Thursday, 21 March 2013

Somalia: Here We Go Again?

Reports by an LGBT activist group in Africa that a gay Somalian teenager was stoned to death last week as a punishment for the crime of homosexuality, and widely reported by LGBT bloggers on Wednesday, may prove to be false.
The group Somali Gay Community claimed, in a series of posts on their Facebook page, that 18-year-old Mohamed Ali Baashi was buried in a hole up to his chest and then stoned to death by members of the Al Qaeda-linked group Al Shabaab on March 15, in Barawe, about 50 miles from the Somalian capital city, Mogadishu.
The Somalia group alleged the young man was accused of sodomy, and that horrified villagers were forced to watch. The story was accompanied by several, graphic photos that the group claimed were of the stoning.
The story was reported Monday by Identity Kenya, another LGBT activist group in the region, and the unconfirmed report was widely distributed by LGBT websites, including the Advocate, Gay Star News, Queerty, Towleroad and Joe My God. **
But during a routine verification of the group’s claim, LGBTQ Nation discovered that all of the photographs purported to be of the stoning, were copied from unrelated incidents dating as far back as 2008, and were taken from stories previously reported by Associated Press, Reuters and Al Jazerra...


This story is still evolving at the time of typing.*
But stories like this about the stoning always have to be approached with extreme caution, they're almost impossible to verify from a desk in London or New York.
Such horror stories about scary homophobic, foreign "backward" "savages" often turn out to have been exaggerated, misreported, misconstrued,  or just plain made-up; for reasons of propaganda, and/or because they fit an Orientalist and/or Islamophobic/racist mindset, or just plain bad journalism.
But if the photos are from other events - one was published by the Daily Mail in 2009 - the essence of this story may still be true.
Right now, we simply don't know either way.
Also it's worth noting that the original sources said the supposed charge was sexual assault/rape of a 13 year-old boy.
Yet several gay media managed to turn this into "for the crime of homosexuality", or for "being gay".

* Update: A report by Associated Press today apparently filed from Mogadishu, gives it some credence - though it would be foolish to think AP are incapable of getting something wrong.

** Several have since been updated or removed from their websites. The illustrations come from Queerty's coverage yesterday and today.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed in general but stonings by Al Shabaab and associated groups have been confirmed numerous times, photos and video exists. So it is hardly 'orientalist' to report that this MIGHT have happened again?