Posted on September 28, 2011

On Top of Famine, Unspeakable Violence

Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, September 24, 2011

{snip} As Somalis stream across the border into Kenya, at a rate of about 1,000 a day, they are frequently prey to armed bandits who rob men and rape women in the 50-mile stretch before they reach Dadaab, now the world’s largest refugee camp.

It is difficult to know how many women are raped because the subject is taboo. But more than half of the newly arrived Somalis I interviewed, mostly with the help of CARE, said they had been attacked by bandits, sometimes in Somalia but very often on Kenyan soil. Some had been attacked two or three times.

In short, this seems like an instance of mass rape — adding one more layer of misery to the world’s most desperate humanitarian crisis. The United Nations warns that750,000 Somalis are at risk of starving to death in the coming months, and it’s increasingly clear that those who try to save themselves and their children must endure a gantlet of robbers and rapists.


For unmarried women, rapes often involve tearing and physical injuries. That’s because Somali girls often undergo an extreme kind of genital cutting, infibulation, that involves slicing off the genitals and sewing up the vagina with a wild thorn.