By Ismail Warsame
Somali men respect their respective mother-in-laws (sodoh) religiously. Any man found disrespectful of the rule is ostracized within the society. As I traveled around the world, I have been discovering that mothers-in-law may not enjoy the same privileges elsewhere, for instance, India.
Over the past years, as I had had the chance to interact with some East Indian colleagues at workplace or during travel, I found out that most married Indian men talk a lot about “the mother-in-law” and her hateful position in the household. As I continued to regard their conversations on the issue not only disrespectful, but also inhumane, until one day a friend of mine relayed to me a sad story involving the bitter experience of his Somali friend with his mother-in-law. The story is about a son-in-law making extra personal sacrifices to attend the plight of his mother-in-law. He took her to Mogadishu from the taugh life of rural Mudugh Region, to be exact, from Galdogob countryside, away from the burning heat of scorched earth with scarcity of drinking water. He settled her in a self-contained room in his house in Mogadishu. The mother-in-law started learning the Qur’an and praying five times daily. She was extremely thankful to her son-in-law for the comfort she was enjoying.
Clan-cleansing started in Mogadishu, following the Civil War in January 1991. The family had to flee to safety, only to find themselves in a checkpoint erected by tribal gangs, ready to rob and rape. Under negotiations upon ramsom and extortion, the son-in-law was allowed to take his wife and kids unhurt, but not his mother-in-law- the old woman was targeted for rape. The son-in-law still had to offer the gangs what was left of his family’s meagre travel expenses for emegency escape to Kismayo. He saved her from gang-rape.
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After long ordeal, the family had managed to settle in North America as political refugees. After a while, the mother-in-law had turned up aggressive and hostile towards her son-in-law to the extent that one day she slapped him in the face and demanded him to vacate his own home. He got out of the house, leaving North America altogether for a European country for good. He had left his family behind and started rebuilding his life anew. Most of his sons got spoiled in North America, growing up in the absence of a father.
I now got the message and attitudes of Indian men towards mothers-in-law.
Among the tragedies of Somalia’s Civil War includes an obscene case in which a group of women were taken from lorry at gunpoint in the darkness of the night to be gang-raped. One of the perpetrators had discovered in the next morning that two of his own sisters were among the victims the night before – a truly tragic story among the countless others.
During the brief occupation of Galkayo by General Aideed’s USC militia in March 3, 1991, at least five hundred women were gang-raped- some of whom were pregnant at the time, had suffered miscarriages due to the ordeal, not to mention about the massive human rights abuses in the epicenter of the conflict, Mogadishu.
Take a listen: https://www.facebook.com/WaddaniSoomaaliTv/videos/173662544711183/