Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Home has changed; before it was peace, joy and love, now it is shame, terror and abuse.

Post by Fadimata Alainchar, Country Director, Plan International Guinea-Bissau

When entering the city the signboard which was: “Welcome to Timbuktu the city of 333 saints” is now “Welcome to Timbuktu the gate to the application of the Shariya”. When reading this, it gives me a sense of what I should expect.

The women are obliged to hide themselves inside their houses or cover their body while out if not they are taken to the prisons where they can be raped with no consequence. Our men are traumatized, no one wants shame within his family, so they decided to admit the unacceptable and avoid confrontation that may lead to amputation or even death.

Everyday there are gunshots; if not to disperse women marching, it is to kill dogs that are barking which are preventing the insurgents from sleeping. While I was there they called a meeting with the city crisis group to discuss: education, power and implementation of the Shariya.

One condition to reopen the school was to have separate classes for boys and girls. Girls will be taught by female teachers - being from Timbuktu, I know that this is a pure utopia because we don’t have enough teachers, especially female teachers to do so. The right to education is therefore automatically denied to those children whose parents cannot afford to send them to the south.

To secure running water and four hours electricity per day, they ask a contribution per family on electricity consumption but they could not reach an agreement on the amount of money. The insurgents say they understand the stress people are under as a result of the implementation of Shariya law but insist there is no other way because Shariya is cornerstone of their fight. They have proposed training young people in Shariya law and have them go from family to family teaching them however the population did not agree. They feared that after the insurgents left the city the youth might continue to enforce Shariya.

The Islamists I saw were very young boys, all speaking Bambara, Soninke, Fullah Tamasheq, Arabic or French. I presume they are Malians like us and many are from Timbuktu previously working for the MNLA. The question to which I could not find a clear answer remains why as Malians are we putting shame on our women, raping our girls, traumatizing our brothers in one of the oldest Islamic city in the country on the name of God? Why?

As usual people continue to stay optimistic and think God is watching them, that He has the solution and He will end this one day. For me the fundamental question is: When is this going to end? So skeptical but so true to say maybe “NEVER”.

Fadimata is from Timbuktu but lives in Guinea-Bissau where she is Country Director for Plan International. She recently paid a visit to the embattled Timbuktu on holiday to visit friends and family from where this blog was written.

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