News / Africa

Kenyan al-Shabab Fighters Present Problems for Families

Somalia-al-ShababSomalia-al-Shabab
x
Somalia-al-Shabab
Somalia-al-Shabab
NAIROBI - The Somali militant group al-Shabab has long relied on an extensive funding and recruitment network funneled through a community-based organization in Kenya called the Muslim Youth Center. Kenyans say there has been a devastating impact on the community resulting from hundreds of young men leaving their families to join the Islamist movement.

Thirty-one-year-old Maryam Gulam, a mother of three, saw her husband recruited to fight for al-Shabab in 2009 when she was three months pregnant.

Maryam Gulam says her husband converted to Islam in 2006 and went to an Islamic school to study his new religion. She assumes that is where her husband was taught about jihad, or holy war, instead of basic Muslim religious teachings.

Gulam says she learned her husband left for Somalia to join al-Shabab through another family.

"My husband left me when I was pregnant," she says, "and to this day I don’t know if he is alive or dead." She says she came to know that her husband went to Somalia through other families whose sons were recruited.  The other families knew about their sons’ journey to Somalia, but Ghulam says, "I was the only one that wasn’t aware. ... I am facing so many challenges because my in-laws are accusing me of taking their son away from them and [saying that] I am also the one who made him join Islam," Gulam said.

According to Gulam, her husband instructed the other families to wait for one month before telling tell her where he had gone.

"The message he left," Gulam says, "was that I should forgive him, and he loves me so much, and I should take care of the children according to the Islamic teachings, and if we won’t meet now, we will meet in heaven," Gulam said.

Gulam is not alone. Hundreds of families' sons, brothers and husbands have been recruited to fight for al-Shabab.

Another woman, 29-year-old Hidaya Said, says her son was recruited in 2010 at the age of 14.  That same year he was supposed to sit for his final primary education exam.

Said says she looked for her son for three months. She had given up when she unexpectedly came upon a letter from him.

She says: "He left the letter at home and placed it in a place where he knew one day I would find it, and that was inside the cupboard.  I read the letter, which says that he was gone and he didn’t know if they will ever meet again. I should not look for him. I should not worry about him, that he was gone and he wasn’t going to come back," Said said.

Last July, a United Nations Monitoring Group report found al-Shabab created extensive funding and recruiting networks in Nairobi through the Muslim Youth Center. For the American government, at least, the report confirmed years of anxious concern that al-Shabab has been expanding its influence in East Africa.

The Muslim Youth Center sparked a wave of much-needed development in Nairobi's Majengo slum during 2008 and 2009.  

According to Mahfoodh Awadhi, a Majengo youth leader who also is chairman of the Kenya National Muslim Advocacy Council, the center worked with the community to spur development but also was recruiting jihadists for al-Shabab and sending them to Somalia for training.

“They had a hidden agenda. They were helping the community in one way or the other but they [also] had a hidden agenda. Later on we came to learn that they were taking our youths - many youths - to fight alongside al-Shabab. We complained a lot. There was no help coming from the government,” Awadhi said.

The government stopped the center from openly recruiting for al-Shabab, but the activity has continued in secret.

Multiple sources familiar with how the recruitment is done told VOA how four youths from Majengo crossed into Somalia this month to fight for al-Shabab. Two others were arrested at the Kenyan-Somali border during the past week as they tried to enter Somalia.

For now, both Gulam and Said say they don’t have control of what will happen to their loved ones, since Kenyan military forces and Somali government fighters are preparing an offensive to take control of al-Shabab's coastal stronghold of Kismayo by August.

Before then, the women say they hope their men will find ways to return home and restart their lives.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rev:Inda from: Juba/South Sdan
June 18, 2012 5:08 AM
AL-shabab shame on you because what you are doing is against the image of God. Whom you say you are serving him.

by: david lulasa from: tambua location/gimarakwa
June 16, 2012 7:06 AM
if its true,then its not about religion,its probably money....some kenyans have also been taken advantage of by some cruise ship recruiters from middle east..the jobs were false yet people had sacrificed what they owned.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs