Minneapolis, MN – About 100 people gathered for a “Speak Out in Support of the Somali Community” Dec. 3. The organizers were inspired to do the forum after the Oct. 20 conviction of Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan, two Somali American women who raised money for charities assisting Somalia’s poor. The women’s conviction was related to providing “material support to foreign terrorist organizations.” During jury deliberations, supporters of the women made it clear that the situation for people in Somalia was dire and that people required help for basic survival.
“We feel it is important to educate people on the situation in Somalia that the women were trying to address,” said Jess Sundin, one of the event organizers, “but also to make this a call to people of conscience to work to stop the U.S. intervention in that country.”
Sponsored by the Minnesota Committee to Stop FBI Repression and the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition, the event brought together a broad cross section of the peace and justice movement, along with many Somali Americans.
Hassan Ali Mohamud, Director and Imam of the Minnesota Dawa Institute, condemned the unjust treatment of Ali and Hawo. He also warned of recent government moves to curtail the ability of Somalis in the U.S. to send money to their relatives in their homeland. He noted that about 3 million Somalis depend on these remittances for their survival. There will be local actions soon to save the Somali money transfer establishments, called hawalas.
Faysal Mohamed, the husband of Amina Ali, told of the hardships faced by his family with his wife in jail. Mohamed, who cares for the family’s two young daughters and bedridden mother-in-law, spoke movingly about taking his daughters to visit Ali in the Ramsey County jail, where the family could only communicate via closed circuit camera.
Attorney Bruce Nestor talked about the repression that is being unleashed on the Somali community and urged participants not to talk to the FBI. He brought out the fact that the government case was around the fundraising of a little over $8000 over the course of years, but that the feds spent millions of dollars, did hundreds of hours of wiretapping and involved many thousands of hours agents’ time in prosecuting the two women.
Nestor also made the point that if these laws were in effect in the 1980s and 90s, there could have been no anti-apartheid, Irish republican or Central America solidarity movements.
Mel Reeves, of the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition, spoke against U.S. intervention in Somali and in support of self-determination for the Somali people. He put out a clear call to resist cowing down to the government when they pass unjust laws and try to tell people what to think.
Both women were convicted of conspiracy to provide material support for a foreign terrorist organization. In addition, Ali was convicted of 12 counts of providing material support and Hassan was convicted of two counts of lying to FBI agents. Each count of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization carries a 15-year sentence. On the day of the conviction, there were huge protests in Somalia over the women’s cases.
The women were accused of helping al-Shabab, an Islamist organization that fights to free Somalia from foreign domination.
Participants at the forum were urged to pack the courtroom for the sentencing of Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan. The sentencing is expected to happen in the early spring. Before that, there will be other actions and campaigns around the case. Donations to the legal defense fund for both women can be made and sent to: Amina Ali Legal Fund, 1860 Quarry Ridge Pl NW, Suite 126, Rochester, MN 55901.
“The witch hunt that the FBI is waging against the Somali community is very disturbing. They are using coercive tactics to scare people into talking, and then twisting words in a way that puts many in danger of persecution. Across the country, their tactics against the Arab and Muslim communities are unconscionable and it’s time we all get together to put a stop to this FBI abuse,” according to Steff Yorek, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Yorek is a Minneapolis activist whose home was raided on Sept. 24, 2010, and who was served with a subpoena for a grand jury fishing expedition for ‘material support for foreign terrorist organizations.’
“The material support law is unjust and an attempt to criminalize people who support resistance to U.S. domination. We should never accept the idea that solidarity is some sort of crime,” states Mick Kelly, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.
The repression in the Somali community comes in the context of growing U.S. intervention in Somalia.
“The U.S. attacks on Somalia are ramping up in a big way,” says Joe Callahan of the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition. “The U.S. is sending in robot-drones to bomb and kill hundreds of people. Tens of thousands of troops, acting on the behalf of the U.S., from the African Union, Kenya and now Ethiopia are moving in to kill more.”