International: Call to Action to Protect WHRDs

Somalia: Call to Action to Protect Women Human Rights Defenders

In Somalia, women human rights defenders (WHRDs) face unimaginable challenges and dangers as they tirelessly work to promote and protect human rights. Operating in some of the most hostile environments and armed conflict zones, these brave women are at constant risk, often denied protection by entities fueled by racism and discrimination.

We take this opportunity to unequivocally condemn the actions of Icelandic immigration authorities for their treatment of Somali woman human rights defender (WHRD) Abdirahman. During her asylum process, these authorities not only harassed her but also put her life at greater risk. Their blatant disregard for the urgent public statements issued by the UN Special Rapporteur, Mary Lawlor, as well as the solidarity statements from Frontline Defenders (FLD) and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) based in Denmark, is deeply troubling.

Moreover, the manipulation of her asylum case, including pressuring the local hospital (Landi Ispitali) to issue a misleading assessment of her health situation and the security conditions in Somalia, is reprehensible. The immigration authority’s actions in this regard demonstrate a severe breach of ethical and legal standards. They also misrepresented the linguistic context by generalizing the Banadiri dialect, spoken by a small minority in Banadir and Barawe regions, to undermine her case.

We also draw attention to a particularly egregious indicator of Icelandic immigration’s manipulative and unethical approaches: the assignment of asylum seekers, including the Somali WHRD in question, to an openly racist lawyer, Vilborg Bergmann. Bergmann has published numerous racist articles and leads a far-right political party, is known for her discriminatory views and actions.

This assignment is a blatant attempt to further harass and undermine the asylum seekers’ cases, subjecting them to biased and hostile representation. Such actions not only compromise the integrity of the asylum process but also violate the fundamental rights of those seeking refuge and protection. The use of a lawyer with a known history of racism and far-right affiliations is unacceptable and must be addressed promptly.

There are further allegations that the asylum cases submitted by Africans in Iceland are managed by a notorious racist and white supremacist, best known as Gunlaugur. His actions include not only mishandling African asylum cases but also spreading racist images and slogans on small posters in public bus stops in the city, (see the image below). These actions raise significant concerns under international human rights standards, particularly those related to the status and treatment of women.

Racist poster showing a black person spitting on the ground, even though Iceland population is White.

Such actions are not only unjust but also exemplify a dangerous and unethical approach where “the end justifies the means.” We call upon the Icelandic government to review and rectify this grave injustice immediately, ensuring that Abdirahman’s case is handled with the integrity, respect, and fairness it deserves. We urge the international community to hold Iceland accountable for these actions and to stand in solidarity with Abdirahman and all WHRDs facing similar persecution.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It is imperative that we advocate for the rights and protection of WHRDs like Abdirahman, ensuring they receive the asylum and support they urgently need. It is imperative that we unite in a call to action to safeguard their rights and lives.

1. Raise Awareness: Educate communities locally and globally about the critical work of WHRDs in Somalia and the threats they face. Use social media, news platforms, and public forums to highlight their stories and the urgent need for their protection.

2. Advocate for Legal Protections: Pressure governments, international organizations, and legal bodies to implement and enforce laws that specifically protect WHRDs. This includes ensuring they have access to justice and holding perpetrators of violence against them accountable.

3. Provide Financial Support: Fund organizations and initiatives that offer resources, training, and safe spaces for WHRDs in Somalia. Financial support can empower these women to continue their vital work with increased security and resilience.

4. Offer Safe Haven: Create programs that provide safe relocation and asylum for WHRDs who are at imminent risk. International communities must step up to offer sanctuary and support.

5. Engage in Solidarity Actions: Partner with local and international human rights organizations to organize solidarity campaigns. Demonstrations, petitions, and public statements can amplify the voices of WHRDs and pressure entities to protect them.

6. Empower Local Advocacy: Support grassroots movements within Somalia that aim to protect and empower WHRDs. Local advocacy is crucial for sustainable change and the protection of human rights from within the community.

7. Monitor and Report: Establish independent monitoring bodies to document and report violations against WHRDs. Accurate data and testimonies can be powerful tools in advocacy and legal processes.

8. Ensure Inclusive Policies: Advocate for policies that address the intersectionality of race, gender, and human rights, ensuring that all WHRDs, especially those marginalized by racism, receive comprehensive protection and support.

Protecting women human rights defenders in Somalia is not just a moral imperative; it is essential for the promotion of peace, justice, and equality in one of the world’s most challenging environments. Let us commit to taking decisive and collective action to ensure their safety and empower them to continue their invaluable work.

Human Rights organizations in Somalia included in this call to action are:

– The Coalition of Somali Human Rights Defenders CSHRD

– Puntland Women Journalists Association

– Horn Afrik News Agency for Human Rights

– Hirshabelle Human Rights and Development Centre

– Kalal Human Rights and Development in South West state

– Iniskoy for human rights and development in south West state

– The National Civil Society Forum

– Disability Association in Juba Regions

HANAHR Advocacy Team

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