A different story

Publish date 04-09-2020

by Nello Scavo

The release of Silvia Romano prompted, as was to be expected, a highly politicized debate. Many of us have hoped that at least in this circumstance Italy would stop making Italy, and that maybe we would ask ourselves a few more questions about the Horn of Africa. Years earlier we did not want to learn the Somali lesson, and we would have needed to learn it at least as much as it would have been useful for the US to keep the Vietnamese one in mind.

As in the swamps of the Far East, the Somali sands also tell a different story from the official one. A lesson I had learned from Hassan's face, which had appeared to me as a portrait of his country. A face where other wrinkles would have struggled to find a place. The only habit is the henna-dyed beard, like a true head of the village. Hassan, the shoes could have been exchanged for a sack of cereals to feed the nine children of his two wives.

But Hassan is Somali. And Somalis know there is no point in filling your belly for one day if you don't know how it will end the next day. If the Europeans hadn't come to teach him gunpowder, they would have continued to fight each other with words, as they once did, when the leaders even used poetry to settle scores with their most rebellious neighbors. But those are stories that have become legend. And Hassan didn't have time to know if what the old men were telling were children's fairy tales or true stories to be passed down. He would certainly never get rid of his shoes for a sack of grain. In exchange for the shoes he got fodder. And never mind if his family wouldn't have anything to eat for another day. Because what mattered was keeping the only surviving cow standing. This is how he saved his children.

"We depend on beasts," said Hassan, opening his completely toothless mouth. If they don't eat, we die: no milk for the children, no fertilizer for the fields. And then who pulls the plow and the cart to bring the harvest to the markets? " He said it in Italian, the language of the colonizers long taught in the schools of all departments. Few speak it now, but Hassan was happy to finally be able to speak it with an Italian who hadn't come to explain to him how it is in the world. The putrid carcasses of cows and goats pointed the way to the farms in the region of Gedo, west of Mogadishu, between sunburnt tracks traveled hoping not to run into a "checkpoint" of bandits or al-Shabaab guerrillas, assuming that still today it is possible to distinguish one from the other. When I first met the Shabaabs, in Europe they were now considered defeated. Days earlier I had set foot in Mogadishu as the city was once again divided among the local warlords. Those warlords who with their "techniques", trucks transformed into military vehicles armed with old machine guns, had forced the most powerful army in the world to retreat, including the Italian contingent continually targeted by attacks.
It was the autumn of 2011 when the Shabaab, "the young", were advancing hungry in every city. When I met them in the south, on the border with Ethiopia, they were just watching. They considered agriculture and pastoralism a sacred activity, appreciated by Islam; to counter it would have been a blasphemy.

It did not seem at all a sacrilege instead to continue the work of destruction of the cathedral of Mogadishu. Before leaving the heart of the capital, the fundamentalist militiamen, like others in the past, had shelled what remained of the building aiming at the beautiful facade built according to the model of the Arab-Norman cathedral of Cefalù. Although the roof has fallen to the ground, and the side towers have been obliterated by dynamite, the church is still the tallest building in the city. Dozens of internally displaced families still live among the ruins, fled from the suburbs without law or food, to seek refuge where at least more easily humanitarian aid from UN agencies can reach. They are all Muslim refugees, but no one wanted to camp inside the still strong walls of the building. Someone would have liked to transform the apse into a latrine, but the women had protested, pointing to the image of Mary, the only one not to have been beheaded by the snipers.

In the days when many spoke of Silvia Romano alluding to the "submission" of Somali women, I reread the notes. And I was ashamed for those who once again used women and Somalia to bend the narrative to convenience.

For the category dedicated to the issue of freedom of the press and information, the Prize was awarded to Dr. Nello Scavo, in the light of his journalistic commitment to human rights, with particular reference to the issues of marginalization and the exploitation of immigration. , and his investigative journalism on the trafficking of human beings, on the routes of smugglers and their criminal profile ».
This is the motivation for the CIDU Award for Human Rights, established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which will be awarded each year to 7 candidates chosen from among organizations, associations and individuals who have particularly distinguished themselves for having contributed to raising awareness. collective of Human Rights in our country.
Nello Scavo, correspondent of Avvenire, international reporter, judicial reporter, war correspondent, collaborates with various foreign newspapers. His inquiries have been relaunched by the main newspapers in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Independent, The Guardian, Le Monde, Huffington Post, La Croix, Bbc, Cnn, Clarin, La Nacion, El Pais, El Mundo and others.

Nello Scavo
NP june / july 2020


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