Sunday, 20 June 2010

How lucky we are

On Wednesday when you sit down to watch the next England game - maybe in a panicked state considering the possibility of Fabio Capello's boys crashing out in spectacular style - spare a thought for the football fans of Somalia.

Since governmental collapse in 1991 much of troubled nation has been run by militant Islamic groups who force a particularly barbaric brand of Sharia law (utterly at odds with the beliefs of most Muslims) upon the unwilling Somali people. Firstly the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) rose to prominence, taking over vast swathes of territory. Then, when it was defeated by Ethiopian troops (with the support of US bombers) in 2006, it splintered into a range of equally brutal groups such as Hizbul-Islam and Al-Shabab (both of whom appear to have tacit links to Al-Qaeda).

Today the Islamists run Somalia South of the capital Mogadishu (which is tenuously controlled by the government backed up by African Union peacekeepers.) In these areas people are subjected to some of the worst human rights abuses in Africa; young girls are stoned to death for alleged adultery, students are targeted by bombers, opponents are beheaded in the streets, aid workers are slaughtered, the harrowing list goes on....

And those wanting to get away from the carnage by watching their continent's first ever World Cup have not been spared the brutality. Islamist groups, regarding the tournament as a 'distraction from jihad' have threatened to flog or execute anyone caught watching it. At least 10 people in Hizbul-Islam-controlled territory have already been arrested for doing so.

England might go out on Wednesday and football fans have every right to be upset if this happens. But all too often we in the democratic world take for granted the ability to watch a football match without the risk of being tortured or even killed.

Sometimes we forget how lucky we are.

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