Poet Naema Ahmed Ibrahim was sentenced in Hargeisa to three years in prison on 15 April 2018 on charges of statements she allegedly made in Mogadishu, according to Freemuse sources, Civicus and Human Rights Centre Somaliland.
The regional court said the poet was convicted for “bringing the nation or the state into contempt” under Article 219(2) of the Penal Code. The poet faced a second charge of “anti-national activity of a citizen abroad” under article 212 of the Penal Code, which the court said she did not commit.
Prosecutors stated the alleged statements were “against the separation of the Republic of Somaliland” and called Somaliland a “region”.
This article was updated on 24 April 2018. The original article, entitled Somalia: Poet arrested after returning home, was published on 13 February 2018 and appears below.
Poet Naema Ahmed Ibrahim was arrested without charge on 27 January 2018 by National Intelligence Agency authorities at Egal International Airport in Hargeisa where she was scheduled to fly back to Mogadishu, according to Freemuse sources and local news and human rights organisation reports.
Additionally, the female poet has been denied visits from her family after her father gave interviews to media explaining what happened.
The female poet travelled to Hargeisa to visit her father who was recovering from an operation. Authorities arrested her when she attempted to fly back to Mogadishu where she works and performs.
The female poet moved to Mogadishu as youth unemployment in Hargeisa is high. In Mogadishu she has been able to participate in arts and cultural performances that have aired on television and radio, as well as online, which has broadened her audience outside the country. The poet has spoken out for a united Somalia.
This is not the first time artists have been arrested for traveling to the Somali capital of Mogadishu from Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland—a self-declared, though internationally unrecognised state that has distanced itself from Somalia as it is seen as a threat to their independence as long as it retains cultural unity with the country.
Most recently musician Nimcaan Hilaac was arrested in 2017 in his home town in Somaliland after having spent two years living in Mogadishu to promote his music career. According to Freemuse sources he has since been released. Previously, Hilaac had been arrested in 2015 on a trip home from Mogadishu as well and was released after a day in detention. That same year four other musicians were arrested after returning from a tour in Mogadishu. In 2016, another musician was arrested for the same travel and his interest in running for public office.