Somalia: Bloodshed continues and music disappears



Bloodshed continues and music disappears

Radical Islamist groups have unleashed a renewed crackdown on music, cinemas, and music-related events as part of their unrelenting efforts to silence the music and musicians of Somalia.

By Abdulkadir M. Wa’ays

Militia from radical Islamist groups are currently engaged in fighting with Somalia’s weak government forces and its allied Ethiopian troops in South and Central Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu. Violent attacks currently take place almost every day, and over the past weeks, the Islamists’ crackdown on music has intensified.

Here is a summary of some of the recent incidents:

Cinema-houses bombed
On Saturday night 21 June 2008, one person was killed and four others injured when militia from radical Islamist groups hurled a grenade at a cinema-hall in the capital Mogadishu, where youths were watching films, football matches, and Somali music videos.

In another similar attack in the town of Baidaba, the seat of Somalia’ Transitional Federal Parliament, the radical Islamist militia threw a grenade at a cinema-house on Sunday night 22 June 2008. At the time, local youths were watching films, Euro 2008 quarter final match between Spain and Italy, and music-related videos.

According to witnesses, more than ten young boys were wounded in the blast while two of them died in the Baidaba hospital.

The victims of this horrific attack were aged between 12 and 15 years. Six year old boy was among the dead, says Aden Hassan, the cinema owner. (Source: AFP, 23 June 2008).

Live music stopped
Since June 2006 when the armed movements of the Somali Islamists joined into the power play of Somalia’s clan-based civil war under the banner of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), their militia have been continuously attacking musicians, and stopping them from holding public live music shows. And as a result, musicians put their live music shows to a halt for fear of their lives.

As the Somali youths have alternatively resorted to the cinema-houses to watch films and music related videos, these militia have begun attacking the cinema-houses for showing films and Somali screen plays under the pretext that music and such viewing are un-Islamic.

Folklore dancers attacked
On Sunday night 29 June, militia from the Union of Islamic Courts opened fire at a traditional folklore dancing event in Ceelgeelle, a rural village on the outskirts of Bal’ad town in the Middle Shabelle region, 30 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu, a region directly ruled by the UIC militia after they had recaptured it from the government and its Ethiopian allied forces.

As an integral and core part of Somalis’ traditional art form and music, still practiced in the rural areas, young men and women nomads get together for nocturnal folklore dancing events in a bit to interact, flirt, and socialize among themselves.

In this attack, two of the nomad dancers were wounded while others who fled to the bush for fear of their lives are still unaccounted for. (Source: Radio Shabelle, 30 June 2008)

About the Union of Islamic Courts
In 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts emerged from the chaos in the capital Mogadishu. The Islamic Courts seized and ruled large parts of the country for six months, and imposed a strict form of Islamic law, notably banning music, cinemas, and all music-related events. They were pushed from power in December the following year by Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces but they have since been waging a deadly Iraqi-style guerrilla war and have recaptured some towns in Somalia.


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