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Somalia's ethnic and religious minorities forgotten victims of civil war - new MRG report

Somalia's ethnic and religious minorities forgotten victims of civil war - new MRG report

23 November 2010

Full-text English or Somali

Minorities in Somalia are being subjected to a previously unreported pattern of gross human rights violations including summary executions, reported beheadings and rape, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says in a new report.

The report, No redress: Somalia's forgotten minorities, says the situation for minorities is worse than for other groups in the current conflict because, unlike the majority population, they lack protection from the traditional clan structure.

Majority clans continue to exclude minorities, including the Bantu and Gaboye, from political, economic and social life, deny them human rights and access to justice, and punish couples who inter-marry.

While Somalia frequently makes headlines over the problem of piracy, the plight of the country's ethnic and religious minorities is shocking and yet little known, the new report says.

'Tens of thousands of minorities have been displaced from south-central Somalia due to the civil war,' says Mark Lattimer, MRG's Executive Director. ‘Now they are vulnerable to renewed abuse in IDP camps.'

'There is a well-known saying in Somali: "No-one will weep for you. No-one will avenge you." That is the reality for the country's minorities,' he added.

The report notes that minority women who have been uprooted because of the conflict suffer flagrant abuse, and calls for special measures to protect and promote their rights.

MRG researchers visiting camps for IDPs in Puntland, in north-eastern Somalia in 2009, were told of a disturbing and persistent pattern of rape of minority women, perpetrated by majority men and sometimes by members of the Puntland police, army or security service.

Somalia's majority community is formed of four main clan families: Darod, Dir, Hawiye and Rahanweyn, who traditionally hold social and political power.

The country's minorities are from ethnic groups including Bantu, Benadiri, Gaboye or occupational groups, and also include religious minorities such as Christians. All have suffered marginalization and exclusion from mainstream life despite, according to the UN, making up at one time a third of the country's population.

In crisis-stricken south-central Somalia, the armed group al-Shabaab has repeatedly carried out attacks in the past year against minorities, particularly Bantus and Christians, with reports of shootings, beheadings and the imposition of laws restricting religious practices, with harsh consequences for dissent.

The conflict has forced people from the area in their thousands in 2010 alone, the report says.

The report calls for the inclusion in the future new Constitution of Somalia of specific recognition for the country's minorities and their rights to equality as recognised by international human rights standards. It also recommends that all UN and other international agencies operating in Somalia should ensure that minority concerns are included in their programmes.

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