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Fatuma Abdulahi, The Woman With A Somali

Sword In Her Head

By Wanjeri Nderu

Fatuma on the right after sword (held by surgeon) was removed from her

Fatuma, a woman aged thirty two recently hit our news headlines
as the woman with a Somali sword in her head. She may only
be thirty two, but at first glance one would be forgiven for
thinking she was over fifty years old.
Fatuma has no upper front teeth. They are missing. A testament
to the violence meted out on her in the past by her husband. The
worry lines on her face are deep. Her skin looks ashen. Lips are
dry and cracked. Her frame is small, skin clinging to bone. Her
eyes are sunken and dark. One look at her and the obvious hard
life she lives is evident.
Fatuma has scars all over her body as a result of previous
What was she supposed to do? Where was she
supposed to go with four little mouths to feed? Those were some
of the questions she asked herself every time his violence reared
its ugly head. She was his human punching bag, and she was
used to it.

On the evening of 6th January 2016 her husband stabbed her 7

times on various parts of her body with a Somali Sword which
finally found its final resting place inside her head.
According to Fatuma, who could only narrate her ordeal through a
translator since she does not speak English or Swahili, her
husband intended to kill her. Every time he lifted the sword to
stab her, he shouted I will kill you!. When he finally stabbed her
head, he tried to dislodge the sword to continue stabbing her but
it was stuck fast. He could not remove it. The sword had found its
home, Inside Fatumas head.
Photos of Fatuma with a short Somali sword lodged in her head hit
social media. Kenyans on twitter (KOT) started a campaign to try
and save her. Fatuma was at Wajir County Hospital where the
medics had been unable to remove the sword. Using the hashtag
#JusticeForFatuma, KOT appealed to several organizations to help
Fatuma. AMREF Flying Doctors intervened and flew her to Nairobi
where she was admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital. Fatuma,
like many Somali Kenyans in the villages does not have an
identity card. This initially made her airlift almost impossibile until
the area chief intervened and wrote a letter to enable her travel.
She was wheeled into surgery at midnight on the 7 th of January
2016, where the ten inch blade was successfully removed.
Fatumas head played host to the blade for over thirty hours.
Fatuma was discharged on the 16 th of January 2016. Her abuser is
in police custody. She is hoping he will be found guilty and jailed.
Did we as KOT do enough for her? I believe we did the best we
could. We saved a womans life by coming together to amplify
her cry for help. Fatuma needs more help, but where will it come
Remember #JusticeForKhadija? Khadija was a teenage bride
married to a man four times her age who poured scalding hot
water on her. She suffered 3rd degree burns. Her husband hid her

in their house for four days. She was treated at Kenyatta National
Hospital where doctors recommended further surgery which she
cannot afford.
Where are the so called women issue organizations that have the
capacity to offer Khadija, Fatuma and others in their situation,
post recovery help and support? Where are the NGOs or Women
Is it also time we asked the hard and uncomfortable questions
that surround the role of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolutions)
used by the Somali Community and some followers of the Muslim
faith? ADR is recognized as a legal way of settling disputes, but in
some cases it can be argued that it is not only misused, it
encourages criminal behavior.
This system of ADR used also known as MASLAHA is supposed to
be guided by the Quran. According to a human rights defender
based in Garissa, the ADR used by the Somali community is
distorted and does not follow guidelines laid out in the Quran.
Murder and Sexual, Gender based violence (SGBV) are also
settled through Maslaha.
A few elders appointed by the community or clans come together
to discuss the crime. These elders are supposed to be Islamic
scholars who understand what the Quran says about crimes and
punishment but in most cases they are untrained and come up
with what they feel is a good enough verdict.
Let us take the case of Fatuma as an example. According to
Somali culture, it is an abomination to stab a woman or child,
even so, the elders would have come together and ordered her
husband to pay a few goats. Fatuma would then have been
ordered to go back to her husband. Back to the vicious circle of
violence and perhaps eventually, death.

Another example is when sexual violence has occurred. If a girl

child is raped, she becomes an outcast in the community. The
elders fine the perpetrator, then order him to marry the victim to
redeem her worth. So if a man eyes a young girl he is interested
in, all he has to do is rape her knowing very well part of the
punishment will be to marry her. These types of cases are
rampant in the region with many girls who have been violated,
unable to continue with their education, if they were lucky enough
to be enrolled in school, since they have to marry the men who
rape them.
The same applies to murder cases. The elders fine the perpetrator
what they term blood money. The clan is fined collectively on
behalf of the accused and the fine is paid to the victims clan. The
crime stops being an individuals responsibility.
Maslaha may be good for some cases but it is high time a review
of what they handle is done. MURDER, ATTEMPTED MURDER AND
SGBV should not go through Maslaha. Justice for the victim
becomes a mirage when the only recourse they have is the
Maslaha system.
Fatumas husband claims she tried to commit suicide. If found
guilty, it will create shock waves in the community since cases of
domestic violence are rarely heard in a court of law.
Wanjeri Nderu is a Social Justice Activist. Twitter