Thursday, November 29, 2007

Somali gay bloggers receive death threats

afrol News, 29 November -
By Rainer Chr. Hennig

After the website Somali Gay Community was launched earlier this month, the staff behind the site has received death threats. The news about the website, which major Somali media picked up from afrol News, caused a storm of debate that included threatening hate messages. But it also gave the new gay site very many hits and members, documenting needs in Somali society.
Muraad Kareem, one of the Somalis behind, was astonished by the row of events that followed the publishing of an article about the website by afrol News. "Major Somali news websites have picked it up the article that you .. published. People were outraged to see such article on 'Hiiraanonline' which is a major news website. People could not believe that a major Somali news website would publish such article. They have asked it to be removed and their messages were horrific and hateful," Muraad tells afrol News."One of the messages was saying that they will hunt us down beyond enemy lines," he continues. "I was ignoring these messages but when I started to worry when my name, address, telephone number and that of Andrew Prince was posted on" Andrew Prince, a UK-based gay activist and web developer, stood behind the technical aspects of the Somali website. Also he was surprised by the amount of "hate writers" attacking him and Muraad on Somali blogs. He recalls: "One individual calls for us to be 'hunted down in the street and stoned like dogs' while another said, 'Allah will punish them', another, 'It's a western illness', and yet another, 'motherfocker if I ever see you on the street, am gonna chop you to pieces then feed ur crap to dogs' – this last one from a Muslim woman." The two reveal that several individuals were going a step further than just threatening. Some investigated the whereabouts of the two and published this information on a Somali website. According to Mr Prince, "the site was threatened with being hacked so I had to take extra security steps to protect the site so that it stays online to serve the community that it was intended for." Muraad adds there were indeed attempts to hack the website. While both try to play down the threats, they still have had to react to them. "I have taken measures to secure my safety, and that each member of the group," Muraad told afrol News. "Also the crime is been reported to the police. We have laws that protect us from these ignorant people and nothing they will do will stop us." And some Somali news websites have understood they should not contribute more to these threats. has removed the personal information about the two posted on the site by readers and has removed the forum that they have dedicated to the Somali gay website. Muraad nevertheless is more encouraged than scared by the experience so far, he reveals. The enormous amount of reactions to his project has indeed been mostly positive, documenting the great need among Somalis for a gay forum. During its first week online, the site registered over 133,000 hits. "Somali Gay Community is growing and we are getting positive feedbacks from our members," he says. "We are focused on our aim to reach out to those who need us the most." "I do not think that the threat will stop there. People will continue to find who we are but we are not scared. We are aware that we have broken a big social code and people would want to take revenge but what we are trying to achieve is well worth the risk we have taken," concludes Muraad.

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