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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora