Experiences of a Human Rights Defender from Somalia
My name is Osman, from Somalia and I am member of the first organization of Human Rights in Somalia. Since July 22nd 1996, I have served as Executive Director for this organization and I am currently also the Program Coordinator of another Human Righs organization in Somalia.
Human rights abuses have been present in Somalia for about 24 years. This problem produces insecurity all around the country since civilians do not feel safe and human rights defenders have to seek refuge in other countries as they are being persecuted and intimidated.
There are many types of human rights abuses such as arbitrary killing, kidnappings, torture, rape, amputations and beatings. Unfortunately, the ones committing such atrocities against the civilian population and human right defenders are not being held responsible for their actions.
As a human rights defender I have been persecuted by Al-shabab and I have received threatening messages and witnessed terrorist attacks carried out by this same group. I’ve received harassing text messages such as ‘you are helping and working with the western ideology; we know your name, where you live and work and what you are doing at every time’. I would switch off my phone but continued to receive more and more messages.
While seeking refuge from persecutions, I was taken to The Netherlands by the Shelter City temporarily relocation program. Since I arrived in The Netherlands, I have taken part in many events. I have attended several lectures given by Master degree lecturer of International Law and Human Rights Institutions at Utrecht University. I have also participated in other events organized by the for instance Hivos and Free Press Unlimited.
Life in The Netherlands is very different from Somalia. While Dutch people are kind to each other and try to help you regardless of your nationality, gender or beliefs, Somali people are killing one another every single day. It is very sad not to feel safe in your own country and to see how democracy still remains out of reach for Somalians.
Nevertheless, I would like to thank the tireless efforts made by Shelter City Program of Justice and Peace and the organization that has been hosting me in Utrecht; Peace Brigades International (PBI). I would also like to thank the municipality of Utrecht for hosting me, the UAF for providing a work spot and SIM for allowing me to take part in their human rights courses. Especial thanks to Miss Merel, the intern at PBI, who has helped me find my way around Utrecht, taken me to universities and memorial history places and even helped me settle down here.
I will never forget what you have all done for me, bringing some peace into my life has been priceless, and I truly appreciate this golden opportunity.