Persecution of Somalis with Albinism: Subjected to Rock and Egg Attacks

Persecution Of Somalis With Albinism: Subjected To Rock And Egg Attacks

By Naciima Saed Salah
Tuesday September 5, 2023

In Somalia, Elmi Bile Mohamed, a 25-year-old man with albinism, faces severe social stigma. He is subjected to derogatory comments and abuse. People in his community believe false stereotypes, such as that individuals with albinism are cannibals who will harm their children. Consequently, he struggles to find a safe place to live in the capital city of Mogadishu, as he and his brothers also suffer from the same condition.

Mr. Mohamed expresses the discrimination he faced from his community, including physical abuse and mockery, due to the paleness of his skin, hair, and eyes. Hoping for a better life, he moved to Mogadishu but faced disappointment as he was continuously rejected when looking for a place to live.

Eventually, he had to settle for a storage shed in the oldest part of the city, paying $30 (£23) per month. People consider him cursed and even perform rituals like throwing saltwater and raw eggs on his doorstep, believing this will protect them from him.

Mr. Mohamed managed to find work as a cleaner in a restaurant, but it didn’t last long due to customers’ unfounded fear of contracting albinism. Despite the fact that albinism is not contagious, he faced rejection when seeking employment at other restaurants. This led him to resort to begging on the streets with a sign displaying his phone number for donations.

The income he receives from begging is barely enough to cover his basic needs, including meals and the necessary sunblock and sunglasses to protect his sensitive skin and eyes. People with albinism have little to no melanin, the pigment responsible for coloring eyes, hair, and skin, and providing protection from the sun.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mohamed’s dreams of working in Mogadishu to support his family, especially his albino brothers, have been shattered by the harsh reality and discrimination he faces.

Due to the lack of available data caused by the country’s longstanding conflict and instability, it is unclear how many people with albinism live in Somalia. However, a group called “Somali Albinos” was established by around 80 families living with albinism in Mogadishu. Their goal is to raise awareness about the challenges they face and combat the stigma associated with their condition.

Although they have received some support, such as donations of sun cream from Somali women residing abroad, they still struggle to access necessary resources. It is crucial for individuals with albinism to wear high-factor sunscreen, protective clothing, and sunglasses to minimize sun exposure, as their lack of melanin puts them at a higher risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Additionally, their eye health is affected as melanin plays a role in the development of the retina.

Mohamed Abukar Abdiqadir, the chairman of Somali Albinos, highlights the lack of rights and support they receive compared to other disabled individuals in Somalia. He sells dried and tinned food in the market to make a living, always wearing a hat to protect himself from the sun.

The prejudice and fear towards individuals with albinism stem from ignorance, according to Mr. Abdiqadir. He believes that by educating Somalis about albinism, they will realize that individuals with albinism are no different from them and deserve equal treatment and opportunities.

Unfortunately, children with albinism face severe prejudice that often prevents them from receiving an education. Asha Gele, a mother of two sons with albinism, was forced to withdraw them from school due to daily stoning incidents. To protect their delicate skin, they are confined indoors, hindering their social interactions and educational development.

The Gele family resides in a makeshift two-room property in Mogadishu. The shelter’s inadequate construction, consisting of old cloth and rusted sheets of corrugated iron, fails to shield the children from the burning sunlight. Mrs. Gele had to abandon her vegetable-selling business to care for her children, leaving the family struggling to survive on her husband’s daily income as a rickshaw driver.

The strain of raising children with albinism has caused marital strife for Mrs. Gele, with her husband blaming her for their condition and bringing bad luck to the family. Even her extended family, including her own brother, distances themselves from her children out of fears of contracting albinism.

Despite the adversity they face, Mrs. Gele remains unwavering in her support for her children. She stands by them and vows to ensure their well-being, emphasizing that they did not choose to live with albinism.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept