Explorations in History and Society

Exploring and Collecting the History of the Somali clan of Hawiye.

Archive for January 2009

The origin of the Ajuran and their defeat by Baadicadde and Gaaljecel

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5. The origin of the Aguran.


“There formerly lived in the country six men born from two different women: three from one mother and three from one mother and all from one single father. Their father was called Hawiyya. Gambélla Hawiyya and Gurgate Hawayya and Guggundabe Hawiyya are [sons] of one single mother. Háskulla Hawiyya and Rárane Hawiyya and Karánla Hawiyya are [sons] of one single mother. Gambella begat Fâduma Gambella. She grazed the sheep and followed them into the woodland. While she was wandering through the woodland, she saw a man in a tree as high as a sycamore. She said: ‘Come down to earth!’ He answered: ‘No! Summon for me your brothers, and the brothers of your father, those of your tribe!’ Then she summoned them. The men came to her. They told the man: ‘Come down!’ He said: ‘No! I shall not come down! If you give me three things, I shall come down.’ ‘What are the three things?’ they said. ‘First, if Fâduma Gambélla and a hundred she-camels with a black hump and a slave are given to me, I shall come down.’ Then he added: ‘If these three things are accepted by me, I shall add another one. And there will be four things! I shall come down on a man.’ Then the six Hawiyya thought. The people of ancient times were few. That which they desired: they wanted help. If he has children and stays with them, they want aid from him. Then they said to the man: ‘We accept! Come down!’ Guggundabé said: ‘Come down on me!’ Gurgáte said: ‘No! We who have given Fâduma and given the hundred she-camels, now is it also necessary to come down on us? No!’ he said and he refused. Then that one came down, he came down on Rárane. He mounted 253 on Rárane the man. He married Fâduma Gambêlla and they begat Agurân. Who knows who this man is? He was seen in a tree.”The tradition then also typically explains the prepotency of the Aguran over the neighboring Somali tribes with the account of Rárane Hawiyya, who consents to have Aguran come down from the tree, loading him on his shoulders. And the pun with ráran,   ‘loaded,’ is evident; a pun which appears useful in preserving the legend.


As I have said elsewhere ( 1   . Cf. Vol. I, p. 62. ), the tradition represents the admission into Somali territory of a foreign immigrant who, by means of a matrimonial alliance, is Page: 80 able to have himself accepted among the local tribes and later even acquires hegemony over them. This type of account, which here justifies the formation of the Aguran tribe and its jus connubii  with the Hawiyya Somalis, is also widespread among other peoples, such as, for example, for the origin of the Isaq /Isaaq/ and the Dir, in Northern Somalia ( 2   . Cf. Vol. I, p. 60. ). It adumbrates the successive immigrations, prevalently Arab, not all of which were limited to the coast and to the coastal cities, but thus were also able to infiltrate the tribes of the interior.











7. The Aguran driven from the Webi by the Badi ‘Addä and Galga ‘el.



 “In ancient times the Badi ‘Addä lived at Kahandalä. The Abgal later lived in that locality. It is near the sea (Kahandalä) ( 1    . This locality of Kahandalä, the Badi ‘Addä say, was near Märeg, on the coast in the southwest of Obbia, on the borders of the territory held today by the Abgal Waeslä and by the Habar Gidir. The Badi ‘Addä emigration from Kahandalä to the territory then held by the Mogosilä and Aguran therefore represents one more episode in the struggle of the tribes of pastoralists from the woodland to reach the river (cf. Vol. I, pp. 60-61, 68). ). Then (the Badi ‘Addä) emigrated from there. They came here. When they came here, the Agurän and the Mogosilä lived in these places. First of all, the Galgä‘el and they (Badi ‘Addä) are brothers. (Galgä‘el) is their maternal uncle (of the Badi ‘Addä) ( 2   . The Galgä‘el, or rather their founder, is the “maternal uncle” of the Badi ‘Addä, because the mother of the Badi ‘Addä, according to the genealogies, was a sister of Galgä‘el. ). Galgä‘el left his territory and went to Kahandalä and asked them for help (the Badi ‘Addä). Then they left together: ‘We shall go to our land!’ Then the Mogosilä and the Agurän lived together. Page: 85 They made war. The Mogosilä thus were made to emigrate from the country ( 3   . The Mogosilä therefore emigrated from the Webi before the Aguran.“The Aguran lived from Mogadiscio as far as Ilig. Then they held an assembly. They met by the pool of Beha above Sibay. Then the Sultan said: ‘Here we shall hold an assembly. Everyone shall come tomorrow!’ Everyone brought a camel loaded with durra and butter and milk and a slaughtered animal. Then (the Sultan) said: — In ancient times there was water in the pool of Beha –. When they came to the pool, he (the Sultan) said: ‘Keep silent; I shall talk.’ Then he-said: ‘Now water is there in this pool. Anyone who would say leave the water and do not take it is cursed. By now it is cursed. By now it is finished!’ he said. ‘Let us emigrate from here.’ Then the Badi ‘Addä entered their territory.




257    “The Aguran had much arrogance. A Badi ‘Addä composed a distich:


If arrogance had led to anything,   the Aguran would not have left the country.  


“What was the controversy at first? The Galgä‘el and the Aguran fought each other first. Then the Galgä‘el were vanquished. They became afraid. Then they went in search of the Badi ‘Addä. They went to them at Kahandalä. They said: ‘Now we have neither brothers nor others. We want to be helped.’ They obtained help from us. The Badi ‘Addä, when they left Kahandalä, were only sixty persons and carried gourds. In the gourds they carried water. For this reason they are given the nickname of: ‘Badi ‘Addä of the gourds’ ( 1    . bo‘or   is the water container produced from a dried gourd. Hence the nickname bo‘orräy   given to the Badi ‘Addä. ). Page: 86 It was when the Badi ‘Addä helped the Galgä‘el; and the Aguran were vanquished.”


Cerulli, Enrico How a Hawiye tribe used to live


Written by daud jimale

January 26, 2009 at 11:14 pm

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The Darandole Somalis take possession of Mogadishu

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4. The Darandollä Somalis take possession of Mogadiscio

“In ancient times the Sirasi lived in Mogadiscio. The people called Halaw[unknown]ani succeeded the Sirasi. The Mudaffar succeeded the Halawani. The Mudaffar came from the country of Yemen in Arabia. He had guns. He built the palace that is found under the Governor’s house. He was a friend of the Aguran. At that time the Mudaffar governed the coast; and the Aguran ruled in the woodland. The Hirabe were not nearby them; they lived in the northern places. At that time the people of the woodland could not spend the night in the city of Mogadiscio. At sunset a ban was put on the city: ‘Hawiyya, it is growing dark! Hawiyya, it is growing dark!’ Then they went away toward the woodland.

“Later the Mudaffar had an interpreter who was called ‘Ismankäy Haggi ‘Ali. This ‘Ismankäy had the idea of letting the Darandollä enter the city. A message was sent to the imam Mahmud ‘Umar, who lived at Golol. The imam, guiding his Page: 71 warriors, came south and approached Mogadiscio. Then what did ‘Ismankäy do? He spoke with the Mudaffar: ‘By now the Darandollä are near Mogadiscio, let me be accompanied by some soldiers, and I shall go to them.’ ‘How do you want to do it?’ ‘I shall do it this way. I shall come to an agreement with the leaders and make them return to the places in the north.’ ‘So be it!’ said the Mudaffar. Then ‘Ismänkäy took some soldiers with him, but without weapons: ‘Leave your weapons! We go out to conclude an agreement, not really for war.’ They put down the weaons. They went into the woodland. When they had gone into the woodland, the Darandollä came out and took all the soldiers prisoner. Then they continued the raid and entered Mogadiscio. The Mudaffar was caputred and they wanted to kill him. But he, looking at the people who had come close to him, saw among them ‘Ismankäy Haggi Ali. ‘Stop!’ he said then. ‘Before you kill me, I want to speak. O ‘Ismankäy, you are good for nothing, you are capable of nothing, you will not pass seven!’ he said. Thus was 248 ‘Ismankäy cursed. When the Mudaffar was killed, when seven days passed after his death, ‘Ismankäy died too. It happened exactly as he had been cursed.

“Then the Darandollä, after having entered Mogadiscio, quarreled with the Agurän. They quarreled because of the watering. The Agurän decreed a rule: ‘At the wells that are in my territory the people called Darandollä and the other Hiräbe can not water their flock by day, but only at night.’ They decreed this rule. Then the Darandollä once said: “We should water at the wells, before God and in full daylight, the she-camel of a small and orphan child. Give us permission!’ thus they begged the Agurän. The latter replied: ‘If a she-camel of the Hiräbe should drink at the watering during the day it would be a disgrace for us. Let it be!’ ‘We can not let it be!’ they (the Darandollä) said. ‘If you can not let it be, your imam has a ring on his finger; cut off the finger together with the ring and bring it to us! Otherwise you will not obtain the water.’ Then the Darandollä had a meeting. They consulted. They all said: ‘We can not make such a speech to the imäm . Otherwise he would curse us. Then the Wa’dän stood up: Page: 72 ‘I shall say it to him,’ he said. ‘All right,’ they replied. Then the Wa’dan went to the imäm . ‘O imäm, counsel has been taken concerning you,’ he told him. ‘Oh! What is it?’ ‘It is this: the Aguran want from us that your finger with the ring be cut off and taken to them.’ ‘And would you do that?’ the imäm inquired. ‘You are the imam and I can not hide from you what is happening,’ answered the Wa‘dan. ‘What is it that is happening?’ asked the imam . ‘It is this: the other Darandolä accept the request of the Aguran. Only I have refused and I am rather holding back my brothers,’ said the Wa‘dan. ‘Is this so?’ said the imam . And he, the imam, had long since understood all the discourse. ‘If this is so, my son, I shall pronounce a benediction on you. I thus bless you: I have placed you above; I have had you move south, I have strengthened you with one thousand that your father did not beget!’ thus spoke the imam . The benediction thus pronounced on the Wa‘d[unknown]an came true. He (the Wa‘dan) lives to the south of the Darandolla; it is a small tribe, but people come there from everywhere and have themselves adopted by the tribe. Thus maybe their name is great, but the Wa‘dan born from the Wa‘dan are few.

Subsequently the imam and all the Darandollä met in a locality. These leaders decided to wage war against the Aguran. They went to war. They saw the imam of the Aguran near a well called ‘El ‘Aul. They saw him sitting on the stone. They killed him with the sword. As they struck him with the sword, they cut all his body and the stone on which he was sitting at the same time. He died at once. With him dead, the Aguran emigrated; they emigrated from the country. And the sword with which the imam of the Aguran was killed is still preserved. Until today the Maganwa‘la Mobilen have it.

” The preface of this tradition deals with the succession of the dominant stirpes in the city of Mogadiscio, and we have already taken account of it here above ( 1 . Cf. above, p. 70. ). Page: 73 It should only be added that the tradition attributes to the Mudaffar, thus in the XVI century, the construction of the palace whose ruins are seen still today on the shore below the ancient ‘Garesa,’ seat of the wali of the Sultan of Zanzibar, and the palace of the Italian Governor, who has in part incorporated some houses of the ‘Amüdi of the Singäni quarter. This tradition of ours attributes to the Mudaffar a Yemenite origin.

But the long account refers particularly to the conquest of the city of Mogadiscio on the part of the Darandollä Somalis, a group of tribes making up part of the Abgal and genealogically linked with that founder about whom we have also already seen the tradition ( 2 . Cf. p. 65. ).

All the more, the tradition here attests that the Darandollä Somalis conquered Mogadiscio against the Mudaffar ( 3 . In my other writings (for the present in the first volume of this work) I followed the Arabic spelling “Muzaffar.” Here, in order to avoid contradictions with the Somali text of the tradition, I instead followed for the same name the Somali spelling “Mudaffar.” ). Therefore the succession in Mogadiscio from the Mudaffar to the Darandollä Somalis seems assured. Also this affirmation of the Darandollä Somalis in the city is therefore to be considered, as we have already said for other hegemonies ( 4 . Cf. above, p. 62. ), not really as the constitution of a principality, but instead as the acknowledgment of the supremacy of the hereditary leader of the Darandollä (who had the title of imam ) on the part of the other Arab-Somali and Somali city-dwelling peoples, peoples who, in addition, kept their own leaders and their autonomy.

When did this entry of the Darandollä into Mogadiscio take place? A document dated December, 1700, does not contain any mention of the presence of the imam of the Darandollä in the city. On the contrary, it represents the people of Mogadiscio who, threatened by the arrival of some English ships, turn to the learned faqih Ahmed ibn Abu Bakr of the Rer Faqi for counsel and guidance ( 5 . See Vol. I, pp. 21-24. ). But the document comes from the archive of the Rer Faqi ( 6 . Here, too, faqih is the Arabic spelling; faqi in Somali. ), and thus it is understandable that it would emphasize the authority of that strips. In any case this document dated 1700 does not even mention the Mudaffar and their Sultanate.

However, another element more precise for this chronology is given us by the letter of P. Joao de Velasco of the Company of Jesus ( 7 . Rerum Aethiopicarum Scriptores Occidentales inediti / Unpublished Western Authors on Ethiopian Matters/, ed. C. Beccari, Vol. XII, Rome, 1912, pp. 79-80.

250 In such a letter of July 25, 1624, P. de Velasco ( 1 . I have already cited this letter in the first volume of this work, p. 65 (where “1625” is unfortunately a misprint for “1624”). ) says that Brava and Mogadiscio have two Mussulman kings, who, although not being declared enemies of the Portuguese, nevertheless often do not permit even the supplying of water to the ships of Page: 75 the Portuguese fleet ( 2 . This last piece of information by P. de Velasco, who is a reliable source, having been personally at Pate and Malindi on the African coast of the Indian Ocean, does not coincide with what was said in his “Appunti” /Notes/ (“Apontamentos”) of 1598 by the Ethiopian Takla Maryam in a tone much more optimistic about

“aquelles portos, hum dos quaes he Brava e outro Magadaxô; são abitados de mouros; como vivem tam bem entre elles alguns Portugueses e tem igrejas nas suas terras, estão tão domesticados e dependem tanto delles que farão tudo o que lhe pedirem’’

/ those ports, one of them Brava and the other Magadaxô; some Portuguese live among them as well, and they have churches in their lands, they are so civilized and depend so much on them that they do anything that is asked of them/” ( Rerum Aethiopicarum cit., Vol. X, Rome, 1910, p. 406). ).

In addition “o sertao da terra, que responde a este reinos, possuy outro Rej chamado Himao

/the interior of the land, which corresponds to these realms, has another King called Himao/”;

thus in the region of the interior corresponding to the littoral from Mogadiscio to Brava, in the valley of the Webi, another ‘King,’ who has the title of imam, rules. This situation corresponds quite well to the Mudaffar principality in Mogadiscio and to that of the imam of the Aguran or of the Darandollä in the interior, according to the tradition presented above. The entry of the Darandollä into the city and the removal of the Mudaffar from their rule and of the Aguran from the interior can, however, be identified quite well with what P. de Velasco further refers to: the imam, of whom he is speaking,

“avia poucos mezes tinha vindo a Magadaxô e morto muita gente, escapando o Rej que a hunha de cavallo se acolheo a Pate pedindo socorro ao rei daquella ilha, o qual estava bem Page: 76 vagarozo antes n[unknown]ao avia esperancas nem posses pero lho dar’’

/a few months ago had come to Magadaxô and killed many people, the King, escaping, fled on horseback to Pate, asking for aid from the king of that island, who was quite dilatory, since, however, he had neither expectations nor riches to give him/.

Thus, here we see, at a precise date, the ‘King’ of Mogadiscio dethroned by the Imam, who from the interior had invaded the city. The ‘King’ fled directly to Pate, where, besides, P. de Velasco met him and negotiated with him about the possibility of passage from Mogadiscio to the interior as far as Ethiopia, without — of course — having many illusions over these negotiations (“Pello que, vistos estes impossives, perdemos as esperan[unknown]cas de passar por este caminho. Porem, se alguma ora este rej de Magadaxô for restituido e amigo de Imam, parece que por sua via se poderá abrir caminho pera o Preste [Joäo] /Because of this, in view of these impossibilities, we lost any hope of passing by way of this path. However, it at some time this king of Magadaxô were restored and a friend of the Imam, it seems that by his rood might be opened a path for the Priest [Joäo] /”).

If we accept this identification of the invasion of Mogadiscio told by P. de Velasco with the conquest by the Darandollä and the end of the Mudaffar Sultanate — and this seems quite probable to me — we also have to interpret the contrast between the tradition that we published here, which tells of the killing of the Mudaffar Sultan by the invaders, and the reliable testimony of P. de Velasco, who met the ‘King’ of 251 Mogadiscio at Pate ( 1 . This meeting and these negotiations thus give the information about Mogadiscio by P. de Velasco the essential value of a direct documentation; whereas the reference to the ‘King’ of Brava rests only on information collected by him. ). Page: 77 And this is not very difficult, if one thinks about the possibility of an heir or relative of the Sultan who managed to escape from the massacre. The date of the arrival of the Darandollä Somalis, which I have already presumed in the middle of the XVIII century, would thus be, according to such a new hypothesis, changed precisely to 1624.

To the victorious struggle against the Mudaffar citizens the Darandollä Somalis add the full success of their war against the Aguran, a war that also gives them the desired seats near the watering places on the Webi. In the tradition the occasion of this war is a conflict over the watering places, owing to the legendary arrogance of the Aguran ( 2 . Cf. Vol. I, p. 63. ), who wanted to limit the access of the Hirabe (the ethnic group to which the Darandollä belong) to the wells to nighttime only. The war ends with the killing in ambush of the im[unknown]am of the Aguran, who, in addition, had directly offended the imam of the Darandollä.

And here it should be asked if precisely the title of imam was assumed (and kept until in our time) by the hereditary head of the Darandollä Somalis just in antagonism with the title of imam of the head of the Aguran. The latter, who had uninterrupted relations with the city peoples of Mogadiscio and the Mudaffar Sultans, may in turn have adopted that title without, of course, giving it the value that it actually has in history and in Islamic law.

In the most important account of the undertaking against the Aguran, the tradition inserts the episode of the Wa‘dan, a Darandollä tribe now living on the left bank of the Webi in the Afgoy region, immediately to the northwest of Mogadiscio. The Wa‘dan receive from the imam a blessing which is also a prophecy for their future. I do not need to recall the parallels, which easily come to the memory, of these benedictions given to tribes of nomads Page: 78 in mnemonic formulas ( 3 . The ‘blessing’ of the imam of the Darandolla is in hemistichs alliterated with t, according to the rules of Somali metrics. ), and which are then transmitted to justify the historical vicissitudes of these peoples. Because of this too, our Hawiyya historical tradition proves its conservative character.


Cerulli, Enrico: How a Hawiye tribe used to live (1919-1922 )

Written by daud jimale

January 26, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Revoil Journey to Geledi town: the clans of Banadir

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Various Somali tribes or clans claim the territory between these towns and the possessioll of the road connecting thelYl, resulting in incessant quarrels and daily bloodshed in the environs of Magadoxo and sometimes even in the town itself. The most important of these tribes, which holds the caravan road from Magadoxo to Gualidi and thence to Gananeh, is that of the Gobrons, whose chief Omar Yusuf,

a tributary of the Sultan of Zansibar, resides at Gualidi. It was Achmet YusufX a brother of this chief, who traitorously poisoned the German traveller Kugelbach. Between Gualidi and Magadoxo, and even in the former territory, the supremacy of this tribe is however stoutly disputed by the Wadans -a rivalry which results in reduplicated exactions on the traveller, and a regular competition as to xvho shall levy the greatest contributions. Omar Yusuf sent 200 men of his escort in front of M. Revoil to plotect him as far as Gualidi. Directly on leaving hiagadoso, the explorer and his followers found the road stopped by a

troop of Bedaveen of the nomad Abgal and Mursoude tribes, and they only got over this difEculty by the help of the escort, who kept the Arabs in awe while the caravan regained the road by a circuitous path. This operation had to be repeated two or three times in the day;and there was even a slightskirmish at the gates of Gualidi where, after seve:n hours’ forced march at racing pace under a perpendiclllar sun, the traveller and his followers arrived on the evening of the 24th of June.


M. Révoil’s Journey into the South Somali Country Source: Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series, Vol. 5, No. 12 (Dec., 1883), pp. 717-719

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January 25, 2009 at 6:53 pm

The First Foot-Steps in East Africa: Other Somali Clans

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In the Eastern Horn of Africa, and at Ogadayn, the Marayhan is a powerful tribe, here it is un-consequential, and affiliated to the Girhi. The Abaskul also lies scattered over the Harar hills, and owns the Gerad Adan as its chief. This tribe numbers fourteen villages, and between 400 and 500 shields, and is divided into the Rer Yusuf, the Jibrailah, and the Warra Dig:–the latter clan is said to be of Galla extraction.




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January 25, 2009 at 6:08 pm

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The Sweepers: Fighting Centuries Old Isolation

Part 1 of 2

Sweepers or “Akhdam” as they are known used to live the lowest social level of life since the past 900 years in Yemen.
In the past they were oppressed. Today also they are oppressed but to a lesser degree. Today’s Akhdam are quite different in many ways.
In the past their entire conditions were tragic and heartbreaking. Today their conditions are better.
In the past the way they were treated contradicted with the teachings of Islam and even the human principles which call for human rights, preservation of freedom and dignity of human beings. Today these contradictions have reduced and their rights are preserved; at least as human beings and as Yemeni citizens enjoying their full civilian and political rights.
Have we preserved the rights of today’s rebel youth sweeper who wants to affect changes in his life. We always allege and keep calling for rights . But have we given any attention to the revolution of youth sweepers? We keep calling for peace, affection and unity in between us. Do these include sweepers?
What made the society in the past deny their rights? Do we still deny their rights today?
In the 21 provinces of present day Yemen, the conditions of akhdam differ from one province to another. If countrymen have moved to the capitals of each province in search of livelihood, this included the akhdam. Then we saw that Sana’a, Taiz, Hodeidah, Aden and Mukalla (Hadhramaut) became overpopulated due to the exodus. In other words, out of the 21 provinces only four to five provinces today bear the burden of overpopulation, including the akhdam.
For instance now in Sana’a they have five main and permanent ‘settlements’, (one in Bab-al-Yemen, another in Bab-al-Sabah, third in 45km Road, fourth in Sha’oub and fifth at Al-Mahareq in Asser area). In Taiz they have five (One in Oosaifra, another in Al-Shammasi suburb, third in Mafraq Maweeya, fourth in Al-Haseb and the fifth in Al-Janad). In Aden they have six: (one in Tawahi, two in Maalla, one in Crater, one in Mimdara and one in Little Aden). They also have their permanent settlements in Hodeidah at Al-Barhameiya, Labor City (Madinat Al-Ommal), Al-Baida, Al-Salkhana and other places. In Hadhramaut they could be seen at 14th October Zone of Al-Mukalla. In Shabwa their main settlement is in Al-Gol area.
Do all provinces with their capitals, districts, remote areas and ‘uzlas’ (hinterlands) need the akhdam to carry out for them the essential services connected with sanitation? In some areas people have their own way of life. Their latrines are open-air but ‘hidden’. Farmers use their fields. In coastal areas too citizens have their own way of disposing off their waste. Such being the case, we do not find any trace of akhdam in such areas.
However, akhdam have two genuine reasons for their exodus. First is that they detest the old professions of their forefathers, grand fathers and fathers who were engaged in very low ranking jobs. (Cleaning of latrines, removing blockages from drainages etc.) The second is that development has almost obliterated old system of sanitary. Sewerage system here and there has subsequently forced the new generation to find another source of living. However, a third reason for exodus could be attributed to the ‘swollen’ population of sweepers with difficulties of accommodation and livelihood.
Even the European and Arab as well as other states, cannot dispense with the services of sweepers, no matter their historical background and no matter how people there look at their sweepers. Our topic concerns sweepers of Yemen only.

In Arabic language, “Akhdam” is the plural of sweepers. The singular is “khadem”. The verb is “khadama” (serve). In the past Akhdam usually served their “Asyad” – masters. (The singular is “Syeid”). “Asyad” considered themselves higher in social rank. Today, hardly 5-10% of akhdam come under the mercy of their “asyad” but normally, today, they are independent. The importance of their presence and their cleansing works could be judged by putting a question to ourselves: “What would happen if akhdam go on strike?” In some cases we have reasons to believe that akhdams were able to dictate their conditions of service; their jobs being of different nature.

Until recently this off shoot of lowest class of sweepers have become extinct. Living in one area, the regime through the ruling machinery which included the municipalities, would divide them into groups. In the past they used to appear late hours at night going from house to house cleaning the “zawali” (latrines). They used to be seen carrying their tin canisters on their head with a bent iron strip used for collecting wastes from unpopulated areas where ‘homeless’ used to go for toilet. These jabartis are not seen in many areas as most of them are believed to have immigrated.

In The Service of The Imam
In Sana’a, before the 1962 Revolution, sweepers were housed in a place still known as “Samsra”, situated at Bab-ul-Sabah Gate. They are still there. The Imam could not deny their services; but would not tolerate their being homeless as they used to defy that time’s dusk-to-dawn “Sukat” (daily curfew); thus they were housed at “Samsra” which was a one-time shopping mall. The mall’s glamour was gradually drained into a permanent resident for 5-10 sweepers families.

Oosaifra & Shammasi
In Greater Taiz, sweepers lived in Upper and Lower Oosaifra. Sweepers of these two areas took active part in the arsons and riots which took place in December 1992 violent demonstrations in protest of the first price hike after Unification. After the conditions came to normal, the affected ‘capitalists’ avenged by arranging torching sweepers areas. As a result Upper Oosaifra was immediately vacated and sweepers moved to a new ‘colony’ in Al-Shammasi suburb. Lower Oosaifra still has few of these sweepers while Upper Oosaifra witnessed construction works in favor of the ‘capitalists’.

45km Road
Situated in between Al-Sab’een Hospital area and Taiz Road, this area is famous for its “Saeela” – water passage -, where rain waters block traffic always. The area is hardly ten years old with a population of 3014. It shelters sweepers and citizens who have built hollow-bricked small houses. The land on which these houses have been built have two different stories. Some people say that the owners are Yemeni immigrants who are out of Yemen at present. Others say that during the 1997 parliamentary elections the General People’s Congress, as a part of election campaign, ‘presented’ the land, said to be State estate, to the residents and allowed them build their residences. Therefore most residents here are sweeper GPC members. We do not know the real story but should the real owners reappear, problems will crop up. Of course, this will result in the demolition of sweepers’ temporary abode.
When the area ‘aakel’ was asked what would he do in case real owners of this land appear, he said: “We shall either buy these lands from them or pay them rental.”
Peaceful Sweepers
They do not possess weapons and they do not carry “gambias”. Whenever humiliated, they succumb to their oppressors.

Studies differ in defining their origin. Some relate them as Ethiopians who arrived into Yemen during the sixth century following the Ethiopian invasion of Yemen.
One unconfirmed account claims that after the end of the Ethiopian rule, the remnants who could not flee Yemen remained trapped. They were turned into slaves and were forced to perform low-rank jobs which included cleaning of latrines and doing all works connected with sanitation. The account claims Yemenis avenged a one-time ruler. This makes us inquire: was not there any sweeper in Yemen before the Ethiopian invasion? Were Yemeni sweepers relieved of their job? Where did they go? Did they mingle in the Yemeni society? Did they migrate?
Perhaps their complexions assist in this assessment as they have, in most, African characteristics in as far as the color of their skin, snub nose and tough, short curly hairs are concerned.
Dr. Qayed Al-Sharjabi, in his research stated that they were outcast in Ethiopia itself. On arrival in Yemen they did not change.
Aged sweepers deny any relations with Ethiopia. They claim to be sons of Yemen. A Sinan Muhammed Omer Al-Wasabi confirmed that his grand father hailed from Wisab Al-Aali in Dhamar Province. When asked about his great grand father he said: “I do not know where from he came.”
In Yemen, Western Tihama Coast is considered to be their homeland. They do not have lands of their own. They prefer to live in deserts and abandoned areas.
They always lived in groups and formed their own ‘settlements’. As time changed their ‘settlements’ continue to exist with their locations changed but their old time tents, shack, huts or mud-straw-mixed houses have now been replaced by mud or stone-made houses. They usually live ‘sandwiched’ in their small houses.
The problem of small houses should be a separate subject as it concerns the Yemeni people as a whole. However, in sweepers life, small houses, congested with family members, have created immodesty.

Sweepers believe in Islam. Its teaching is that human beings are equal; but despite this we see the Muslim community today looks down at sweepers without any genuine reason. They harbor pent up antagonism against sweepers. They do not mention them in their discussions and never talk about their rights and duties. Haunted by discrimination, sweepers, in the past, used to perform their 5-time prayers at their homes . Few who cared to keep themselves clean, did attend mosques for prayers. Today we can see them in all mosques. Sweepers never felt the need to build their own mosques as if telling people that prayers never differentiate between the high and low rank people. It is not a surprise to find that at a certain mosque in Alhujarriyah-Al Zarraiqah area, the Imam of a mosque there is a khadem. In the past there were no preachers who, through their sermons, could draw the attention of people to avoid detesting akhdam but today, international, regional and local laws have tackled such a detest under human rights and other conventions. Akhdam did not even have learned-men or any representation in the State bodies (viz. parliament etc.) to advocate their case and demand justice in the face of discrimination.. They are ignorant of most important affairs of Islam. They are excluded from “Da’wa” (The Call).

Tribal Affiliation
Akhdam do not belong to any tribe of Yemen. Within their own society they have their own ‘grades’. In each of their settlements they have their own ‘aakel’ (aged learned man) who settles their disputes.
The fact is that one by one they start gathering in certain area. Then they marry inbetween them to form families. If one family comes from Aden, the second could be from Shabwah and the third from Hodeidah. It is the joint and common need – employment – which makes them assemble in one area. Actually they never belong to the area where they establish their settlement. As the number of families increase, they have their ‘aakel’ to look after their affairs.
In Wisab Al-Aali (Dhamar) sweepers’ settlement area stretched from one end to the other of this considerably large district. The number of ‘uqqals (plural of ‘aakel’) is around 12-15. In between them, these ‘uqqals’ have elected a Shaikh. His name is Qaed Muhammed Al-Kaboudi who does spend 2-3 months in Sana’a settling all pending issues of his fellow-clan-men. We do not know to which extent the official circles recognize his ‘sheikhdom’ but he is really a strong man with authority. His services are always needed during elections.
All police stations throughout the Republic have their own special ways and means to solve sweepers’ ‘special natured’ disputes such as bad language, daily scuffles and adultery etc.

Until recently sweepers used to be distinguished through their Tihama accent and phonation. Those who left Tihama area long ago, those who got merged in the society of different provinces and those at schools could not be distinguished easily now as their accent and phonation have changed.
To be continued next week..

Written by daud jimale

January 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized