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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

From Rihanna to Safia Abdulleh. Do we really give a damn about abused women?

On November 6, 2009, millions of viewers were glued to their television sets to watch the much anticipated interview that Diane Sawyer had with pop singer, Rihanna. In February 2009, Rihanna was the victim of domestic abuse by her ex-boyfriend and fellow artist, Chris Brown. It did not take long before pictures of her bloodied and bruised face circulated around cyberspace, making it one of the most talked about topics of 2009. In the lesser-known Galguduud region of Somalia, a young woman named Safia Abdulleh got married to a 112 year-old man in late October, 2009. Although it has become the norm in Somalia for women to face psychological and physical abuse, less attention was given to the most likely circumstances that surrounded Abdulleh’s marriage. The fact that western journalists chose only to sensationalize the wedding rather than highlight the likely injustices surrounding it illustrates western society’s double standard when it comes to women’s issues—namely abuse.

After having watched Rihanna’s interview on November 6, 2009, one ought to have respect for Rihanna for having the courage to open up about everything that she went through. Rather than use the interview as a means of attacking her ex-boyfriend, she made better use of the time to help other women who are victims of domestic abuse. One could not help but notice the sympathy that was drawn towards Rihanna for the horrific and life-altering experience that she went through. In contrast to Abdulleh’s marriage, most of the attention was not even about her. It was mostly given to her husband—Ahmed Muhamed Dore—who has over 114 children and grandchildren. Furthermore, one would be forced to read between the lines and draw inferences from the article in order to recognize that Abdulleh is an abused woman.

According to the BBC article, it was reported that she was "happy with her new husband." However Abdulleh was not quoted as saying this, it was her family. Dore was later quoted as saying, “I didn't force her, but used my experience to convince her of my love; and then we agreed to marry” (1). According to Somalian Human Rights activist, Zam Zam Abdullahi Abdi, parents take their daughters out of school at a young age and marry them off. They may even give their daughters away, selling them as if they were property (2). With these facts highlighted by Abdullahi Abdi, it is very unlikely that both Dore and Abdulleh had both agreed on getting married? Furthermore at the end of the BBC article, it was reported that Dore hoped his new bride will give him more children and was quoted as saying that, “It is a blessing to have someone you love to take care of you” (3). Sure, easy for him to say. Considering that his genitals have not been mutilated to the point that he would not have painful ejaculations. Abdulleh, on the other hand, is most likely among the 98% of Somali women who have had Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) forced on her at a young age. Not only will she experience extreme pain without pleasure during intercourse, but giving birth would be murder on her body, apart from suffering from extreme health consequences that range from infertility to having cysts. What is worse is that her husband will decide how many children she would bear for him.

Hopefully every woman has learned from Rihanna’s experience and should enjoy their freedom to choose to be with—or to leave—any man of their choice. By the same token, more responsibility ought to be taken as to not sensationalize unethical marriages in countries where abuse towards women is supported. If one were to compare Rihanna to Abdulleh, Rihanna suffered less and was able to bounce back. As for Abdulleh, she may have been conditioned to accept her oppression. But it’s more likely that she is silently crying for help. How do I know that? Just look at both pictures of both Rihanna and Abdulleh. Rihanna isn’t smiling. Have you ever wondered why Abdulleh isn’t smiling in her wedding photo? If you haven’t before, I’ll bet you are now.

Russell Brooks is the author of the upcoming action/thriller, Pandora’s Succession. Visit to subscribe for free to receive excerpts from chapters one to three

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