The Benadiri elders distinguished:
- four Hamar groups:
• Dhabar Weyne
• Morshe (Moorshe)
Amarani, as part of the Benadiri. The Amarani, hardly a thousand in number, are supposed to be descendants of an Israeli group chased away from southern Arabia by Islam. Their name comes from one of the oldest areas of Mogadishu, Hamar Weyne, which they founded before the arrival of the Somali in the interior. They speak a dialect that is typically urban, Chimbelazi, that is tinged with Portuguese, Swahili, Arabic and Somali and which has come to be known as Cimini.
After some discussion they added that the Bandhawaw and Reer Faqi also belonged in this category.
- five Shangani groups, e.g.:
• Baa Fadal
• Reer Sheich
- twelve 'caps' (sub-groups) in Merka, e.g.:
• Ahmed Nur
• Reer Maanyo
• Ali'iyo Mohamed
- and the Ashraf.
The elders explained that before the civil war the Benadiri in Mogadishu used to live only in the quarters of Hamar Weyne, Shingani and Bondere. Now Benadiri live in all quarters of Mogadishu.
Another sub-division is made between 'light-skinned' ('gibil ad') and 'black-skinned' ('gibil madow') Benadiri.
Benadiri intermarry, but the elders stated that 'light-skinned' Benadiri do not marry 'black-skinned' Benadiri like Moorshe or Dhabar Weyne.52
The delegation also held a meeting with representatives of the Ashraf (Asharaf, Asheraf, Sharifians) community in Nairobi including elders and women. They were all refugees from the coastal areas of Somalia.
The Ashraf elders interviewed by the delegation readily identified themselves as Benadiri. The Ashraf elders made it clear that only one Ashraf group (or clan) exists in Somalia.53 However, this group is further sub-divided on the lines of their male ancestors. The Ashraf of Bay and Gedo regions (Baidoa, Hoddur, Bardera) are the same group as the Ashraf in the coastal areas. One subgroup of the Ashraf called Ashraf Sarman lives mainly in Hoddur (Bakool region), Bay region, Bardera (Gedo region) and Mogadishu. Other sub-groups called Mohammed Sharif, Sharif Ali and Sharif Ahmed live mainly in Kismayo, Merka, Bardera, Jalalaqsi, Jowhar and Mogadishu.An NGO informant explained on an earlier occasion to the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi that there are various sub-groups of the Ashraf, including the Sarman who reside in Bay region.
According to this source, the Ashraf Sarman have the same skin colour as Somalis, while the Ashraf in Merka have light skin.
The Ashraf elders sub-divided the Ashraf in the following way:
• Reesharif Magbuul
• Sharif Ahmed
• Sharif Baalawi
• Mohammed Sharif
• Sharif Ali
• Sharif Ahmed
• Ashraf Sarman.
The Ashraf elders trace their origin to the Prophet Mohamed, whose daughter Fatima had two sons with Ali, named Hassan and Hussein. Any member of the Ashraf community belongs to one of these two lines of descent, from Hassan or Hussein, and any Ashraf (both females and males from the age of two) is able to identify her- or himself as belonging to one of these two lines. The Prophet Mohamed conferred the title "Sharif" upon Hassan and Hussein. Since that time, all their descendants have the name Sharif as part of their name, added to the personal name and the father's, and sometimes the grandfather's, name. From this comes the name of the group, Ashraf being the
plural of Sharif. Ali had children by other wives after the death of Fatima, but they were not"Sharif".The Ashraf elders indicated that the Ashraf are living in southern and central Somalia, especially in urban locations like Bardera, Kismayo, Baidoa, Hoddur, Merka, Brava and Mogadishu.
In Mogadishu the largest concentration of Ashraf was to be found in the Shingani district, but they
also lived in Hamar Weyne. Ashraf used to live also in Ethiopia. Some Ashraf from Ethiopia
became exiled in Somalia at the time of the Ogaden war in 1977. These Ashraf came from Ogaden,
Oromia, Dire Dawa and Harar in Ethiopia and some of them fled Somalia in 1991-92. Those
remaining in Somalia reside with other Ashraf.
UN sources confirmed that Ashraf communities are also to be found in the Ogaden district of
The elders from Brava told the delegation that they consisted of two sub-groups: the Bravanese and
the Tunni. Both groups are from Brava and they share to a large extent the same culture. They
intermarry between their groups. However, the Bravanese consider themselves Benadiri, while the
Tunni do not. The Bravanese are of Persian/Arab/Portuguese/Spanish origin. According to the
Bravanese elders the Tunni belong to the Digil clan-family. They are originally from the region of
Brava. However, the elders gave the delegation a copy of a letter, written by the Baravani elders in
Nairobi to a number of organisations (including UNHCR, the US Immigration Department and
Amnesty International) on their situation in Kenya, in which the Tunni are mentioned with the
Bravanese as part of the Baravani community (see annex 8).
The UNHCR overview classifies the Tunni with the Digil (annex 3).
Report on minority groups in Somalia
42 17 – 24 Septemer 2000
The Bravanese sub-divided themselves into:
The Tunni explained that they are sub-divided into the Tunni Torre plus five gamas (sub-groups):
Perouse de Montclos54 notes that some of the Tunni Torre of the hinterland claim a relationship
with the Ajuran, the Gaaljaal and the Gurreh of the Hawiye clan family, while others claim a
relationship with the Helai and the Hadam of the Rahanweyn clan-family. In concrete terms, they
are the vassals of the Tunni Digil of the Brava Coast.
According to Perouse de Montclos, 'Reer Brava' designates a territorial community. The confusion
between territory and clan or ancestral identity brought about the grouping of a much larger body of
people than one would have expected from a minority group of traders of foreign origin.
Historically, in Brava (like in Merka) the Arabs from Zanzibar allied with the Tunni, a Digil clan, in
order to counter the Hawiye from the hinterland. Brava was the scene of numerous battles, against
the Portuguese, Omanis, British, Egyptians, Italians and Somali of the interior (Rahanweyn and
Dir), many of them establishing lineage. As a consequence, the races in the city were completely
'mixed up'. Although the common hardships and tragedies experienced during and after the 1990
civil war certainly reinforced the sentiment of an identity and uniqueness, on closer inspection we
discover communities with very diverse backgrounds despite numerous instances of intermarriage.
On the one hand there are immigrants of Arab origin, while on the other hand there are the Somali
of the Brava surroundings, whose minority status is more doubtful because they are part of the
Tunni lineage of the Digil.
According to the Benadir community in Nairobi the Benadir populations in Somalia generally speak
a dialect that is different from the dialect of the major Somali clans. Even within this dialect there
are sub-dialects: the dialect spoken by the Benadiri of Mogadishu is called Af-Reer Hamar, that
spoken by the Benadiri of Merka is called Af-Merka, and the dialect spoken by the Benadiri in
Brava and further south is called Af-Brava. The Af-Brava dialect is not understood by the other
Benadiri.55 An informant of the Netherlands Embassy stated earlier that the Ashraf in Bay area
speak the Rahanweyn dialect.
Most of the Benadiri, including the women, are able to speak and understand the Somali language.
54 Perouse de Montclos (1997)
55 Cassanelli (1995) mentions that most Bravanese spoke Chimini, a dialect of Swahili, rather than Somali as their
Report on minority groups in Somalia
17 – 24 September 2000 43
7.3 Socio-economic situation
7.3.1 Relationship with other groups and clans
The Benadiri elders told the delegation that the Benadiri who are still in Somalia have no protection
from any clan; on the contrary, they live under occupation by Somali clans and militias. In available
reports on the situation of the Benadiri before the war, no indications have been found that Benadiri
stood in a relation of clientship or protection to main Somali clans.
According to UN and NGO sources consulted earlier by the Netherlands Embassy, the Benadiri
look down upon pastoralists and keep to their own identity.
Intermarriage between Benadiri and the Somali clans was rare and not generally accepted.56
The Ashraf elders explained that the Ashraf have no particular affiliation with any of the major
Somali clans. They stated that they used to have good relations with all other clans in Somalia.
They were considered a highly respected clan of devout religious members. They travelled widely
throughout Somalia as religious teachers and were well received by other clans. Under the Siad
Barre regime the Ashraf did not as a group face any security or human rights problems in Somalia.
Intermarriage between members of the Ashraf community in Somalia and members of the major
Somali clans was rare, according to the Ashraf community in Nairobi, although some intermarriage
occurred with the Hawiye (while during the last ten years forced marriages took place with Hawiye
and even Majerteen). Marriage takes places almost exclusively within the Ashraf community itself.
A relatively large number of the representatives of the Ashraf community in Nairobi with which the
delegation met were related to each other.
The Benadiri elders stated that the Benadiri were an urban and educated people, who worked almost
exclusively in commercial occupations. The elders mentioned business, fishery, construction, metal
work, carpentry, tailoring, weaving and gold smithing as the occupational sectors of the Benadiri.
They also mentioned that some Benadiri were medical doctors, engineers or economists. Benadiri
women might sell snacks or handicrafts.57
The Bravanese and Tunni elders said their people were also commercially orientated or working as
The Ashraf elders explained that the Ashraf are a religious people. They were traditionally
considered a highly respected clan whose members travelled throughout Somalia as religious
teachers. Before the civil war a relatively large number of Ashraf received education in Somalia,
and during the Siad Barre administration a number of Ashraf were employed as civil servants in the
administration while others were businesspeople and therefore travelled frequently throughout the
56 Cassanelli (1995) mentions that most of the established urban families tended to marry among themselves, as a
cultural preference and perhaps as a way of keeping wealth "in the neighbourhood".
57 See also Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen), Notat om Benadir-befolkningen i Somalia (in Danish),
Report on minority groups in Somalia
44 17 – 24 Septemer 2000
Benadiri mostly were self-employed and had a reluctance to working for someone else. They have
great entrepreneurial talents.58
7.4 Security and human rights
All three groups of Benadiri elders stated that during the civil war in 1991 and 1992 the Benadiri
suffered seriously. Lacking any tradition of warfare and any militia, they were often attacked and
targeted by looters, who considered them to be very rich, owing to their trade.59 Cassanelli (1995)
claims that many southern minorities were accused by Somali militias of helping to sustain the
Barre government in its later years. The Ashraf, however, stated that they were not persecuted
because of any perceived close links with Siad Barre.
During its mission to Mogadishu in 1997 the Danish Immigration Service learned from the Dr.
Ismail Jum'ale Human Rights Organisation and from representatives of the Reer Hamar community
in Mogadishu that the Reer Hamar are considered a wealthy business community by members of
the Somali clans and the militias. Because of this, and because the Reer Hamar are unarmed, their
homes were repeatedly looted. The same sources estimated that more than 70% of the Reer Hamar
population in Mogadishu fled the country during the civil war. In January 1999 the War-torn
Societies Project (WSP) in Nairobi and other UN agencies informed the Danish Immigration
Service that the Benadiri community was still facing serious human rights violations in Mogadishu,
and that members of this community would probably never be able to return in safety to
The Ashraf elders stated that there are several reasons why members of the Ashraf community have
fled Somalia. To some degree members of the Ashraf are considered as 'strangers' in Somalia by the
major Somali clans. The Ashraf claim to originate in Arabia and are called "Arabs" by other
Somalis. They are considered to be a weak, unarmed religious group with no social or legal rights.
Many Benadiri women were raped or forced into marriage, as the Benadiri elders confirmed to the
delegation. The Ashraf elders stated that their identity as a specific ethnic group has been weakened
since the war, as Ashraf women have been abducted, raped or forced into marriage with members of
other Somali clans.
Kalunga Lutato explained that the Bravanese would not normally intermarry with members of the
main Somali clans or other groups and consequently their own distinct ethnicity was fairly well
preserved. They were, in a way, an isolated and distinct people and their property, and their women,
were beyond the reach of members of the Somali clans. When the state collapsed and the Bravanese
lost their "protection" from the central government they soon became targets for various militias
that raged through the coastal areas of central and southern Somalia. The militias especially targeted
Bravanese women and many were raped or forced into marriage with non-Bravanese Somalis. The
Bravanese women were seen as "attractive" in the sense that before the collapse of government they
were "inaccessible" but when the government fell they were easy victims.
58 Refugee Information Series, Benadir refugees from Somalia (Washington 1996)
59 Human Development Report Somalia 1998, UNDP (Nairobi, 1998); Cassanelli (1995)
60 Danish Immigration Service/Swedish Immigration Board, Report on Nordic fact-finding mission to Mogadishu,
Somalia (Copenhagen 1997) and Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen), Notits om Benadir-befolkningen i
Somalia (Copenhagen, January 1999, in Danish).
Report on minority groups in Somalia
17 – 24 September 2000 45
The Benadiri have all lost property in Somalia during the war. The majority of Benadiri fled the
country, mainly to Kenya.61 Members of Somali clan militias took the majority of Benadiri homes.
The Benadiri elders stated that there are still Benadiri in Mogadishu and Merka today, although they
could not say how many. Those who are still living in Somalia have seen their houses taken by
members of Somali clan militias, although sometimes the owners could stay in one room of their
The Benadiri elders were fairly sure that none of the Benadiri that fled to Kenya had since returned
to Somalia. They described the situation of the Benadiri that remained in Mogadishu and Merka as
difficult, as they cannot rebuild their businesses in the presence of the militias, for fear that their
resources would again be taken. The elders stated that a few Benadiri had relocated to Bosasso in
Puntland, either to seek work there or to move on from there to Yemen, although none of the elders
had personal knowledge of any person now in Bosasso, or Hargeisa.
The Bravanese and Tunni elders said that although in the civil war Brava was most affected62, the
majority of Bravanese remained in the town. They stated that today about 70% of the Bravanese
still live in Brava63, living under the occupation of Aideed's Habr
Which groups do fall under the broad term Benadiri?
The term Benadiri has only been used about people since 1991. Before that it was strictly a
geographical term referring to the southern Somali coast.
According to Reese (2008), the Benadiris belong to a number of largely urban lineages from
Mogadishu, Marka and Barawe (Brava). Some of these lineages claim foreign origins
(Yemen, Persia, Spain, etc.), while the Moorshe for instance regard themselves as an offshot
of the Ajuran, a pastoral group believed to have ruled the southern interior during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. According to current oral traditions, five of the eight
Bandawow sub-lineages also have pastoral origins (Reese 2008). So the Benadiri do actually
not constitute a clan at all – that is, they do not all claim to be descendants from the same
ancestor. They are a group or category of clans, including sub-clans, of light skin (so called
gibilcad in Somali), and of partly Arab descent. They are allied with and indentified with
According to different Reer Hamar sources (interviews in Nairobi 2002-2007, interviews in
Oslo august 2005) there are four major Reer Hamar clans (Somali: afarta reer xamar). These
are the Moorshe, Iskashato, DhabarWeyne and the Bandawow. In addition to these, there are
many other smaller groups. Different sources mention different numbers of groups etc.,
1 According to representatives from the Shansiye, “every door” paid 3 000 somali shilling in protection money
on a daily basis (interview in Nairobi, September 2005).
2 According to representatives from Shansiye interviewed by Landinfo in Nairobi in September 2005, the socalled
dark-skinned Benadiris, i.e. Moorshe, Bandawow and Dhabarweyne, were protected by their Somali
neighbours because they were dark-skinned (and presumed to be more native Somali), while most of the lightskinned
Benadiris had fled at the beginning of the civil war (1991-1992). Furthermore, the majority of the darkskinned
Reer Hamar stayed until the mid 1990s, when many of them left the country. These representatives
claimed at the time that very few Reer Hamar still lived in Mogadishu, and a representative from the human
rights organisation DIJHRO told Landinfo in September 2005 that members of the minority communities that
used to live in Shangani had left during the civil war.
Several both Somali and international sources Landinfo met with during the fact finding mission in 2005, as well
as during later missions, stated that members of these groups were not targeted because of their ethnic origin.
One well-informed Somali source stated in 2005 that one of the deputy mayors of Mogadishu at that time was
Reer Hamar. Other sources have later explained that the so-called black cat arrangements are no longer a
necessity since the previous oppressors no longer are in control in Hamar Weyne.
Response Somalia: Reer Hamar
LANDINFO – WWW.LANDINFO.NO – E-MAIL: LANDINFO@LANDINFO.NO 17DECEMBER 2009 3
implying that some groups might actually be subgroups of other groups. The Ashraf in Bay
region, however, are not classified as Benadiris since they are part of the Rahanweyne clan
(Ashraf Sarman), while the Ashraf of Mogadishu do belong to the Reer Hamar. According to
representatives from Reer Hamar groups consulted by the joint British, Danish and Dutch
fact-finding mission to Nairobi in 2000, the Ashraf are divided into the following groups:
• Hussein: Reer Sharif Maqbuul, Sharif Ahmed, Sharif Ba-Alawi.
• Hassan: Mohamed Sharif, Sharif Ali, Sharif Ahmed, Ashraf Sarman.
According to another account, five major Ashraf lineages were found in Somalia at the end of
the nineteenth century (Reese 1996). The Ahmad, Jamal al-Leyl and Bah Alawi, claiming
descent from Husayn, formed the majority living in the coastal towns. The much smaller
Umar and Abdullah lineages, progeny of Hasan, lived as farmers and herders in the interior.
However, these lists must not be taken as definitive. There are other groups such as the Ashraf
Hassan al-Ahdali of Marka (Virginia Luling, e-mail communication 20 October 2006).
The Geledi and the Begedi could, according to the British anthropologist and researcher
Virginia Luling, also be considered as Benadiris because they consist of subclans which are
conventionally described as light-skinned (gibilcad), with members generally noticeably
lighter in complexion than their neighbours. (This is a conventional classification, however,
and not all the members of these subclans are equally light-skinned). These subgroups trace
their descent to the Arabian peninsula (e-mail communication 25 April 2005). Not all Geledi
are gibilcad – they include dark-skinned subclans as well. Dr Ahmed Sharif Abbas supports
this, and has stated that the Reer Hamar community itself recognises the Geledi and the
Begedi as Benadiri (interview, 16 March 2005).3
Some of the lineages in Mogadishu can also be found in Marka and Barawe, where these and
other lineages are collectively known as Reer Marka and Reer Barawe.
Which geographical area is Benadir exactly? Mogadishu-Marka only, or all the way to
The Benadir region as the term is used today only includes Mogadishu and its surroundings,
but traditionally the term referred to the Benadir coast which included Mogadishu, Marka and
3 There is some confusion among scholars as to whether the Geledi should be classified as Benadiri or belonging
to the Digil clan-family. In fact, both are true. The Digil, which is one of the two big southern agricultural clanfamilies,
consists of many federated small groups, rather than being strictly all of one descent like the clans of
the northern/pastoral tradition, the Hawiye, Darod and Isaq clan-families. The other large southern clan-family is
the Rahanweyn (Mirifle). They also have a mixed or federal structure (the Geledi are also sometimes classified
as Rahanweyn). The essential point here is that in the northern/pastoral tradition a person cannot belong to two
different clans, unless one of them is a subdivision of the other. The same individual cannot be both Darod and
Hawiye. Among the Digil and Rahanweyn (Mirifle) on the other hand, it is, according to Lewis (1994) and other
sources, perfectly possible to belong to two clans or clan-families at once, because a group from one has been
adopted into the other or has federated with it. Many people in these southern clans have a dual identity in this
way (e-mail V. Luling, 25 April 2005).
Response Somalia: Reer Hamar
LANDINFO – WWW.LANDINFO.NO – E-MAIL: LANDINFO@LANDINFO.NO 17DECEMBER 2009 4
Where is the dialect Reer Hamar spoken? Only in the traditionally Reer Hamar districts
in Mogadishu, or in other districts as well? What about areas outside Mogadishu?
No linguistic work has been done in Somalia since the 1980s, and Marcello Lamberti’s study
Die Somali-Dialekte (1986) is one of the very few existing comparative studies of the various
Somali dialects. According to this study, as well as other Somali sources, including Dr
Ahmed Sharif Abbas, leader of the United Somali Benadiir Council in London (interview in
London, 16 March 2005), the Hamar-dialect is still spoken by Reer Hamar members in Hamar
Weyne. Dr Abbas also stated that Reer Hamar living outside Hamar Weyne, particularly the
older generation, have kept their dialect. Dr Abbas, who (at the time) cooperated with British
authorities in order to identify Benadiri asylum seekers, did, however, not exclude non-Hamar
speaking applicants from being Reer Hamar since obviously not all actually speak the dialect.
Dr. Martin Orwin, lecturer in Somali and Amharic at University of London’s School of
Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), has underlined (personal communication 16 November
2006) another important aspect: Other Somalis growing up and living in the same
neighbourhood as the Reer Hamar probably also know and speak the Hamar dialect.
Moreover, in most countries speakers of one dialect or language naturally come into direct or
indirect contact with those of neighbouring (or culturally) dominant languages or dialects
through business and trade relations, daily life or intermarriages. Whatever the degree or
nature of contact between neighbouring peoples, it is generally sufficient to lead to some kind
of linguistic interinfluencing, affecting not only the ethnic Somalis living in the Reer Hamar
neighbourhood, but also the Reer Hamar within Hamar Weyne and in other parts of the city.
A response consists of answers to specific questions presented to Landinfo by case workers
within the Norwegian immigration authorities. Responses are not intended to provide
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