S O M A L I W O M E N
E Q U A L I N H E R I T A N C E
R I G H T
A U G U S T 11, 2 0 0 9
August 11, 2009
The Year 1975 looms large in the annals of Somali history. It was also the year the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed as International Women’s Year. The special objective of International Women’s Year was to promote equality between men and women. What better year than 1975, where inheritance rights for Somali women were given international recognition and visibility. On January 11, 1975, Somali President, Siyaad Barre, announced a decree for women (Xeerka Qoyska), giving Somali women equal inheritance right. 
As it happened, the new decree, which had a clause safeguarding women’s inheritance right, met a strong opposition at its early stage. Many men denounced the new law on religious grounds. Encouraged by some religious men, many young men organized protests on Friday sermons. In these sermons, they criticized the new law; and regard the observance of equal inheritance right as a step toward atheism. These religious men, lay or sheikh, attacked the new law and assaulted the morality and the goals of the Revolution, assailing in particular the President for ignoring his faith and denying the Islamic values of woman, family, and motherhood. They said justice and equality is one of the pillars of Islam and it helps eliminating all forms of inequality. They spoke about the importance of family in Muslim society.
On the other hand, in an interview he gave to an Egyptian Magazine, ROSE AL-YUSUF (below), the President made a reference to foreign involvement in Somali affairs. He said that these foreign agents make use of religion to create riots and unrest in the country.
The President declared that those who question Xeerka Qoyska must know that they are law breakers, despite their use of the slogan “Allahu Akbar”. He said the new family law (Xeerka Qoyska) was the culmination of long struggle for equal inheritance right. The President also underlined that “Somali woman was a major pillar in our old and contemporary struggle. Without her, it was impossible for Somalia to become free.”
In short, the government viewed this protest against equal rights decree for women as an act that incites subversion of State power and causes national disunity.
On January 23, 1975, ten sheikhs were executed in Mogadishu by a firing squad. Their crime was speaking and involving in religious protests against the new family law. The ten men were:
1. Ali Hassan Warsame
2. Ali Jama Hersi
3. Adan Ali Hersi
4. Sheikh Ahmed Iman
5. Sheikh Ahmed Sheikh Mohamed
6. Hasan Issa Iley
7. Mohamed Siyaad Hersi
8. Sheikh Muse Yusuf
9. Saleeban Jama Mohamed
10. Yasin Elmi Awl
Here, Roobdoon Forum forwards to its readership an incredible interview with Siyaad Barre, as a part of Zooming into the Past series. After reading it, some will have the impression that the President had few commendable human attitudes; but others may find Siyaad’s statements as nothing but offensive words.
 1974-75 was also a period in which Somalis remember and call it “Abaartii Dabadheer” (The Year of the Long Drought). As Africa Confidential notes, “the drought disaster, the worst in living memory and a continuation of the catastrophe that had earlier hit neighbouring Ethiopia, is estimated to have cost the Somali national economy a total of So. Sh. 4,378,320,000 or about £320m in losses and relief and rehabilitation expenses. Nearly 20,000 people died from the effects of the drought between October 1974 and June 1975, when a national emergency was declared. By April 1975 nearly 270,000 destitute nomadic people were gathered in relief camps in the North. Almost another million were assisted outside the camps”.
How did the Russians respond to Dabadheer drought?
As many sources indicate, “Only the USSR responded generously by providing over 100 lorries and 12 Antonov transport aircraft with crews and fuel for the resettlement movement and has pledged 33 million dollars’ worth of aid for fishermen’ Co-operatives in which about 10,000 former nomads will be accommodated”.
Somalia's Disappointment towards the Arabs
The Somali government was particularly disappointed that the countries of the Arab League, which had earlier promised 100 million dollars, came with little more than 10 million, mainly from Libya.
What Saudis have done during Somalia’s hour of need was spending 10 million dollars for the work of the largest Mosque in Mogadishu, Masjidka Isbahaysiga.
EGYPTIAN MAGAZINE INTERVIEWS PRESIDENT BARRE
Cairo ROSE AL-YUTSUF: in Arabic, Feb 02, 1976, pp 35, 36, 37, 38, 94
[ROSE AL-YUSUF Editor Muhammad Awdah's interview with Somali President, Mohammed Siad Barre--no date or place given]
Question: NO One can deny Somalia’s importance for Egypt in particular, whether from the military or the strategic standpoints. Therefore, the Egyptian public has the right to ask: What exactly is your stand toward Islam?
Answer: The Egyptian public should not have found any difficulty in answering this question. The Somali people are 100 percent Muslim. The Somali revolution is a legitimate, loyal and benevolent offspring of the 23 July revolution. The Somali revolution has studied all the lessons of the mother revolution, but it wanted to move one step ahead on the same road.
Question: A step toward Marxism. Is that not so'? The question is, why this choice'?
Answer: Because the Somalis are a simple and frank people. They call things by their names. We did not have any other choice. Since we have chosen socialism, this socialism should be a genuine one. And if this socialism is to be genuine, it must be scientific.
Socialism in essence is the science of interpreting and changing society. There is no other definition. If genuine socialism is Marxism, why then are we afraid of it or beat around the bush? Why not go to it directly? The schools and the great socialist experiments, which proved correct, are Marxist. Why not learn from them and copy them?
We are a society unique in our backwardness. The United Nations classifies us on top of the list of the 25 most underdeveloped states in the world. Seventy percent of our people are still living in a state of pre-feudal nomadism. They cannot remain as they are for another decade. We must transform our people from nomadism and famine to life and dignity.
Therefore, we have no other alternative but to seize control of all our natural resources and to mobilize all our resources and capabilities. We must also plan all our production needs and calculate all our steps. This is what we mean by Scientific Socialism. Our choice of Scientific Socialism was not casual or accidental. We had important parties, bodies and personalities calling for socialism. However, they were calling for all kinds of socialism--Somali, Islamic, African or Arab brands of socialism.
There was only one brand of socialism which they averted and were very hostile to, namely Scientific Socialism. All of them achieved nothing. On the contrary, socialism for them was a mere facade to cover up tribal, party or personal interests or ambitions. It had nothing to do with the people's needs.
We looked around at states and regimes in the African continent declaring socialism and calling for it. However, in application it was nothing more than slogans concealing the capitalist and exploitative nature of the ruling cliques in these states.
Through our choice of Scientific Marxist Socialism, we wanted to affirm the seriousness, and decisiveness of the choice, to rehabilitate socialism and to restore the masses ‘confidence masses’ enthusiasm and support for the choice have increased. We did not want to deceive ourselves and the people by hollow slogans which mean nothing. We declared our choice of a Scientific, revolutionary course capable of coping with our reality and problems.
Perhaps we do not have classes in the Marxist sense of the word. However, the majority is persecuted and exploited. This majority constitutes shepherds, peasants, fishermen, small employees and soldiers. On the other extreme, we have the minority which constitutes the exploiters and parasites. They follow the same line and are affiliated with foreigners.
Question: But our spiritual, cultural and national heritage is an Islamic heritage. Does that not conflict with the choice of Marxism?
Answer: The Somalis are Muslim Arabs. They fully understand the meaning of Arabism as a nationality, and Islam as a religion which came to establish justice and equality among the people. Our history is a history of struggle for the sake of our personality, nationalism and religion. The Somali people are a Muslim people fully believing in Islam. On several occasions, the entire Somali people rose to defend Islam and to repulse all the threats and invasions directed against the religion and the homeland.
Socialism, of course, is not a divine mission like Islam. It is purely a system to regulate relations between people, and to use the means of Production for the good of everyone. Therefore, there can be no contradiction between our effort to regulate our resources and national production on the one hand and Islam on the other.
God created man and gave him the blessing of the mind to distinguish between good and evil, virtue and vice. We have chosen Scientific Socialism because it is the best means to liberate the Somali Muslim, and to provide him with the ingredients of a dignified, honorable life so that he can eat, work, become educated, know the regulations of his religion and perform his religious rites. Nevertheless, a group of reactionaries attempted. to create a gap between Socialism and Islam, because Socialism is not in harmony with their ambitions and interests. Therefore, they wanted to ban it and disguise their greed and exploitation in a robe of holiness. They went out of their way to twist God 's words and to distort the essence of religion.
Question: Was this the point when the campaign in the name of religion began?
Answer: Yes. The exploitation of religion has now become Imperialism's first, last and most important weapon. Reactionaries and imperialists have now become the protectors and guards of religion against its enemies. Imagine who are these “enemies?” They are those who seek to rid the peoples of injustice – banned by God – and to eliminate people’s persecution and repression, which religion came to alleviate.
At the beginning, we thought that it was a reactionary outburst which would eventually end. However, we were surprised by a coordinated, loud, noisy and very violent orchestra playing uninterruptedly against us. I, one, who has lived as a faithful Muslim and will die so, became an atheist according to them. They threatened to murder me. Somalia, which has been, throughout its entire history, Islam’s fortress and shield in East Africa, from where Islam was introduced and spread in Africa, became according to them, a communist and debased state.
Question: Can I ask, then, why the clash took place with the men of religion regarding the civil status law? And what led to executing 10 of them?
President Barre became excited and said immediately:
Answer: These were not ulemas or men of religion. They were not executed because they were so or because of the civil status law. During the trial, we found out that eight of them could not read or write. We asked one of them to recite one verse of the Qur'an, but he could not. We asked one of them to perform ablutions, and he began by washing his left foot. One of them was not a Somali, etc.
There were two sheikhs among them and the rest were ordinary agents and subversives. We discovered that it was a wide-scale plan perpetrated abroad in accordance with specific moves and steps to take place after contacts with other bodies and organizations. There were attempts to infiltrate the armed forces and arouse its members. It was a general movement intended to topple the entire regime under the disguise of religion. It began from the mosques and moved to the streets. Its aim was to attract all forces in order to achieve its final goal.
Therefore, we struck mercilessly so that no one would dare to tamper with religion, and in order to prevent the rise of counterrevolutionary forces. The civil status law was a mere pretext. Any provision in the law could have been deleted or changed if demands were made to this effect.
But it could not be a reason for declaring the Revolution and the State atheist, and calling for the execution of its leader as well as calling on the people to take to the streets to cut our throats as a religious duty.
It was a counterrevolution disguising itself under the name of religion. The aim of this counterrevolution was to distort our image among the Arabs and Muslims. Those who made this clamor were part of the conspiracy from the beginning. We could have exposed them, we kept silent for stronger reasons and preferred to act patiently, because facts were to be revealed soon and our brethren and sincere friends would know that the issue was not one of religion or men of religion.
What has happened since the beginning is that on the occasion of the International woman’s Day, we wanted to honor the Somali woman and restore to her all her rights and consideration, because the Somali woman was a major pillar in our old and contemporary struggle. Without her, it was impossible for Somalia to become free. Among the highest statues in Mogadishu is the statue of a woman who was martyred in the demonstrations and battles against the Italians. It is a symbol of the Somali woman. Since our society has chosen Scientific Socialism, it must provide the woman with her full rights and equality with men.