Quick hit: Somali doctor Hawa Abdi stands down militants

The New York Times profiles Dr. Hawa Abdi, a 63-year-old Somali doctor who runs a hospital, school, and feeding program that supports nearly 100,000 refugees outside of Mogadishu. The land surrounding her hospital is considered one of the few safe zones in southern Somalia. And when militants attacked it last spring, Dr. Abdi held her ground, chewed them out, and eventually got a written apology:

For hours, militia commanders held Dr. Abdi at gunpoint while their underlings — mostly 15- to 16-year-old boys — ransacked the hospital, shooting anesthesia machines, smashing windows and tearing up records.

The gunmen, who belonged to one of Somalia’s most fearsome militant Islamist groups, notorious for chopping off hands and stoning adulterers, put Dr. Abdi under house arrest for the next five days and shut down the hospital, causing two dozen malnourished children to die in the bush after their families fled.

But something extraordinary happened. Hundreds of women from the sprawling refugee camp on Dr. Abdi’s property dared to protest, adding to a flood of condemnation from Somalis abroad that forced the militants to back down. Dr. Abdi even insisted that the gunmen apologize — in writing — which they grudgingly agreed to do.

“I told the gunmen, ‘I’m not leaving my hospital,’ ” Dr. Abdi said. “I told them, ‘If I die, I will die with my people and my dignity.’ I yelled at them, ‘You are young and you are a man, but what have you done for your society?’ ”

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Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard. Before become a full-time writer, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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