Mali in the Maelstrom

I’ve been posting letters from a Malian friend who has been back in his homeland visiting from his current home in Portland, Oregon.  This opinion piece by Karima Bennoune. a legal scholar with wide-ranging experience in the Arab world, draws a a grim picture of what has been happening in Timbuktoo and other parts of Mali.

She also reminds us that the surge in assaults in northern Mali began as Kadafi mercenaries fled Libya with his downfall, and that although the covering rhetoric of the raiders is Islam and sharia, the behavior — assaults and rape of women– contradicts their claims entirely.


Since the jihadist takeover, Gao’s economy has come to a standstill. Every Thursday, there are theocratic show trials in Arabic, a language many residents do not speak. The fundamentalists focus on teaching the predominantly Muslim population of Gao “how to be Muslim.” Like Al Shabab in Somalia and the Taliban in Afghanistan, they have a morality brigade that patrols the city, checking who is not wearing a sufficient veil and whose telephone sins with a musical ringtone. Speaking to a woman in public is an offense; this ban has caused such terror that some men flee in fear if they simply see a woman on the street.

The principal had been attending public punishments to document the atrocities. This meant repeatedly watching his fellow citizens get flogged. He has seen what it looks like when a “convict” has his foot sawed off. Close to tears, he said: “No one can stand it, but it is imposed on us. Those of us who attend, we cry.”


NY Times


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