Jama Dhoodi Shirar, an elder of the minority group Gabooyo. Photo Credit: Abdullahi Salad/IRIN
SOMALIA: Jama Dhoodi Shirar, "It is as if we don't exist"
BELETWEYNE (IRIN) - Jama Dhoodi Shirar, in his 60s, hails from one of Somalia's marginalised minority groups, the Gabooyo. He lives in the town of Beletweyne in Hiiraan, central Somalia, with at least 400 other families (2,400 people).
Minority groups such as the Gabooyo are discriminated against, mostly for the work they do, such as shoemaking and iron-smelting. Despite the fact that they are Somalis and Muslims, these minority groups are not allowed to marry into the larger Somali community and do not socially interact with them.
Shirar spoke to IRIN about the plight of his people:
"I know everybody in Somalia is suffering but no one is suffering what we are suffering. We are suffering in silence. No one knows about our plight.
"They [the majority Somali community] don't acknowledge that we are here. It is as if we don't exist.
"We have no clan support or protection; and so we are trampled upon by everybody. When one of us is killed, we are not given diya [compensation]. We are lucky if we get an apology from the clan involved.
"The death of an animal gets more attention.
"During the revolutionary period [President Siad Barre's regime between 1969 and 1990] we were much better treated. Siad banned any discrimination against us. We were brought into the mainstream and we were allowed to work or do whatever we wanted. However, all this has ended.
"We have no representation in any of the local administrations. So when you are not represented anywhere, it means you are not there.
"When [aid] agencies bring food and other help, we are not given any. They share among themselves and we are left with nothing because we are not part of the decision-making. Yet we suffer worse than the rest.
"We are Somalis and we are Muslims. All we are asking for is to be recognised as human beings like everyone else.
"We are praying that the new government will do better and address our problem and do the right thing."
Source: IRIN, Saturday, March 21, 2009