NAIROBI—Living in a war-torn city is hard enough for Mogadishu’s youngsters, but even those few opportunities for entertainment they used to enjoy have now been banned. Listening to music, watching football or films can earn one up to 30 lashes from the enforcers who patrol neighborhoods checking for “un-Islamic” behavior.
“We cannot watch our favourite teams, go to a movie or do anything that young people our age do,” said Loyaan Lugacade, 17, who lives in an area controlled by the militant Al-Shabab group.
The Hisbul Islam insurgent group on April 3 issued an edict claiming that playing music was un-Islamic, forcing 14 of the city’s 16 broadcasters to replace jingles with recorded gunfire, croaking frogs and crowing cockerels.
Its announcement was nothing new to Lugacade and his friends. “For six months fun was forbidden to us. Now the rest of the city is joining us,” he told IRIN.
Lugacade said the only time they could watch a football match or a film was clandestinely, at friends’ houses in areas not controlled by the insurgents.
“If you are caught you get lashed up to 30 times,” he said.
Faradheere A’day, 18, wants to watch his favourite football team, Arsenal, but not in his neighbourhood, which is controlled by insurgents, who consider it un-Islamic.
“Imagine being denied doing the most harmless things in the world! I don’t want to hurt or kill anyone. I just want to play and watch football.”
A’day was caught watching a film with friends and had to flee the enforcers to avoid being caned. “I have seen people who got lashed and it is not a pretty sight, so I run,” he told IRIN.
There is not much entertainment for young people in the war-torn city, aside from films and sport. The two Islamist groups have been fighting government troops, who are supported by African Union peacekeepers, in and around Mogadishu, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.
“Movies and football used to be the only avenue of fun available to them. Now that is closed. Having fun in this town is illegal,” said a local journalist.
He said the insurgents were not winning many converts among the youth with their decrees. “I don’t think many of the youth will be lining up to join them.”
A’day said he and his friends gathered in their neighbourhoods to talk about “things like football or movies. At least talking is not forbidden – for now anyway.”
This story first appeared April 27 on the Integrated Regional Integration Networks (IRIN), a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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Reprinting permissible with attribution