Don’t kill me,’ she screamed. Then they stoned her to death
This was a death foretold. A Toyota pickup with a loudspeaker began an early-morning tour of the
ruined neighbourhoods of Kismayo, a port in southern Somalia, announcing that there would be a killing.
By 4pm a crowd of 1,000 people had gathered at the football stadium. A hole had been dug in the ground,
and half an hour later a truck loaded with rocks arrived.
A group of fighters from the Al-Shabab militia who control the city appeared, firing warning
shots into the air to disperse a crush of people trying to reach the stones.
A young girl was dragged into the stadium. She knew what was going to happen next,
and witnesses saw her struggling and screaming.
“What do you want from me?” she asked. Then she shouted “I’m not going, I’m not going. Don’t kill me.”
But four men forced her into the hole and buried her up to her neck. Fifty men then set about stoning her
to death. After 10 minutes she was dug up and two nurses checked to see if she was alive. She was. So they
put her back in the ground and the stoning recommenced.
Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow’s crime was to be raped and then report it. After being attacked by three men her family
went to the Al-Shabab Islamist militia to report the crime. She was detained and accused of adultery. No effort
was made to identify or arrest the rapists.
Despite reports that she was 23 years old, Aisha was actually 13. “She hadn’t even reached the age to
be married,” her distraught father said.
People in Kismayo say they live in constant fear of the Al-Shabab, but not everyone was content to watch
a “clearly distressed” girl being stoned to death. Some people tried to intervene. The gunmen fired shots;
one man was wounded and an eight-year-old boy was shot dead. The militia later apologised for his killing.
After the execution a man called Sheik Hayakalah told a radio station: “The evidence came from her side
and she officially confirmed her guilt,” he said. “She told us that she was happy with the punishment under
Islamic law.” Aisha’s father said his daughter had begged for her life. It is illegal under Sharia to convict
a 13-year-old of adultery.
Somalia is nightmarish. During the Cold War its strategic location on the Horn of Africa saw it become
possibly the world’s largest arms dump. With no effective government for nearly two decades, it has become
a theatre for the proxy wars of its neighbours and a domain ruled by warlords and extremists. The emergence
of the Islamic Courts movement, which drove the warlords out of Mogadishu, briefly offered hope of relative
stability. Instead the movement was portrayed as a hotbed of Islamist extremism, accused of links to al-Qa’ida,
and neighbouring Ethiopia was encouraged by the US to invade.
Today the country is divided between warlords, an illegitimate government protected by occupying troops,
resurgent Islamist militias and a small, besieged force of Ugandan peacekeepers. Three million people out
of a population of nine million are at immediate risk of starvation.
Incidents such as the stoning are presented by some as evidence of the need to confront Islamist forces in
the country. However, analysts point out that the “military solution” has been a crushing failure that has
driven out moderates and made a bad situation dramatically worse.