- Last Updated on Monday, 10 January 2011 11:01 10 January 2011
- Published on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 12:55 01 August 2012
On May 5, just after sunup, 750 militants surrounded Dr. Hawa Abdi's hospital. Mama Hawa, as she is known, heard gunshots, looked out the window and saw she was vastly outnumbered.
"Why are you running this hospital?" the gunmen demanded. "You are old. And you are a woman!"
They did not seem to care that Mama Hawa, 63, was one of the only trained doctors for miles around, and that the clinic, school and feeding program she built on her land supported nearly 100,000 people, most of them desperate refugees from the fighting and poverty that has afflicted this nation.
For hours, militia commanders held Dr. Abdi at gunpoint while their underlings - mostly 15- to 16-year-old boys - ransacked the hospital, shooting anesthesia machines, smashing windows and tearing up records.
The gunmen, who belonged to one of Somalia's most fearsome militant Islamist groups, notorious for chopping off hands and stoning adulterers, put Dr. Abdi under house arrest for the next five days and shut down the hospital, causing two dozen malnourished children to die in the bush after their families fled.
But something extraordinary happened. Hundreds of women from the sprawling refugee camp on Dr. Abdi's property dared to protest, adding to a flood of condemnation from Somalis abroad that forced the militants to back down. Dr. Abdi even insisted that the gunmen apologize - in writing - which they grudgingly agreed to do.
"I told the gunmen, ‘I'm not leaving my hospital,' " Dr. Abdi said. "I told them, ‘If I die, I will die with my people and my dignity.' I yelled at them, ‘You are young and you are a man, but what have you done for your society?' "
To read the full article visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/world/africa/08somalia.html