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Somalis condemn al-Shabaab's arrest of Qur'an teachers
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Residents of the Hiran region in central Somalia are speaking out against al-Shabaab's efforts to recruit children by forcibly enlisting the support of Qu'ran teachers.
Locals also condemned al-Shabaab's recent arrests of Qur'an school teachers, and successfully pressured the militant group to free the teachers.
On February 25th, al-Shabaab arrested 12 Qu'ran school teachers in Halgan district who refused to support their jihadist ideology or persuade their students to join the militant group's ranks and take part in terrorist activities.
After parents and town elders publicly denounced the arrests and al-Shabaab's use of the Qur'an schools as a source for conscription, the militants were forced to release the teachers unharmed.
Al-Shabaab reportedly arrested eight Qur'an school teachers in Halgan again on Friday (March 8th) for trying to establish a local administration in the town contrary to the militant group's rules. They released the teachers two days later.
"We do not find it acceptable to use our children in Qu'ran school to fight," said Asha Hassan Mire, a 25-year-old resident of Halgan.
"We warned Qu'ran teachers in the district not to teach our children false ideology that is used to recruit children to become fighters," she told Sabahi. "Al-Shabaab jailed the teachers because they refused to accept the request of al-Shabaab."
The militant group's presence throughout Hiran region has substantially weakened andlocals have become emboldened to criticise the militant group more openly.
Muse Hassan Ali, an independent journalist in Beledweyne, said al-Shabaab's arrest of the teachers was a disgrace.
Now that the community has united to fight against al-Shabaab and their terrorist schemes, parents are less fearful their children will be forcefully recruited by al-Shabaab, Ali told Sabahi. "This has been a loss for al-Shabaab and hatred of the group is increasing by the day."
Farah Warsame, a 52-year-old elder in Halgan, said al-Shabaab can no longer accomplish anything through coercion.
"We are responsible for the people of the district," Warsame told Sabahi. "We have solved the issue of the arrested teachers because we told al-Shabaab that no parents would allow their children to take part in the propaganda campaign to encourage them to take part in the fighting, and the teachers have no power to fulfil the issues for which they were jailed. We finally succeeded in securing freedom for the teachers."
Al-Shabaab's history of recruiting by force
The Halgan case is not the first time al-Shabaab has tried to forcibly recruit students from Qu'ran schools.
Last year, as Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces surrounded the al-Shabaab-held town of Jowhar, the militants kidnapped children to force them to fight on the frontlines.
The group has also attempted to abduct children from schools in Mogadishu to conscript them into its ranks. As a result, enrollment in these schools decreased as fearful parents began to educate their children at home.
Ahmed Duale, 55, runs a Qu'ran school in Mogadishu's Hodan district and said he understood the plight of his colleagues in Halgan, as he was also threatened.
"Whenever I attempted to dissuade al-Shabaab from brainwashing children, I was met by threats," he told Sabahi. "I want to inform anyone who thinks that al-Shabaab has the power to force people that they are wrong. If we show unity, I believe that we can defeat al-Shabaab."
Faiza Ahmed, a 45-year-old mother of five in Mogadishu, said she used to worry about taking her children to Qu'ran school because she thought the instructors would mislead them.
"I used to always hear that children were abducted from the Qu'ran school by al-Shabaab," she told Sabahi. "This forced me to hire a private teacher to teach my children at home and to pay him more than the amount I spent on the school."
"Thanks to Allah, the burden of worrying about the children and the extra cost have been eliminated because I now feel confident in allowing my children to attend the Qu'ran schools since al-Shabaab has been defeated [in Mogadishu]," she said.
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