Using loudspeakers mounted on vehicles, al-Shabaab banned the people of Barawe from watching television, saying it harms their Islamic principles, and ordered them to turn in their televisions and satellite dishes to al-Shabaab officials.
The militants announced the ban October 28th and gave residents five days to hand over their equipment to the Barawe municipal office, said Mursal Yarisow, a 54-year-old traditional elder in Barawe.
“I was really surprised when I heard about this ugly order that is forbidding us from watching TV while we are in our own homes,” he told Sabahi. “The only channels my family and I watch are the Somali channels, such as Universal TV, Horn Cable TV and Somali Channel TV, so that we can stay informed on global news.”
“I am not sure where al-Shabaab has seen or watched these other channels that they say are harmful to the religion,” he said.
The ban is a pretext for preventing people from staying informed about news and current affairs via Somalia’s independent television stations, Yarisow said.
“I and other [elders] like me are adults who understand what these men are targeting with the television ban,” he said. “They want people to stay ignorant of the hatred Somalis and the world have against al-Shabaab, and they want the residents of Barawe to be people whose ears and eyes are covered.”
The ban came just weeks after a raid by US Navy SEALs in Barawe targeted al-Shabaab commander Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, who goes by the alias Ikrima, who was believed to be living at a local beach house.
Al-Shabaab reportedly implemented a similar television ban in the Lower Shabelle town of Bulomarer last month.
“Al-Shabaab is engaged in the biggest crime in the world, which is to kill people without cause or label them as non-Muslims. They treat people as though they are converting them to Islam,” Yarisow said. “I am deeply saddened that they come to people who are Muslims and question their belief in Islam.”
Residents who keep televisions accused of being infidels
Barawe resident Saida Ali, a 41-year-old mother of six, expressed indignation about the ban.
“I am the mother in my house, not al-Shabaab. When I was buying the TV from the market at 41 years of age, I did not buy it to watch indecent films or anything that can be harmful to my faith,” she told Sabahi. “If they are being honest, all they needed to tell us is to guard our children against the channels that broadcast indecent films instead of telling us to bring our property to the station.”
“Al-Shabaab has not spared us anything and have trampled on our human rights. They have made us into savage people who have no knowledge of the Islamic religion, but it is clear that al-Shabaab are the people who have no understanding of the religion, and there is no doubt about that,” she said.
Liban Abdirahman, 34, who owns a shop in Barawe that sells lamps and assorted items, said he complied with the al-Shabaab ban and took his TV and satellite dish to the municipal office as ordered.
“We are civilians and we are not armed so we are forced to adhere to any unreasonable demand from al-Shabaab, because anyone who disobeys the order and fails to take the TV equipment to the station will be accused of being an infidel who is disobeying the orders of Islam,” he said.
What al-Shabaab is doing is nothing short of oppression, Abdirahman told Sabahi.
“[They are] violating our rights to know what is happening the world and in our own country. They particularly do not want us to know the progress residents in areas liberated from al-Shabaab are achieving,” he said. “That is the main thing they want people to be in the dark about.”
Abdirahman called on the Somali government to intervene immediately and end the abuse inflicted on the people of Barawe by al-Shabaab.
“Killing someone is nothing to al-Shabaab,” Abdirahman said. “They have no roots or traces of Islam and everyone knows they are lying about Islam.”
Residents said they are not aware whether al-Shabaab intends to destroy or sell the television sets and other equipment they confiscated.