An Extraordinary Woman: Dr. Hawa Abdi, “The Saint of Somalia”
Glamour named Dr. Hawa Abdi and her daughters “Women of the Year” and calls them “The Saints of Somalia,” and for good reason. Dr. Abdi’s is an amazing story of what one woman has accomplished.
To begin with, Dr. Hawa Abdi is a Somali woman and she’s Muslim. She received her medical training in the Ukraine in the 1960’s. She returned to Somalia and opened a clinic in Mogadishu, Somalia, the first medical facility ever in the area. She is an OB/GYN, but the need for medical care was so great that she began treating anyone with a need. (Oh, she also earned a law degree on the side)
As the country became deeply embroiled in conflict, the 1,300 acres surrounding her clinic and hospital became a refugee camp for people displaced by the civil war. Today the camp is home for 90,000 people.
If it isn’t extraordinary enough to supply drinking water and try to procure food for 90,000 people, she also is working to teach illiterate women to read, runs a school for some of the children in the camp (she isn’t able to school the vast number of children, she does what she can). She is training traditionally nomadic people to farm and fish, so that they will be able to feed themselves and not remain dependent upon handouts. She is also working to end female genitalia mutilations.
Impressive, but this isn’t the end of her story. In May, a hard-line militia, Party of Islam invaded her camp and hospital. They had decided that a woman “shouldn’t run anything substantial” and demanded she turn over operations to them. She refused.
“I may be a woman, but I’m a doctor. What have you done for society?”
Glamour describes her as “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.”
According to The New York Times, 750 soldiers attacked the unarmed 63 year old and seized her hospital. Word of what happened reached the world’s Somalis and the reaction was outrage.
The militia backed down. They ordered Dr. Abdi to run the hospital under their supervision.
Again she refused. During weeks of negotiations, she refused to back down, she demanded that the militia leave and give her a written apology.
“I was begging her, ‘Just give in,’ ” said her daughter Deqo Mohamed, “She was saying, ‘No! I will die with dignity.’ ” Mohamed is a doctor herself and lives in Atlanta.
Finally, the militia succumb to the pressure and withdrew. They gave her the apology she demanded.
Dr. Hawa Abdi has made arrangements with Vital Voices, in partnership with Glamour Magazine to collect donations for her refugee camp.
P.S. : Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times, ends his article about Dr. Abdi with:
“What a woman! And what a Muslim! It’s because of people like her that sweeping denunciations of Islam, or the “Muslim hearings” planned in Congress, rile me — and seem profoundly misguided.
The greatest religious battles are often not between faiths, but within faiths. The widest gulfs are often not those that divide one religion from the next, but those between extremists and progressives within a single faith. And in this religious season, there’s something that we can all learn from the courage, compassion and tolerance of Dr. Hawa Abdi.”
by Alec Norton