Somalia, 13 March 2014: Teenage girl held captive by Al Shabaab starts a new life
13 March 2014 - Bilan was kidnapped by Al-Shabaab in Elasha-Biyaha on the outskirts of Mogadishu when she was just 14 years old. When her father tried to plead for his daughter’s release he was told the entire family would be killed if they made any more fuss about her being taken away.
“I remember that day thinking, the men would just take me for several hours and maybe rape me but then let me go,” said Bilan. “My family couldn't just let me be taken so I told them I would go instead of you all being killed. I did not expect to be taken to Barawe and be forced off to marry a boy not much older than me.”
Without any contact with her family, and no means of escape from the Al-Shabaab controlled area where she was held captive, she was forced to cook, clean and wash clothes for the fighters as well as being sexually abused. Bilan became pregnant several months later and was told she was contributing to Al Shabaab’s cause.
“I delivered the baby in a neighbour’s house. She too was married to an Al-Shabaab soldier,” she said. “Hours after I had the baby, I was told to go back to my family. I was relieved to go back to my family, but worried about explaining the child.”
Bilan made her way home, where her family received her and the child, understandingly and lovingly. Al-Shabaab members keep in contact with her for several weeks claiming to have informants in her neighborhood. Bilan and her family moved to a different area in Mogadishu and decided to enroll her in the socio-economic reintegration program.
The programme offers a wide range of vocational training including electrical repairs, plumbing, fishing and woodwork. Bilan completed a fine dining, cuisine and hospitality course and hopes to receive a business startup grant.
“I have learned more from the center than just how to cook and serve meals property,” she said. “It made me appreciate my life and look forward to the rest of it because what I have been through was one stage, but there are so many other better opportunities coming for me. I am certain of it.”