By.Jama Musse Jama, 5 October, 2016 | Hargeysa, Somaliland
Slnnews-On the 5th of October, the entire world celebrates teacher’s day. I wrote “A note on my teachers’ group: news report of an injustice” and published it in 2003 about the circumstances that led me to the teaching profession.
Somaliland:International World Teachers’ Day
Teaching is not just a profession, it is choice of life, and each of us who believes in this choice, continues teaching every day and night, whether we are in a class or in our home or in the streets.
Today on the 5th October 2016 to celebrate all my teachers’ who in one way or other shaped my life, I reflect on my journey and the book I wrote in 2003:
Why I wrote this book?
The original aim of writing this book was to reflect, after 20 years (now almost 35 years), on a particular incident of a political and criminal nature which took place on the streets of Hargeysa, Somaliland’s current capital city: my teachers’ were arrested, jailed and convicted in capital punishment. In doing so, I attempted to search for definitive answers to the following questions: why the incident occurred and what were some of the forces that caused the problem.
Why there were arrested?
These arrested individuals deserved our gratitude for what they were doing for our society. They should have been called patriots, and patriots they certainly were. On the contrary, there has been a total lack of sense of justice on their account. They were branded as traitors, and they were arrested and tortured. These pages are, therefore, a kind of News Report on this injustice that matured in front of our eyes. [Page 26]
What was my primary goal for writing this book?
The primary purpose of writing this book was, therefore, to preserve a few pages of history for Somaliland’s younger generations, who may demand answers to the causes behind the political turmoil that took place in their country in the 1980s and question why these atrocities occurred in Hargeysa in 1982. [Page 15]
Why I chose the title “A note on my teachers’ group: news report of an injustice”
The choice of the title has a particular significance. I was student when the members of this group were arrested, and some of them, as a matter of fact, were my teachers. I chose, however, to call them “My Teachers’ Group” instead of “The Hargeysa Self-Help Group” or “UFFO”, because of their fierce determination to serve the needs of our nation as most of my teachers. Their dedication to the people and the country was a wakeup call to any individual in our society. Although, because of their highly publicized case in the international arena, they could have obtained asylum in any nation around the world after their release, they opted to go back to work with displaced Somaliland people in Ethiopia and fight the dictatorial Siad Barre regime. After Somaliland re-asserted its independence in 1991, they continued to fully participate in the rebuilding of the country. Now that the situation in Somaliland is in the post-conflict stage, some of them are working hard to promote the observance of human rights in Somaliland. This is a lofty and enviable attitude from which anyone of us, and in particular the new generations, should learn from. [Page 9]
Mohamed Barood Ali, a member of the group, was not a teacher by profession and, thus, I had not had the opportunity to know him personally before his arrest while I was a student. However, during the short period in which I worked with him at the SORRA office in Hargeysa in 1992, I learned a lot from him. He gave me invaluable lessons on many aspects of life, and he became a role model for me, and a hero to admire and respect. It is for this reason that I will always call him and his friends in the UFFO group “My Teachers’ Group”.
While I am deeply conscious of the suffering “My Teachers’ Group” members and their families have undergone, in all the cases reported in the book, I have tried to cleanly draw the line between factual reporting of the case and my personal viewpoint.
While these pages may not be viewed as historical pieces of evidence, they certainly contain the sequence of events that were happening at the time and of which I was an eyewitness, and, some of them, of which I learnt afterwards. They may contain some emotional feelings of a student who suddenly realised that these events had left him an orphan from his teachers. [Page 9]
What I would like to preserve this work for the history?
Not only big stories for the history, but also and mainly small and invisible human reactions to the harsh events that took place. This is what Maxamed Baaruud Cali for instance told me when I asked how it all begun (see page: 17 )
“The knock came just after 2:00 a.m. Although I had expected them to come any day, I was terrified and very frightened when it finally happened. My heart started beating faster and harder. I put on a pair of jeans, a shirt and shoes while they continued knocking harder and harder on the door.
A friend of mine had been arrested two days before on 2nd November and we heard there was a list of people to be detained. […] The most haunting image I remember about the whole episode is the terror I saw in my wife’s eyes.
We had only been married for 4 months. Somehow she seemed to sense that something terrible was going to happen to me. Her eyes were pools of love but overwhelmed by fright and helplessness. I could not bear looking at her.
She suggested repeatedly that she open the door by herself alone but in the end we went together. There were four men in civilian clothes with AK47 assault rifles and a vehicle at the ready. A fifth man, obviously their leader, with a pistol in his hand, instructed me to go with them to the N.S.S. (National Security Service) headquarters. […] They reassured my wife, with disarming civility that I was going to be back within the “hour”. It turned out to be a long “hour”. It lasted for seven years and six months in prison, mostly in solitary confinement during which I did not see my wife or my beloved relatives.”
How the students protested?
On the scheduled day of the trial, February 20th, 1982, student protest erupted in the city. Disorder and civil disobedience prevailed. Soldiers reacted by firing on unarmed demonstrators led by school children. People, mostly students, were beaten, arrested and imprisoned. The Government responded with excessive and indiscriminate use of live ammunition. About 400 students were jailed in Hargeysa central prison, and then were transferred to Mandera and Berbera prisons. Death beset innocent citizens by the guns fired by the government soldiers and the so-called “victory pioneers (Guul wadayaal)”, a paramilitary force that had the same powers as the security services. [Page 29]
Was anyone killed?
“…. A young man with bright future, Barre H Elmi was cheerful and lively. He was seventeen when on the first day of the “Dhagaxtuur” protest against the arrest of “My Teachers’ Group”, on the 20th February 1982, around 12:45 a.m., he was hit by a deadly bullet on his chest from the Dictator Siad Barre’s army. His short and promising life ended under the Jirde Hussein Building in front of Hindgiii Jaantilaal’s corner-shop, while his classmates and friends were rushing him to the hospital. Barre was buried at Xawaadleh cemetery in Hargeysa around 6:00 p.m. the same day.” [Page 40]
What about the rest of the society, not only students?
The great poet, Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame “Hadraawi”, composed his famous poem: Hargeysi ma toostey! (O Hargeysa! you finally woke up) in which he described the new situation of the country, and specifically the Hargeysa students’ uprising: [See page 43]
Indhaha halacooda, hibaaqiyo laaca
Naftayda hankeeda, waxay hibanayso
Haddii wedku daayo, inay heli doonto
Anaa huba taase; hambaabar dhawaanta
Dareen ma hurdaana, howraar iyo maanso
Dagaal wata heeso, hidday u lahayde
Hargeisi ma toostay!
Did I came across things that seemed to me strange or funny while writing the book?
Yes: Mohamed Barood Ali told me how some of the accusations were funny at the moment of the kangaroo court [See 37].
The most incredible accusation came when he asked me why we called ourselves Barood (gunpowder), Olad (struggle), Abby (defense), Dagal (war) if we were not involved in a conspiracy. These names were the traditional names of the fathers and grandfathers of my fellow detainees. I countered that some of my other fellow detainees were called Warsame (good news), Dualeh (blessing), Madar (rain) to which he made no comment. [See page 37]
Can someone can get the fully account of what happened in UFFO era?
I think this has been done to some extent for example Mohamed Barood Ali’s “The Mourning Tree: an autobiography and prison account”.
On this occasion I would like to remember the struggles of our teachers and all that they did for us and for me personally and express my gratitude.
Dr.Jama Musse Jama The Founder of Redsea Cultural Foundation
Thank you to all our teachers!
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