Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Somalia : Gaboye

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date May 2011
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Somalia : Gaboye, May 2011, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
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.

Updated May 2011


Small groups of people known collectively as Gaboye live in Somalia, descendants of hunting peoples believed to have been in the Somali peninsula before the Somali penetration.


Gaboye people have traditionally been considered distinct and lower-caste groups, and are also called by the derogatory term 'Midgan'. There has been an effort by some Somali civic and cultural leaders to discourage use of this term - but this has run up against deeply-entrenched prejudice. Gaboye communities have traditionally worked as smiths, barbers and leather workers for other patron communities, as well as medicinal advisers and midwives. Tumal are blacksmiths; Yibir (Yahhar in the south) are traditional doctors; Gaboye women and men perform infibulation and circumcision respectively. Other Gaboye are tailors, singers, and butchers.

Higher caste Somalis are forbidden to intermarry with Gaboye outcaste clans, upon penalty of becoming outcastes themselves. Indeed Somalis from the major clans routinely refuse to eat with Gaboye people. Without control of land, Gaboyes have faced economic marginalization. Without armed militias, they have been particularly vulnerable to attack by the militias of the larger clans, and Gaboye women face disproportionately greater danger of rape. Following the rise of Hawiye clan leader Mohamed Farah Aideed in 1991, his militia launched brutal assaults on Gaboyes, whom Aideed accused of loyalty to ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Because of their 'outcast' status, none of other powerful clans came to their rescue. In a testimony to Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2002, Professor Asha. A Samad described their treatment during those terrible days, saying, "Large numbers of them perished. The Midgan-Madhiban were routinely raped, expelled from their homes, kidnapped and killed. Large numbers of Midgan-Madhiban simply disappeared." As they are outside the clan systems of arbitration, those who suffered had no opportunity of gaining compensation for their loss.

Current State of Minorities

Without any political representation, and marginalized economically and socially, Gaboyes in Somalia are extremely vulnerable in times of growing strife.

According to Amnesty International, in Somaliland in May 2005, dozens of minority rights activists and supporters were briefly detained at a demonstration in Hargeisa at the trial of a police officer, who was given a prison sentence for killing a 28-year Somali from the Gaboye minority. The murder of Khadar Osman Dhabar was, according to Amnesty International, symptomatic of the treatment of Gaboyes, 'against whom human rights abuses are frequently perpetrated with impunity.'

Gaboye people are routinely discriminated against in the workplace, and a A 2006 survey on minority rights by Voice of Somaliland Minority Women Organization (VOSOMWO) revealed that many Gaboye families live on less than one dollar per day, and almost half of the interviewees were unemployed.

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