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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs