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Archive for August 2011

Bahrain Fiasco

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Mr. Nabel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

By Hassan Isilow
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has described King Hamad bin Isa’s approved parliamentary reforms as a sham process, urging that it was impossible to dialogue when half of the country’s opposition was in jail.

“We don’t see any indication that government is serious about dialogue. The matter is as bad as before. We are heading towards a deeper crisis,” Nabel Rajab, president of the center told Africa witness.

He said the government of Bahrain was merely trying to convince the international community after being pressurized to reform. Two weeks ago Bahrain’s king approved parliamentary reforms after the suppression of pro-democracy protests in March, but the opposition has said the process does not fulfill their demands. “There are no serious reforms or dialogue taking place in Bahrain. The government has brought in more troops from Saudi-Arabia, United Arab Emirates and mercenaries from other countries to quell protestors,” Nabel revealed.

Last week demonstrations took place in the capital Manama and several villages including Sitra, Karzakan and A’ali. The protesters chanted slogans against King Hamad and demanded an end to his dictatorship. In A’ali -village, Saudi-backed Bahraini troops used teargas against the protesters. One protester’s home was also set on fire. The Persian Gulf sheikhdom has been rocked by a wave of anti-government protests since February. Dozens have been killed and hundreds wounded in the clampdown.

Saeed al-Shahabi of the Bahrain Freedom Movement told Press TV last week that the situation was so tense that nobody could forecast were it was heading to. When asked why Western governments were silent regarding the Bahrain revolution yet protestors were being beaten by the military. Al-shahabi said the west has been adopting double standard in its policies towards the Middle East. He said the west would keep quiet about what the Israelis would do, but would raise massive short comings about other countries.

“As regards to Bahrain, they have chosen not to say anything, and they have chosen to be on the wrong side of history by supporting the hereditary dictatorship, and by keeping quiet about the Saudi occupation of the country.” He said western powers went to Kuwait to liberate it from Saddam Hussein forces in 1991, but they would keep quiet and probably support the Saudi mercenaries, who are the source of all evil in the world today, including terrorism, fanaticism, and extremism.
Additional reporting from PRESS TV


Written by africawitness

August 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Human trafficking still a huge problem

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A trafficked woman breaks into tears at a workshop.

By Hassan Isilow

PRETORIA-Many young girls are lured by human traffickers with false promises of jobs in South Africa only to find themselves exploited, an official at the International Organisation for Migration has warned.

“Many people are convinced by human traffickers that there are jobs in South Africa or overseas. But upon arrival, they are exploited,” Marija Nikolovska, head of the irregular migration programme at IOM told Africa Witness.

She said human tracking was a huge problem, but since it was conducted in secret it was difficult to establish the exact number of people affected. Marija said in the last seven years IOM in SADC had assisted over 200 people who had been brought into the region and exploited.

According to a study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in 2010, four major trafficking streams into South Africa were identified.

The first stream involved cases of trafficking to South Africa from outside Africa. Then trafficking to South Africa from within Africa and trafficking within the national borders of South Africa. The study noted that there were also traffickers who used South Africa as a transit point to other countries.

Trafficking out of South Africa was found to be much less voluminous than trafficking into the country. The HSRC report quoted that the IOM had recorded eight cases of trafficking from South Africa between January 2004 and January 2008. The destination country for the trafficked South Africans included Ireland, Zimbabwe, Israel, Switzerland and the Netherlands. There were also cases of women being trafficked to Macau.

The study confirmed that women constituted the largest group of victims in all streams of trafficking. Victims of intercontinental trafficking were usually between the ages of 19 and 50 years who were trafficked predominantly for sexual exploitation. In the course of the investigation, many forms of exploitation were identified, including trafficking for prostitution, pornography, forced marriage, domestic servitude, forced labour, begging, and criminal activity including drug trafficking.

Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth are believed to be primary destinations for underage sex tourism, involving children between 10 and 14 years of age. The report said this pattern indicated an international component, in which people seeking sex tourism traveled to developing countries looking for anonymity and vulnerable children who are available for prostitution.

Written by africawitness

August 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

Posted in Xenophobia

Famine Unites Somalis

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Former Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf(L) and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi Prepare to welcome visiting Italian deputy Foriegn minister Patrizia sentinelli inside villa Somalia Mogadishu , May 19,2007 ( Photo Shabelle Media)

Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN- Despite political and clan differences among the Somali community in South Africa, the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and famine in Somalia has brought some measure of unity among them.
“People are more united in this community than ever before. Tribal and political differences have been set aside during this holy month of Ramadan,” an elderly member of the Somali community in Bellville told Africa witness.
He said the famine in their homeland had brought Somali’s together. “I wish the trend would continue like this. Every community member here has been concerned about the situation back home. The famine has affected every clan, every political grouping and religious sect,” he said. “People attend salah (prayers) in any of the two mosques in Bellville, without caring about sect differences anymore.”
Concerns about their homeland have caused the Somali community to dig deeper into their own pockets to raise funds for the famine victims.
Sheikh Abdi Rashid Afi, an executive member of the Somali Community Board (SCOB) in the Western Cape said Somali’s had managed to raise R180, 000 through donations. He said the money was raised in door to door collections, as well as people who donated at the local mosques, giving amounts ranging from R20 – R500, all of which he said made a huge difference.
Amir Sheikh, secretary general of SCOB reported that Somali’s in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Northwest had contributed close to half a million rand to help their starving people back home. “The Somali community in Rustenburg yesterday (August 22) contributed eight tons of food which we gave to Gift of the Givers which is sending aid to Somalia,” he said on Monday (August 21), adding that his community was grateful to the South Africans for generously contributing funds to help starving Somali’s.

Somalis living across the globe have dug deeper into their pockets to collect funds for famine- relief at home. The Somali Diaspora has made considerable contributions.
However locally, in South Africa, the Somali humanitarian effort has brought more unity which stands in stark difference to the period before Ramadan where the deep division had been well-known. Prior to Ramadan, some Somalis supported the United Nations backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG), while others supported Al-Shabbab. Earlier this year in Bellville (Cape Town’s Little Mogadishu) there was friction when visiting Muslim scholars from the Salafi sect criticised followers of the Ahle Sunnah wal Jamah sect over practises of celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday known as Maulud anabi.
But these differences for now appear to have moved to the background. Speaking to members of the Somali community now, one hears the heartfelt desire for peace in the Horn of Africa where devastation has sowed over the last two decades. “Most Somalis are tired of this war and want to see peace in their homeland,” 32-year old Omar Ali told Africa witness.

End of war
He said it was painful for most Somali’s to live as refugees in foreign countries. “Most of us are yearning to go back home and build our country.” But for now the deepening famine and ongoing political conflict makes that pipe dream for many.
Abdi Samatar, a geography professor at the University of Minnesota specializing in the Horn of Africa, said Somalia’s future will require “the reconstruction project of a government that’s free and that’s accountable to its people.” This he called “the best defence against terrorists, or famine, for that matter.
Samatar predicts that in the coming months once people have received enough food and rebuilt their lives, they are likely to march for political freedom in a revolutionary style. Local Somalis agree. “I think Somalia’s 20-year old conflict can be solved by Somali people themselves through dialogue and not foreign intervention,” said Yasin Abirakaza, a Somali University student in Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, Professor Afyare Elmi, a lecturer at Qatar University this week wrote in the opinions section of Al Jazeera, that although the international community and the Somali Diaspora had shown unity and leadership in combating the famine by sending donations to the starving people, it was imperative for them to foresee the creation of strong state institutions. Currently more than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are severely affected by famine and in need of humanitarian assistance.

Written by africawitness

August 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Cape Town’s ‘‘little Mogadishu’’

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An aerial view of Blankenburg street in the Bellville CBD( Photo Hassan Isilow)

By Hassan Isilow
For some people, Bellville is just another Central Business District (CBD) of Cape Town. But the reality is that it feels much different from other bustling shopping zones in the mother city.
Once in Bellville you realise the difference. One part of the CBD, which is the busiest, has been taken over by the Somali refugee community, who number in their thousands. The southern part is mainly occupied by the local coloured community.
A stroll along Durban road, in the main Bellville CBD makes you feel as though you are in down-town Mogadishu. Women dressed in full-body hijabs and niqaabs are seen selling clothes on street stands along Blankenburg Street. Somali men move about sanguinely through bursting street crowds, while others are seen labouring for themselves, loading merchandise on to their bakkies (pick-up trucks). The environment here is almost synonymous with that in Mogadishu.
Roughly 90% of businesses in Bellville belong to Somali’s who have come to South Africa as refugees, while 5% belongs to local companies and the remaining 5% is owned by other foreign nationals.
“When I arrived here in 1997, there were very few Somali nationals. Those I found were hawkers selling belts, chocolate, chips and sweets at the taxi rank. But today Bellville has very many Somalis’’ Ahmed Mohammed related.
He explained that Somali’s are a close-knit community who like living together. That’s why many of them have found comfort in Bellville where a true sense of community exudes.
‘‘People know of Bellville, even in Somalia,” Ahmed revealed. “When some new Somali refugees arrive in the country, they prefer coming straight to Bellville compared to staying in Johannesburg or other cities.’’ He said despite attacks on Somali nationals in the townships, they still preferred to live in the Western Cape compared to other provinces.

A local businessman in Bellville said ever since the Somali’s overtook Bellville, the CBD has became extremely busy with buyers coming from different parts of the province to buy merchandise.
If you’re looking for cheap Chinese commodities to purchase, then Bellville is the ideal place for you. There are several shops selling Chinese merchandise at unbelievably low – prices. There are also many street hawkers selling different products.

There are over 10 traditional Somali restaurants selling a variety of foods. A three-course meal of Pasta and meat enough for three people costs about R45.00 ($7), while an additional R15.00 gets you a full jug of milk.
Despite shoppers and store owners being spoilt for choice with regards to food, Somali restaurants in the CBD still manage to survive because the majority of people here do not cook during day time; they depend on food from their traditional restaurants.
There are also many Somali owned backpacker lodges which offer cheap accommodation to Somalis and anybody else willing to stay there.
This form of accommodation is popular among the youth because it enables them to save money, which they remit back home to their families.

The good thing with the Somali community is that one can survive among them even without having money. The spirit of UBUNTU or caring for others is well and alive in this community.
Sheikh Abdi Rashid Afi of the Somali community board (SCOB) said Somali people can never abandon one of their members to starve without food. ‘‘In this community we always share, despite the little we may have’’ the Alim (Islamic Scholar) revealed

Written by africawitness

August 4, 2011 at 10:39 am

Posted in Xenophobia

Muslims welcome Ramadan

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A group of Somali youth comes out of the Mayfair Juma'ah Mosque heading for moon sighting a day before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.(Photo Hassan Isilow).

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG – Crowds of Muslims converged in Mayfair on Sunday evening to sight the moon which is a prerequisite for Muslims to witness before commencing the holy month of Ramadan.
After sighting the moon, crowds were excited as they wished each other a blessed month of Ramadan.
Fasting is intended to teach Muslims about faith, spirituality, self-accountability and self-restraint.


However, some African Muslim migrants, who gathered at the moon sighting, said they were excited Ramadan had finally arrived, but did not know how their family members back home would survive with the devastating famine which has hit the horn Africa. ‘I’m excited we have seen the moon and the holy month of Ramadan will begin tomorrow (Monday). But my heart pains whenever I think of my starving people in Somalia ’’ said Omar Ali a Somali migrant residing in Mayfair a suburb of Johannesburg.
He said he had personally been affected by the famine in Somalia. ‘‘I have been remitting all my savings to help some of my starving family members in Somalia’’ Ali revealed.
According to aid agencies, up to 12 million people living in remote areas across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are faced with starvation. Most of the affected areas are inhabited by Muslims, which means they need urgent relief aid or else they are likely to face a tougher Muslim month of Fasting. To help feed a starving Muslim in the horn of Africa region, simply get in touch with any of the humanitarian organizations operating in the region.

Written by africawitness

August 3, 2011 at 10:43 am

Posted in Xenophobia

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