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Somalia: Clarification of Lee Cassanelli's use of the term "sab" to describe minority clans Tomal, Midgan and Yibir, and "Saab" used in genealogical charts to describe one of the major clan families

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 June 1997
Citation / Document Symbol SOM26997.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Somalia: Clarification of Lee Cassanelli's use of the term "sab" to describe minority clans Tomal, Midgan and Yibir, and "Saab" used in genealogical charts to describe one of the major clan families, 1 June 1997, SOM26997.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ab251c.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

In a telephone interview with the DIRB, Lee Cassanelli explained that "Saab" is the supposed ancestor of the Dighil and Rahanwein clans, whereas "sab" refers to outcast groups such as the Tomal, Migdan and Yibir (11 June 1997).

Supplement to Information Session on Country Conditions on Somalia states that the Dighil and Rahanwein "are not however to be confused with the outcast groups (alas, also known as "Sab") who undertake despised professions such as pottery" (15 Feb. 1996, 44).

Further clarification of the term "sab" is provided In Bone and Blood,  in which  Ioam M. Lewis explains that trades such as pottery, leathermaking, metal working and hair-cutting are

followed by three groups of bondsmen, known collectively as sab, and traditionally attached to Somali lineages in a servile status. These are the Midgo (sg. Midgaan), traditionally hunters, leatherworkers, barbers;  the Tumaallo (sg. Tumaal), mainly blacksmiths; and the Yibro (sg. Yibir), who traditionally perform menial tasks and are above all feared as magicians. These sab bondsmen formed a very small proportion of the total population. Each of the three groups is divided into a number of small, nonlocalized, lineages segmented on the Somali pattern. Somali do not intermarry with sab, who marry among themselves, and traditionally sab individuals and families are attached to specific Somali patrons (abbaans) upon whom they are economically dependent, especially for bridewealth and blood-compensation (127).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References

Cassanelli, Lee. 11 June 1997. Telephone interview with the DIRB.

Lewis, Ioam. M. Blood and Bone: The Call of Kinship in Somali Society. Lawrenceville, NJ : The Red Sea Press.

Convention Refugee Determination Division (CRDD). 15 February 1996. Toronto Front Supplement to Information Session on Country Conditions on Somalia,

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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