News / USA

Malian-Americans Concerned for Families Back Home

Inside the Malian Association of New York, expats meet regularly to gather news of their conflict-ridden homeland and to share emotional support. (A. Phillips/VOA)
Inside the Malian Association of New York, expats meet regularly to gather news of their conflict-ridden homeland and to share emotional support. (A. Phillips/VOA)
Adam Phillips
New York City’s "Little Africa" neighborhood is home to thousands of Malian-Americans, who must watch from afar as their homeland is ravaged by separatist violence and uncertainty.  Every night, about 20 of them gather at a community center to participate in an Internet conference call in which news from home is broadcast and discussed, and concerns about loved ones back home can be shared face-to-face.
 
The West African nation of Mali is more than 7,000 kilometers away from where the Malian Association of New York arranges the conference call. But the ongoing separatist insurrection fueled by rival Islamic factions is still very real for those gathered at this community center.

For Doumbouya Ibrahim, whose cousins live not far from the fighting, uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict is taking a huge emotional toll.

“… because we know the beginning of the war, but nobody knows the end of the war,” he said.

x
​In March 2012, when Islamist rebels overran the vast northern desert region of northern Mali, they proclaimed an independent state. Some began to persecute those of non-Islamic faiths, as well as other Muslims who did not practice their extreme interpretation of Islam. Doumbouya Ibrahim is outraged and says he fears for Mali’s more moderate Muslim community.

“I am Muslim, born Muslim; my great-great grandparents, they [are] all Muslim. We are Christians over there too," he said. "We don’t want people to come over there to try to divide people by force. Because the Quran never say you have to force somebody to become Muslim. They are forcing people to become Muslim. If you refuse to do what they want, they can cut [off] your hand or your feet. I don’t believe that is the way you should dictate your religion. So we don’t want those people over there.”

Amnesty International reported widespread human rights abuses by the rebels, including summary executions and the use of child soldiers. Madoussou Traore is sickened by accounts of gang rape and other sexual violence.

“The Islamists or terrorists - I don’t know what to call them - they are raping the girls, young girls 13 years old, 14 years old," Traore said.  "Oh, I am so sorry about that situation. It’s very terrible.”

Modibo Diakite’s family lives in the Malian capital, far south of the fighting. Still, he is worried and the unrest has already affected his family.

“I have brothers and sisters at 12 o’clock in the morning [midnight] or 1 o’clock in the morning, they look around in the house and see if everyone is safe," he said. "If there is nobody hiding behind the house. Everyone is afraid now. This is terrorism. My brother told me one time he heard about 10 kilometers from his house, someone stop him in his car and take him out of his car by gunpoint. Those things, we don’t know them before.   

And, knowing all of this and being so far away is difficult.

"I am very concerned because, even [though] I am here many, many years, I am very concerned [for] the safety of my family," Diakite said. "Because I am part of them. I think about them; they are still in my life. If they are not safe, I will not be safe.

Recently, French and African military intervention has routed the rebels from their northern strongholds. Still, the fighting continues. And while it is uncertain how the conflict in Mali will play out over the coming weeks and months, its human cost will continue to be of urgent personal concern to the Malian community in New York, and elsewhere in the African diaspora.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs