished.
“We discovered there were lots of us,” Salama says.
But Salama also uncovered something very different – stories of women who had been taken to Somalia against their will.
The women were both young and old, from Christian and Muslim communities, from Mombasa and other parts of Kenya’s coastal region. They were usually promised high-paid work in another town or abroad, and then kidnapped.
Last September Salama trained as a counsellor and set up a secret support group for returning women. Word spread and soon women began seeking her out and asking to join the group.
Some arrived with babies, she says, some with HIV, and some with mental illness caused by their experiences. All are terrified to speak openly, because of the risk of being mistakenly identified as an al-Shabab sympathiser.
In a dark room with the curtains drawn, I meet this extraordinary group of women, who have a story that has never been told.
“Men used to come and have sex with me – I can’t tell you the number,” says one, shaking her head as she recounts her ordeal. “For those three years, every man was coming to sleep with me.”
“They’d bring two or three men for each woman every night,” says another. “We would be raped repeatedly.”
Some women were forced to become the “wives” of al-Shabab militants, it appears, while others were held as slaves in a brothel.
Al-Shabab is fighting to create a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia and has launched attacks on neighbouring countries, which have all sent troops to fight them as part of an African Union force.
One new member of Salama’s group, Faith, has only recently escaped captivity.
She was 16 when she was approached by an elderly couple and offered a job in Malindi, further up the coast. Desperate for work, the next day she boarded a bus with 14 other passengers and all were given drugged water to drink.
“When we regained consciousness, there were two men inside the room,” Faith says. “They blindfolded us with black scarves. They raped us in that room.”
Drugged again, Faith woke up in a small clearing in a dark forest and was told she would be killed if she tried to escape.
Terrified, she spent the next three years alone cooking for a group of Somali men “with long long beards”.
She had also become pregnant, as a result of being raped, and had to deliver her own child alone in the forest.
The complete article may be read at the URL above.
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