[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday criticized [report text] the violent and repressive conditions in southern Somalia that have been implemented by the Islamist group al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder]. HRW interviewed more than 70 victims and witnesses, concluding that while some areas of the country under al-Shabaab rule are more stable when compared to areas under control of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) [official website], that stability comes at a steep price. The report details the use of harsh punishments including beatings, amputations, and executions without due process for the victims. Women have been particularly affected by al-Shabaab rule and the implementation of harsh measures in the name of Sharia law [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. According to the report:
Freedoms women took for granted in traditional Somali culture have been dramatically rolled back. In many areas, women have been barred from engaging in any activity that leads them to mix with men—even small-scale commercial enterprises that many of them depend on for a living. Al-Shabaab authorities have arrested, threatened, or whipped countless women for trying to support their families by selling cups of tea. [sic] In many areas, al-Shabaab officials require women to wear a particularly heavy type of abaya, a traditional form of Islamic dress that covers everything but the face, hands, and feet. Women who fail to do so are often arrested, publicly flogged, or both.
HRW also criticized the TFG and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) [official website] for their roles in the continuing violence in Mogadishu, stating [press release], "[a]ll sides are responsible for laws-of-war violations that continue unabated in Mogadishu. Many Somalis confront indiscriminate warfare, terrifying patterns of repression, and brutal acts of targeted violence on a daily basis."
Somalia has endured a lengthy civil war and several rounds of failed peace talks [BBC timeline] since the collapse of its last civil government in 1991. Last July, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights indicated that human rights violations committed during recent Somalian conflicts may amount to war crimes [JURIST report]. In an attempt to avoid violence in Mogadishu, the Somali parliament voted last April [JURIST report] to adopt Islamic Sharia law as part of a cease-fire agreement with the country's Hizb al-Islamiya and al-Shabaab rebels. Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed [BBC profile] had previously expressed his support [JURIST report] for the adoption of a moderate form of Sharia as part of peace talks with the rebels.