When criminals arrest innocent citizens

Al-Shabab is busy making Somalia a better place by stuffing women into heavy black bags in a hot climate.

Somalia’s al-Shabab militants have rounded up around 100 women and ordered them to comply with a strict Islamic dress code or risk being whipped.

The women were arrested in Buale, about 300km (185 miles) south-west of the capital, Mogadishu.

“Arrested” is a funny word for it. The women didn’t do anything wrong, and Al-Shabab are criminals. Al-Shabab didn’t arrest the women, it unlawfully grabbed them.

The women were arrested in the market, taken away and warned before being released.

Because it was their first offence, they were not punished but they could be whipped in public if caught again.

It wasn’t an offence at all. The offence was grabbing these women and threatening them with violence. It’s strange how easily the BBC falls into language that normalizes the outrageous criminal violence of Al-Shabab and denormalizes the perfectly ordinary act of not wearing “Islamic” clothes.

Our analyst says the temperature can reach 35C (95F) at this time of year and so many women preferred to wear lighter, traditional clothes than those approved by al-Shabab.

The women were told to wear a niqab, which covers all of their body and face, leaving just a small slit for their eyes.

Imagine how suffocating that must be. I wear a lightweight cloth hat on sunny days but I yank it off whenever I’m in the shade even for a few seconds, because it’s hot – in Seattle in the 70s, not in the Somali desert in the 90s. I shudder to think what a niqab would feel like.

A UN-backed government, aided by African Union forces, has pushed al-Shabab out of the country’s main cities but it continues to stage deadly attacks there.

And to persecute people, especially women.


  1. John Morales says

    Ophelia, you forgot to link to your source (presumably, the BBC article).

    But your point about the choice of words is a good one — ‘seized’ reflects the reality of the situation much better.

  2. johnthedrunkard says

    Somehow, when organized thugs seize people, it becomes an ‘arrest.’ What happened to make Boko Haram’s seizures lose their euphemistic label? Why are Islamist lynchings still described as ‘executions?’

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