Somaliland’s All-girls Basketball Team Looks for Recognition

04:28 June 9, 2024

Somaliland’s All-girls Basketball Team Looks for Recognition

Hafsa Omer wears the red, white, and green flag of Somaliland while playing basketball.

The 21-year-old is the captain of the team. Her dream is to one day play for her nation. But there is a problem: Somaliland is not a recognized country.

The breakaway territory in the Horn of Africa has struggled to gain international recognition from any foreign government. The territory has been governing itself and enjoying comparative peace and stability since declaring independence in 1991.

Omer and her two sisters play for Hargeisa Girls Basketball. It is the first all-girls team in the territory. She and her sisters aim to put Somaliland on the map. They plan on doing so by using their more than 10,000 followers on social media.

She said, “Somaliland is looking for their recognition and we believe that we could be part of bringing the recognition...”

She said they could do that “by wearing the flags, by talking about our country, by promoting it through the short video TikToks or Instagram pictures,” she said. TikTok and Instagram are two popular social media sites.

Somaliland’s sovereignty came into question in January. That was when local officials said they would give landlocked neighboring country Ethiopia access to the Red Sea.

The territory said it would do that in return for recognition as an independent country. That caused diplomatic conflict with Somalia’s federal government.

Somalia considers Somaliland part of its territory. It rejected the deal permitting Ethiopia to lease 20 kilometers around the port of Berbera. It would have given Ethiopia access to the Red Sea for 50 years for its navy and large shipping boats.

Somaliland officials say they have a strong case to become Africa’s 55th nation.

Once under British control, the territory now has its own police force, coast guard, passports, and money. It also has a government and a working democratic political system.

That record is very different than the situation in Somalia. In Somalia, government forces have been fighting the militant group al Shabaab. The group has links to the terrorist group al Qaeda.

Omer sees her support of Somaliland’s independence as part of her father and uncles’ armed struggle in the 1980s against the dictator Siad Barre.

"My dad talks about it every day, what he and his friends had been through, while he watched his cousins dying in front of him," she said.

While the territory of around 3.5 million people may not gain international recognition soon, Omer has made progress in supporting women’s rights in the conservative territory.

Since she founded Hargeisa Girls Basketball in 2018, other female teams have come together for an all-girls league.

For her sister Fatima Omer, basketball serves both goals.

She said, “We just want the world to see us.”

I’m Gregory Stachel.

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