“Maandeeq and Monsters” by Abdirashid Diriye Kalmoy
The monsters had captured her. She was thirsty: her mouth was dry; her throat was on fire. She felt ripples and waves of anguish and desperation rush down her spine. She could smell fear and death. Yet she remained poised, calm and indifferent. The monsters were jubilant that they finally arrested her. One of them, a young man in his early twenties, looked at her and smiled. She thought it was a ridiculing smile – full of judgment, contempt and an air of assumed domination over her body and spirit—but she was indifferent to it. The young woman persisted with her stoic aura and posture.
She was utterly tired. Her body moved rhythmically with the moving vehicle that was transporting them as it went up and down throughout the road. A painful sensation engulfed her head, pounding rhythmically with the movement of the vehicle. Her breathing started to shortened. Now, she could hardly maintain her eyes open. Amid the men brandishing AK-47s who come for her soul, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and slept.
Finally, she was in the hands of Al-shabaab.
The un-road-worthy vehicle slowly treaded the shrubs and the occasional acacia trees that dotted the semi-arid dry lands on the vicinity of Kismaayo. The young woman was still sleeping. Her face, her closed eyes, her rhythmical deep breathes reflected a soul lost and mesmerised in a dreamland far beyond.
It was a hot day. The scorching sun felt enraged with the land, the people, the animals, the plants, all the spirits and souls of the universe. The sky was empty; the clouds had run away; the rains had refused to come. The land was dry. all over the land, cracks were visible. It was as though the land was pleading to the sky for mercy. The people had never witnessed such a gruesome famine. It had devastated not just the people but the animals, the plants and the land for two rainy seasons And then, to make matters worse, there were the monsters who claimed to rule the land and its people with the will of God but feed on the bodies and souls of the people denaturing the spirits of the land.
The vehicle, a land-rover, finally reached the gates of a prison The young woman woke up as the roaring engine went mute. She was pulled out. A cool breeze wind caressed her sweaty face. She looked around to see where she was. She could hear the buzz of city life in the background. This is either Mogadishu or Kismaayo she thought. Men with covered faces were standing around her as one of them struggled to open the door of her prison cell. She felt the wind all over her body sending cascading pleasure throughout her small, body. Out of nowhere she was delighted. She thought the winds were greeting and welcoming her. She had never felt that before even in the open plains of the grazing land.
The young woman was tall and slender. She had a long and pointed nose that resembled the beak of a Sunbird. Her eyes had a piercing look; they were black and seemed inquisitive and full of spirit. Her name was MandeeqinaWeeyraxKooshin: Maandeeq the daughter of Weeyrax Kooshin.
A tall man carrying a big stick and listening to a small pocket radiopened the prison door. He seemed delighted to imprison people she taught. Maandeeq entered the filthy cell and sat at a far corner. They looked at her with contempt. She returned a calm look. The monsters looked at each other. They thought she was a mysterious mad young woman. ‘‘You kill and tyrannize the people for no reason’’ she almost yelled at them. Maandeeq was angry: words failed to out from her throat. The men were silent, including the tall prison warden. She understood that her demeanour irritated them, her fearlessness scared their souls – and perhaps stimulated the monsters’ insecurities and doubts that lay deep down in their souls and believes. Indeed, Maandeeq was a strong spirited young woman. She was the daughter of a nomad.
For three days Maandeeq was in that desolate prison-esque building in the outskirt of Kismaayo, Southern Somalia.
Her crime? Fornication. She had broken the laws of God, the creator of the universe, the sustainer of all beings. In their eyes, Maandeeq was a wretched being who was cursed and the wrath of God was upon her body, spirit and soul. Only punishment in tandem with the laws of God would cleanse her body and soul.
Maandeeq was born in a network of nomad settlements that dotted the vicinities of the border town of Libooya. There are two Libooyas, divided by a mysterious invisible line: one on the Kenyan side of the border, another on the Somalia side. Maandeeq was born in the Somalia side of the border. Her mother SagalinaGeedi, a renowned poet and a craved singer of the Saar and Gaaleeyso dances died at childbirth when she was only three rainy seasons old. Libooya was the land of her mother’s clan. The land was flat as far as the eyes could see. During the rainy seasons, the shrubs and herbs and the trees come to life and morphed the land into an earthly paradise.The smell of different plants and herbs thickened the air that the nomads cursed and harrumphed at.
As a young girl,Maandeeq herded the few goats and sheep that her family depended on for milk when the camels were taken to far-away lands. Her father kept a large number of camels. She always struggled to count them by their specific names when they arrived at the settlement. Her elder brothers would tease her whenever she failedto remember their names. Poor small girl, they would exclaim. Her father would be watchingfrom afar smiling. In anger, she would run to him, complaining about the boys. Her father loved her; he would caress her head and hair. She would cuddle his long left leg with her small hands. She would always feel the hardened muscles of this nomad who traversed between Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia to feed his camels and visit relatives’ camel settlements. He would tell her stories about the tall giraffes in the ragged plains between Garissa and Wajir; the scorching sun of Banka qiyaama and Leheeleey; the deep wells of Kutulo and Arabiya that the camel herders competed for; the farms along the river Daua and the marshy lands of Banaaneey and Dolloow; the fearless Borana warriors he met and befriended in the red-soiled plains near Moyaale, Fiiltu and beyond Nageeyle. Maandeeq loved these stories. She was scared at times.Some of the stories filled her with awe; others made her courageous. She envied the life of her father: a patient, tenacious, brave, and proud Somali nomad who criss-crossed three African countries that were home to his people and his camels. Maandeeq wanted to be a nomad when she grew up and become a woman with her own flock of camels, cattle and goats.
Maandeeq remembered the rainy season her grandmother visited their camel settlement when they were in Afmadoow. It was the first time that she met her grandmother who’d single-handedly raised her father and all his brothers and sisters when her husband was killed in a clan wars that ravaged the nomads. Maandeeq thought her grandmother was too old: her face was full of wrinkles, indicating a lifetime of hard work. She also had piercing eyes like Maandeeq; her voice was strong and deep. Maandeeq was always curious about her. She was a mysterious old woman full of life and vigour.
‘‘Ayeeyo tell me a story’’ said Maandeeq in a pleading voice a day the blistering sun walked slowly in the sky . Her grandmother would look at her. Maandeeq would sense the inquisitivelooks her grandmother gave her. After all, she was an old woman who had seen many things in the world. ‘‘I would tell you a short story but you must sleep in the noon when the sun is very hot’’ her grandmother would replyafter a quite silence. Maandeeq,delighted would sit cross-legged in-front of her grandmother her hands resting on her cheeks. The old woman looked at her and smile.
‘‘It was a long time ago’’ her grandmother started the story. ‘‘Your father wasn’t even born. I was a young woman, not yet married to your grandfather. The land was ruled by the white men. I remember it was a rainy season of plenty milk and meat. The clans made peace. The Ajuran and the Borana were fighting; but they also made peace after other clans negotiated peace between them. The land was beautiful. Giraffes, elephants and antelopes were everywhere. Occasionally lions would kill some goats in Wajir and Madogaashe and the information would spread among the nomads in the wells and the grazing lands. Wajir and Baardhere were very small town with few tea shops frequented by the nomads. At that time, our camel settlement was in a land between Garileey and Libooya’’. Her grandmother stopped. She looked at Maandeeq. The young girl was alarmed She knew old nomads do not like children that were inattentive and lazy. ‘‘Do you know all these lands and places that I am naming?’’ her grandmother asked in her deep old voice. Maandeeq noddedwith confidence. She said her father had told her of the famous wells and places between Kismaayo and Isiolo, He’d told her about the roaring Jubba River that passes near Garbahaareey; The lushfarms ofDiinsoor; the hot plains of Gaarissa; the sticky black mud of Isiolo that swallowedcamels’ legs. Her grandmother looked satisfied. Maandeeq felt more proud.
‘‘It was a good and peaceful rainy season, all the clans were peaceful, from Isiolo to Kismaayo people were happy and prosperous’’ her grandmother continued. ‘‘All of a sudden the white man and his soldiers demanded taxes from the people. At first the people complied: every settlement paid one healthy fat cattle as a tax. Then the Jilaaldry season arrived in haste. The people could not pay the taxes and the white man and his soldiers raided nomad settlements all over the lands. The people were unhappy. Ugaas Ahmed Samaale convened a meeting of all the Somali clans in Habaasweyn. All the clan elders and the young warriors attended. As a young woman, I went with my father and brothers to the gathering. The Ugaas slaughtered big camels for all. After two days of discussions all clans agreed to raid the white man’s fort that was stationed at Sarinleey and get rid of them. A seer was consulted. She was an old woman from Ceel-waaq and she gave the people good news and tidings. The Culumadaand Wadaadada also prayed for the people. The warriors and the young men prepared for the attack on the white man’s fort at Sarinleey. An early morning raid was planned and conducted on the fort. I joined the warriors, but I wasn’tarmed with a Waranor Tooreey. The colonial soldiers were killed. Even a high ranking white man who was giving orders was killed in the fort. After the raid, the warriors celebrated with a song, people were dancing all over’’. Maandeeq was excited. ‘‘It was a long song, now I am an old woman, this is all I remember:
Saabitahaan mayo gaalka cad,
‘‘That is the end’’ said the old woman. ‘‘Now go and bring the goat milk in the gaawo, you will drink and sleep, the sun of Waaq is now burning the skin’’.
Now, Maandeeq was exhausted in the prison cell. She was thirsty and hungry. The monsters had hardly givenher any water or food. She would sit lonely and day dream. She remembered her childhood; Her father and his camels; the other stories her grandmother told her; when she first took camel milk to the town; when her father died; the drought that killed all their camels; when she went to work as a maid in Libooye on the Kenyan side of the border; when she first travelled to Kismaayo and Gaarissa looking for work; the coming of the monsters into the lands and all the Culumo, Wadaad and the learned men and women they killed; she remembered how they massacred nomads who resisted them; how they razed villages that refused to pay tax and offer young men to their demonic service. She had burning nostalgia for her past – a past her grandmother narrated to her; a past that refused to come back. She could no longer recognize the world. The beautiful old days of her childhood were gone. The world was possessed – indeed, by ravaging monsters.
Now, she was in the monsters’ hands.
The court room was a small house in Kismayo’s old police station With a feline grace she walked through into the court:her head high, her eyes glaring. She was the only woman in the room. Men surrounded her, and she knew she was at the centre of attention. They were all young and middle-aged men. She could detect restlessness in their eyes; they seemed to lack something; they were hungry for power she thought; and they could devour anything to get power. The court room was packed. Maandeeq sat at a far-end corner on a white plastic chair, a young boy with an old AK-47 coming to stand behind her. She could almost feel his breath on her neck. There were murmurs all over the room; why would people speak in subdued voices she wondered! Then silence befell the whole court room. Maandeeq stunned.
The so-called judge of the monsters’ court arrived. He was a slender thin man with a goatee. He had a red turban and a white Arabic Khamisthat had a stain of dirt around the left side of his chest – precisely around his heart. He looked like those Quranic school teachers who studied abroad.Maandeeq looked at him long. He avoided her gaze and pretended to look down.He pulled a four-folded white paper and unfolded it. He read it. Maandeeqlistened impatiently.
‘‘Maandeeq ina Weeyrax Kooshin you are accused of fornicating with a married man in the neighbourhood of Baraxleey in this blessed and magnificent city of Kismaayo’’.
‘‘He forced himself upon myself that bastard with no shame’’ almost roared Maandeeq. The whole room of men unanimously screamed at her: ‘‘silent girl’’; scolding but weary eyes followed from the men
Her heartbeat escalated. She could feel the throbbing of her heartbeat all over her body. She was angry. She stared into the air, lost in thought. She couldn’t even hear the man reading from the paper.
‘‘Given the fact that you slept with the father of a house you worked as a maid, this glorious court that functions with the will of the Almighty God sentences you to death by stoning this very evening, in the Al-saudiyya madrassa ground. Our soldiers are also after the husband who is escaping towards the Kenyan border. With God’s will we will apprehend him and punish him with the laws of God’’ concluded the monsters’ judge.
Maandeeq was indifferent. She held her head tall: her conscience was clear;a calm bliss flooded her heart and soul She had an inner peace that no one could take from her – even men wielding swords, guns and black flags. Her face and eyes were full of life. She could see anxiety in their faces. Some of them were utterly scared; scared of themselves. They couldn’t look at her face. Maandeeq thought they were all bewitched.
Maandeeq descended into the hole the monsters dug. They shovelled hurriedly soil into the hole around her body. Cloud of dust rose until she was invisible. She smelled the dust, inhaled it into her lungs. Then there was silence. In a moment, she felt alone in the world. The dust had settled. Now, her lower body was buried into the earth. She was planted into the earth. Crowds of people had gathered around her – mostly men, young men – with scared looks and stones in their hands. She could sense fear in their faces and souls. One of the monsters started to shout instructions on how to stone a human being to death according to the religion. His voice was trembling, and she could tell he was scared.
Maandeeq was silent. She could feel the warmth of the earth travel from her legs to the rest her body. She could hear the chirping of birds on trees all over the Madrasa compound. She was relaxed. When the stones rained on her, she felt nothing. She could smell the blood. She could feel its wetness on her skin.Another torrent of stones descended on her. Again, she felt nothing. It was as though the soul and spirit of the earth she was planted into protected her from the monsters. Her body was entranced like a nomad playing the spiritual Somali Saar dance. Maandeeq was euphoric.. She felt ultimate uplifting of her body, soul and spirit. She was no longer in the human-world; she was part of the earth. Maandeeq was finally in unity with the universe. She had joined the stars that glorify our dark nights.
- Ayeeyo – Grandmother in Somali
- Gaawo – A crafted wooden bowl used by nomads
- Tooreey – dagger
- Waaq (or Eebe and Ilaaheey) is the name for the Sky-god in the ancient pre-Islamic nomotheistic religion of the Somalis. The names are common also to the Oromo, Afar, Beja and Sidaama and other Cushitic societies.
- Wadaadada – Religious teachers and scholars. Originally the names referred to the pre-Islamic Somali spiritual class of shamans, healers, magicians and seers.
- Waran – spear
Abdirashid Diriye Kalmoy is a Red who jumped from the sunny and red- soiled playing grounds of Mandera’s Bulla Mpya Primary school to Nakuru Boys high school’s green, misty and cold rugby playing grounds. He is an amateur poet, writer and freelance journalist and an aficionado of Jungian psychology and sufi spiritual poetry and writings. Now a graduate student and a teaching fellow at Ibn Haldun University’s sociology department, Istanbul, he is writing a thesis titled, Hope in Transition: An ethnographic study of sub-Saharan African migrants in Istanbul.
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