By Ismail Warsame
Before Maqrib prayers I drove along the main road in Garowe City today. On my way to the city centre, the scenes on the sidewalks of the road, after crossing the bridge, were amazing in the sense that no one has ever seen such huge flow of youth walking home out of Mire Aware Stadium, where inter-regional soccer games in Puntland are taking place. What is unique in these walking masses is that girls outnumbered young men. It defies my earlier impression that girls and women in Somalia were less interested in soccer games, not to talk about any other kind of sports. I was wrong, although I think, girls never had an opportunity to play games in Puntland, and perhaps, elsewhere in today’s Somalia for a long time, where everybody is expected to conform to Arab attires and customs, policed invisibly by peudo-religious culture scornful of any resembles of not only Western dress, but also traditional Somali clothing, native customs and history. It is a culture war being waged on the population under the pretext of religious norms for the past 4 decades. Saudi Arabia is the main source of this culture war. Al-Shabab extremists have been imposing strict dress code as the “new normal” of Arab customs even in areas they don’t fully control in Somalia because some of the other Tariqas (religious sects) are either complicit or don’t want to mess up with Al-Shabab’s code of conduct. Nowadays in the streets of Somalia you are better off, in terms of personal safety, to dress up like Pakistani or Afghani. Only men’s gown known here as “Macawis” is barely tolerable for older men. ‘Khamiis”, the long-sleeved white Arab over-dress is fast becoming the dress of fashion for the younger generations of Somalia today. No sports, no music, no folklore dances and no movie watching are permitted in the world of Al-Shabab. There is a monotonous cultural blackout in Somalia. Putting one’s shirt under trousers’ belt is considered Western or even blasphemy, a typical Boko Haram of Nigeria harsh impositions. Some, shallow in religious education, were even critical of Puntland 23rd Anniversary festivals.
But the purpose of drafting this short article is to draw the attention of Puntland authorities, businesses and parents to the plight of youth and frustrations they are suffering due to lack of infrastructure for recreational activities and social youth clubs.
If you don’t want Puntland youth to resort to drugs, delinquencies, crime and migration, consider supporting programs geared towards youth development.