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A Mogadishu Rape Victim Finds Hope in Minnesota

By Abdirahman Aynte

     Fellow, The Center for Independent Media


Rochester, MN (HOL)- Just six months ago, Murayo Nur Ali was told that she has no hope to be treated from a severe injury she sustained during a gang-rape at age seven.


That was in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. But on Monday, she was full of hope as she stepped out of a private jet that flew her to Rochester for treatment at Mayo Clinic.


Though Ali is 11, she looks more like half of that. Gaunt yet playful, she has the signs of languish in her wide eyes.  Yet she manages to smile as she strides through dozens of people who waved encouraging signs and flowers at the Rochester International Airport.


One sign read “the bad part is over.”


It’s exactly the message that the couple who sponsored Ali wanted to send her. The Rochester pair, Abdi and Zahra, who wouldn’t give their last names because they didn’t want to be overwhelmed with all those in need, didn’t know Ali until they read her story on a Somali website.


“We couldn’t sleep the night we saw [Ali] on the internet,” said Abdi, who began to mobilize a network of people and organizations to help Ali. “She’s just like my three-year-old daughter.”


Severe Injury


Ali was only seven when thugs kidnapped her near her family’s home in Mogadishu. She was going to a nearby grocery shop to buy cooking oil.


“Before you reach the shop, you will have to pass some old buildings which were ruined in the civil war,” read a statement from her father, recounting the events of that fateful March morning in 2002. “After [she was] away for 30 minutes…., I heard screaming…I stood up and went outside to see the situation. Immediately, I found some people carrying up my daughter bleeding…”


The Somali doctor who examined Ali said in a statement that “her genital organ and rectum was extraordinarily opened up beyond recognition.” She uses diapers until now.


Young Murayo when she was only six years old
Releated Links (Somali only)
Muraayo Nuur Cali oo  la xanuunsaneysaa kufsi loo geystay - HOL
Muraayo Nuur Cali oo heshay Daweyn Dibadda ah - HOL

With meager resources and lack of equipment, the doctor offered limited treatment, but made it clear to her family that Ali must be treated outside Somalia.


Ali’s 64-year-old unemployed father was devastated. He’s so poor that he couldn’t even afford a taxi ride to the hospital.


Then, a local nonprofit organization, known as COGWO, published Ali’s ordeal on Somali websites. It was the right step at the right time for the right person. Thousands of miles away in Rochester, Minn., a young Somali couple was moved, so much that the two cried for days after they saw Ali’s tormented face. They sent more than 600 frantic emails to their friends. The response was massive, but disorganized. Thus they began narrowing down their options.


Laborious process


The arrangement to bring Ali to the United States was laborious and elaborate. From August of last year until now, Abdi and his wife Zahra spent at least 20 hours a week calling hospitals, foundations, attorneys, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Their cell phone bill was skyrocketing to about $400 a month for making so many international calls.


“I just wanted to show [Ali] that there is a hope somewhere,” said Abdi.


At times, the couple, who have three of their own children, hit snags. Some friends told them that they were attempting the impossible. But they were determined to bring Ali to Mayo Clinic at any cost.


“I never hesitated to help her,” said Abdi, who referred Ali as “my daughter.”


A collective effort


Though he and his wife took the initiative, Abdi has gotten a lot of help. A staff person with COGWO accompanied Ali and her father to Ethiopia and translated for them at the U.S. embassy. U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) pushed the Homeland Security Department to issue the visa precipitously. The city of Rochester offered a house and a Somali charter school has already admitted Ali, even though her education is “probably below the level,” according to Abdi.


By November, the humanitarian visa was approved, the Mayo Clinic agreed to treat Ali for free, and Wings of Hope, a nonprofit organization paid the ticket from Somalia to Washington, D.C., and flew Ali and her father on a private jet to Rochester.


The corrective procedure on Ali is expected to last for at least a year.


Meanwhile, Abdi and Zahra are already planning to help another child in Somalia.


If you are willing to help young Murayo Ali, here is the information you need:

Murayo Trust Fund
Wells Fargo Bank
Account # 247-573-6001
Rounting # 091000019


Abdirahman Aynte can be reached at [email protected]


Source: HOL, Feb 20, 2007