by Joy Nabukeya
KILIFI (Xinhua) -- As Kenya
intensifies the war against terrorism, relatives of suspected
Al-Shabaab militants are enduring immense stigma, threats and
blackmail from combatants on both sides of the battle.
Speaking during a recent forum in the coastal town of Kilifi,
the female relatives of terror suspects narrated how they have
become unwitting victims of a complex fight between the
militants and security forces.
Those who agreed to be interviewed by Xinhua on condition of
anonymity revealed an intricate but harrowing account of what
they have undergone either as victims of terrorism or target for
interrogation by security apparatus.
Fatihiya (not her real name) only learnt about her son’s
involvement in the terror group Al-Shabaab when he was injured
during one of the raids by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)
troops based in Somalia.
She had suspected that her son, who had earlier disappeared
without notice, might have been recruited by the al-Qaida-linked
militant group, but when the news came, Fatihiya was still
"As a mother, when I was lured to a nondescript place at the
mention of the condition of my son, I readily obliged, little
did I know that it would be the beginning of this traumatic
experience dealing with the members of a dreaded militant
group," said Fatihiya.
"I was put in a very difficult position because Al-Shabaab
still had my injured son and kept threatening me that if I did
not do their bidding they would kill my son.
"In any case, they said, he was useless to them because of
the injuries he sustained," she said.
Fatihiya is now deeply entangled in Al-Shabaab messy affairs,
though not as a fighter or suicide bomber.
She revealed to Xinhua that she has been running errands for
the terror network and occasionally met her son in an
undisclosed location to evade surveillance by security forces.
"The Al-Shabaab militants are heartless and use very crude
means to get supplies like drugs to their camp.
"It is as if they are aware my son is so dear to me and
because of that I would go at whatever length to ensure that he
is not killed," said Fatihiya.
"But deep down I know they are just using me and my son as an
"The mode of transporting drugs-both medicinal and hard drugs
is the most painful exercise and even more dangerous because I
have to use some routes that are not frequently used to get to
Somalia," she added.
She decried the degrading treatment she always undergoes
while delivering the consignment of drugs in the Al-Shabaab
"It is so dehumanizing," Fatihiya said, adding that she was
stripped naked to get the drugs stashed into her private parts
for safe delivery.
She disclosed that she had reported the disappearance of her
son to Kenyan authorities, though no positive response has been
Likewise, many rights campaigners were yet to honor her
request for help and only paraded her before donors only to
worsen her vulnerabilit, said Fatihiya.
The heartbroken woman has terminated engagement with security
personnel or rights groups and has reconciled with the tragic
reality of her son not escaping from the snares of a vicious
A female trauma counselor who spoke to Xinhua on condition of
anonymity said female relatives of terror suspects hardly share
their traumatic experience to loved ones or friends.
She noted Fatihiya represents a growing rank of women who
have been forced by circumstances to cooperate with Al-Shabaab
because their husbands, sons or brothers have joined the
militant group as combatants.
Such women, the expert said, run a number of errands for the
Al-Shabaab including spying and smuggling supplies and weapons
into their base in exchange for the lives and wellbeing of their
"Some of these women have sought help from state security
agencies and rights groups but their pleas are yet to be
"Consequently, they have become hopeless, scared and
"They literally live at the mercy of the rebel group that
watches their every move," said the therapist.
"At the moment there is no legal framework in Kenya to deal
with such cases and that is why female relatives of terror
suspects dread to come out in the open and share their traumatic
experiences," she added.
Kenya Police arrest two terror suspects in Kwale and Mandera