Authorities in central Somalia say they have detained five men accused of raping two girls early last month. News about the incident came to light Sunday when video emerged of one of the girls being tortured, stabbed and sexually assaulted.
The video was recorded on a cellphone camera by the attackers, officials said. The relatives of the girl confirmed the authenticity of the video to VOA’s Somali service.
In the video, the 14-year-old is seen stripped naked. Several young men surround her, yell and order her to surrender to be raped.
The girl rejects and attempts to fight off the men, who then threaten her with a knife and tell her to lie on her back.
“I’m not sleeping!” she screams.
The men then curse her until she is forced to surrender.
The mother of the girl seen in the video, Shukri Abdullahi Sheikh Abdirahman, told VOA the incident took place December 7 in the late afternoon outside the town of Goldogob in Puntland’s Mudug region, near the border with Ethiopia. Her daughter and another girl accompanied a friend to her home. The men confronted them on their way back.
“The men pulled up in a car alongside them and told them to get in. When they refused, they pushed them into the car and drove off,” Abdirahman said. “They were taken into the car forcefully and then the men turned on music. They took them to the outskirts of the town and they did the ugly things that you have heard [about].”
Abdirahman said her daughter was brutally beaten and tortured because she told the men, “You have to kill me to rape me.”
Abdirahman was at her daughter’s bedside at a hospital in the town of Galkayo when she talked to VOA.
Local officials and religious leaders have condemned the attack and have vowed to seek justice for the victims.
Hassan Salah Ayahle, the mayor of Goldogob, said authorities took the two girls to the hospital after the incident and then immediately started searching for the perpetrators. Five suspects were subsequently captured and are now being held in a house guarded by local security and police. A sixth man is on the run.
“We want justice for the girls so that this never happens again. The victims’ relatives insist that they want the attackers tried according to the Islamic law,” said Ayahle. “We will be relying on Islamic law as well as the regional rape laws to make sure they get the right justice.”
Clan elders and local officials have been criticized and accused of hiding the case from the public in an attempt to solve it through traditional customs, a process in which the attackers seldom face tough punishment. Officials have denied this.
But Abdirahman told VOA that the clan elders held a meeting at which the boys argued the girls consented to sex. Abdirahman countered that claim, saying her daughter and the other girl said they had indeed been raped.
Officials believe the suspects leaked the video of the incident in order to embarrass the families of the girls and prevent them from speaking out. The video has had the opposite impact, though, exposing a crime that occurs frequently but is less reported in the region.
The suspects are said to be teenagers. Among them is the 15-year-old brother of the former minister of constitution, Abdirahman Hosh Jibril.
In a Facebook post, Jibril confirmed that his brother is one of the suspects. He strongly condemned the attack and said he wanted all of those accused, including his brother, to face justice.
Authorities have appointed a five-member committee of Islamic and legal experts to give recommendations on possible punishment in the case.
According to human rights organizations, sexual violence in Somalia is widespread. In a 2014 report, Human Rights Watch said rape was “normal” in Somalia. HRW said decades of civil conflict and state collapse have created a population vulnerable to sexual violence and, at the same time, have destroyed institutions that are supposed to protect those most at risk.