Jigjiga regional govt denies claims of discrimination against inter-caste couples

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Somali couples who were married at a mass wedding last April in the city of Jigjiga, in Ethiopia’s Somali region, say the authorities are now trying to evict them.

But the Somali regional government denies discriminating against the inter-caste couples, telling the BBC that whoever is trying to force them out is not acting on their behalf.

Hawa Abdulkadir, who moved to Jigjiga from Mustahil, a small village in eastern Ethiopia, said she had hoped that life in a mixed couple would be easier in the city away from their families.

Somalia’s caste system is complicated and makes inter-caste marriages difficult for people from lower castes. They often face estrangement and death threats.

Last year, a Somali man was burnt alive in Mogadishu after marrying a woman of a higher caste.

Shamsu Diin, who was also married in the mass wedding, told the BBC.

“I feel for the people who moved here from far away towns and villages,” Dinn said.

The former regional administration hoped to curb discrimination based on caste by organising the mass wedding in April 2018. These couples – 29 in total – were given housing, but the jobs they were promised don’t seem to have materialised.

The Somali regional president was forced out of office months later, and the new government has not upheld the commitments made to inter-caste couples by the previous administration.