From The Book Awdal Phenomenon: “The Isaaq”, Somalia’s Troublesome Child!
As Somalis have strived towards the idea of nationhood, it has been the Isaq clan that stood alone in resisting the unity of the Somali people. Like a troublesome child who throws a tantrum when he does not get his own way, the Isaq clan has repeatedly displayed the selfish shortsightedness and violence of such childish outbursts but with dire consequences.
In a quick review, I will try to tackle the Isaq threat to Somalism, starting from their stand on the Dervish Movement to the present situation in a historical perspective. I will not even go into details to include some of their terrorist activities such as hijacking a Somali ship in 1961 and a national carrier in 1966 and again in 1987.
The Dervish Movement, led by Sayyid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan, started the first Somali patriotic struggle against the colonialists. This nationalist movement which entered a long and a bloody war with three foreign powers, namely the British, the Italians and the Ethiopian kingdom, would have been victorious if the Isaq clan did not conspire against it with the Britishadministration.
The British government armed the Isaq – the ‘friendlies’ as they were called (Lewis, I. M: The Modem History of Somaliland; Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1965) – to figth against Sayyid Mohamed’s nationalist movement. They also spied on and guided the British forces to the Dervish bases. The Isaq had even sent several unsuccessful missions to Sayyid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan on the pretext of mediating between him and the British but each time they asked him to surrender. Sayyid Mohamed never yielded to the Isaq games and even punished them on several occasions for their treachery and cooperation with the colonialists.
The Isaq branded the Sayyid as a Mad Mulla in their report to their British masters. The British had well exploited the Isaq-coined name and Sayyid Mohamed Abdulla Hassan, who was equal in personality and ideals with Omar al-Mukhtar of Libya and Abdul Qadir Jazai’ri of A1geria, went down in the British written history books as simply the Mad Mulla of Somalia. Many British made jokes about him are even today taught to European and American school children. Commenting on the wrath of the Sayyid on the Isaq betrayel, Lewis wrote:
“… Nevertheless, for this betrayel of his cause, as he regarded it, the Sayyid never forgave the Isaq and regularly berated them in his poetic polemics, saying of them in one famous poem : ‘The fate of the Isaaq is to remain forever as stupid as donkeys’. “
Still in another of his well memorised poems Sayyid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan had so explicitly pictured the Isaq’s love and devotion for their British masters:
- Xirsiyow naaqusnimo waa waxaad, niiq la leedahay
- Naxar lagu shid waa jaahil iyo, Naracadiisiiye
- Noy baad tihiin aan qalbiga, nuurka 100 geline
- Naasilo xun baa lagu yaqaan, nimanka Iidoore
- Wax ka niiqsan toban ieer kuwii, naaqurta lahaaye
- Nasab haddaad tihiin gaaladaad, nici lahaydeene
- NaxaIIi baad ka dhigateen halkaan, narriga lahayne
- Nasteexadu waxay idin la tahay, naafacaan jirine
- Ka nacawdu sheydaamadaad, nacam tiraahdeene
- Naar-quulayaaI iyo knfraad, nebiya mooddeene
- Naartii waxaa idinku guray, nibiriyaashiiye
- Nasaarada waxaw taabacdeen, waa najuusnimo e
- Naagaw tihiin ferenjigii, nolosha dheeraaye
- Nacalluhu kuwnu fuulay baad, daba nashlayseene
- Naamuskiin wuxu jabay markaad, nacabka raacdeene … “
The Isaq’s anti-nationalist sentiments did not end with the defeat of the Dervish Movement, but it again surfaced on the eve of independence when a branch of the Somali Youth League party was opened at Jigjiga. The whole Somali people rallied behind the SYL which heralded the struggle for Independence. At this time, the Isaq again revolted against the wave of nationalism. While the other Somalis were sacrificing their life and wealth for the great national cause, the Isaq were running everywhere to come up with a justifiable reason that could exempt them from their historical responsibility. And because the British was losing face in the whole African continent, they could not use the British card which gave them the upper hand over the Dervish Movement.
They came up with a more dynamic idea by tracing their descent to Arab origins. They propagated that their great grandfather was the first cousin of the prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) and that they were Saada-sacred people – that could not share anything with the African Somalis. With this the Isaq tried to deal themselves out of the game. But, the rest of the Somalis could not understand how the grand father of the Isaq clan who lived only few centuries back could be the cousin of the Prophet and blasted the whole idea as a cheap excuse from the Isaq for covering up their hidden hatry for being tom away from the warm British lap which gave them dominance over the other clans for so many years. The wind of change was blowing over Africa and whether they liked it or not the Isaq would eventually have been tamed to follow the fate of the whole Somali people. That was succinctly expressed by Sh. Hassan Tani Gabobe, one of the vanguard activists of the SYL in Jigjiga :
- Saca faarso nacay, sanduluu ku iman
- Saddex maalintuu qado, saa waxa ka dhigan
- Safka maanta yidhi, saada nahee,
- Soomaali an diidno.
The prediction of Sh. Hassan Tani became obvious when in a later date, the Isaq formed the Somali National League (SNL) not in the faith of a national cause but more with the intention of avoiding to be left alone. But to counter balance what could have been the only positive step they had ever taken, they created the NUF which called for the continuation of the British rule in the Somaliland. The Isaq played a double game. If the nationalist parties won they had their voice through the SNL; but they put their weight behind the NUF which they saw as their savior from the nationalist nightmare.
When the Northern part of Somalia won independence on 26 June, 1960, the United Somali Party (USP) which had the Gadabursi and the Dulbahante clans behind it called for an immediate reunion with the South which was under the Italian rule. Again it was the Isaq leaders of the SNL who with instructions from the British goverment severly fought the idea of unification. And against their will and with the relentless struggle of the USP, the two Somali parts united to form a single state on 1st July 1960.
The Isaq never forgave the USP for that and they tried to revive their Isaqism through an aborted military coup carried out by their young military officers in 1961. This was to declare an Isaq dominated British monitored separate state in the north of the country.
Another manifestation of the Isaq’s hatry for Somalism, came to the forefront after the Somalo-Ethiopian war came to an end in 1977. After Somalia decided to withdraw its forces, an influx of Somali refugees, fleeing from an expected Ethiopian reprisals, came with the returning Somali armies. All the Somalis stood to welcome, accomodate and attend to the needs of their destitute brothers.
The Isaq clan was the big exception. They saw those homeless refugees as a threat who came to uproot them from their homeland. They abused them, insulted them and called them by every despicable name they could come up with. As a result of that prejudice, the SNM was created on the pretext of fighting against a corrupt regime; but in reality tbe aim was to preserve the purity of the Isaq clan (The Sa ada) against the infilteration of the other Somalis. This has become obvious from the slogan of the SNM when they entered the town of Hargeisa, they were Singing:
- Ninkii dhoof ku yimid bay geeridu dhibaysaa. (The death scares only
It was a common knowledge that there was on foreign immigrant living in the town of Hargeisa with the exception of the employees of the International Organizations. The slogan was directed to all other Somalis but the Isaq. The SNM was not even the least diplomatic to influence tile public opinion rather than those of their own people. Instead they immediately showed their naked enemity to their fellow Somalis when they cold bloodedly murdered whole families of the Oulbahante and Gadabursi clans in the towns of Hargeisa and Buroa.
After the SNM was defeated by the goverment forces and were chased out of the captured towns, they never hesitated as usual to blame the Gadabursi and the Dulbahante for their failure. They started what they saw as an inevitable reprisals against the unarmed civilians of the other Somali clans, specially the Gadabursi and the Oulbahante. They invaded villages, looted their properties, indiscriminately killed children, Women and many innocent nomads. The only crime these people committed was that they were not from the Isaq and that they refused to support tile aims of what later proved to be the Sadistic Noisome Maniacs (SNM) instead of a Somali National Movement.
Today, the civil war ragging on in the north of Somalia is an Isaq monitored war aimed at annihilating all the other Somali clans existing in the area, so that Isaq’s cherished dream of creating an Isaq Independent State, could be achieved. Ethiopia, the historical enemy of Somalia has found an inexpensive army in the SNM to fulfil her longstanding objective of disrupting the unity and assassinating the spirit of nationhood among the Somali people. Thus giving her the opportunity to rid herself of the burden of the Cuban forces that were stationed at her border with Somalia since 1977.
I am sure, many foreign people and even some of our Arab brothers who were misled by the false propaganda published by the SNM through the media of the west, would reconsider their positions towards the SNM, when they come to know about their true nature. At a time, when the Arab countries are creating regional groups to pave the way for the big dream of United Arab States it is obvious that all other attempts of menial nature will not only end up futile, but will also be severly dealt by the irreversible hand of history. The unity of Somalia is one which is based on people having one culture, one language, one religion and one national intergrity. And no single clan however powerful they assume themselves to be will ever be able to nudge let alone move the mountain of Somali nationalism.
Bashir Sh. Omer Goth
Awdal Phenomenon, Published 1989.