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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
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 Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to 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 Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
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 US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
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 Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
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.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs