British University students have uncovered the horrors of Ogaden, Africa, almost by accident. “Silent Cry” the grassroots documentary production by students Abdallah Abdi, Ahmed Abdalle, and Abdi-Shukri Omar shows a harrowing portrayal of the victims from the Ogaden region.
It was screened on the 6th of February at Melbourne University to a capacity crowd, making it the 26th city to view this first-hand account.
In 2007, the Ethiopian Army launched a military crackdown in Ogaden under its chairman Mohamed O. Osman. The main rebel group is the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which is fighting against the Ethiopian government.
Somalis who inhabit Ogaden have since claimed that the Ethiopian military kill civilians, commit crimes against the nomads in the region and destroy the livelihood of many of the ethnic Somalis. Ogaden is situated in the Somali region of Ethiopia and is currently subject to a total media blackout.
The students were seeking adventure in Africa when they met a taxi driver who described his horrific story in the hands of Ethiopian soldiers, where his son was burnt and killed and wife kidnapped and never seen again.
“It really shocked us…I was on my last year at university and now a whole lot of the team of ‘Silent Cry’ have completely given up everything in life because we believe this is a crime against humanity and we want to present this message to anyone and everyone in the world.” Said Abdi Shukri, the narrator and interviewer in the documentary.
Determined to find out the truth, the students ventured into the IFO refugee camp in Northern Kenya, where many have taken refuge from the conflict, although conditions are very basic and little support is given to these victims.
What follows in the documentary is traumatic, gritty and the style of production shows images repeated and choppy to give viewers the full effect of what the conditions the people in this refugee camp have had to endure.
A group of women, all of who were subjected to rape and torture by the regime, were willing to give their accounts, although it was clear how much pain this was causing.
One woman was repeatedly raped by nine soldiers and is now disabled because of this despicable act. Another woman opened up eventually to describe how she was forced to hang her own child. The students were so affected by this particular story, they were originally planning to name the film “Hang your Child” but thought this may be too strong for audiences so instead decided to name it “Silent Cry.”
The child victims were a focal point throughout the documentary. These parts of the film were possibly the most distressing. Tiny legs burnt, little faces scarred from fire and countless orphans wandering around without any supervision were all vividly captured in the film. It was too much to handle at some points with the images firmly planted long after the film finished.
The amateur film-makers have taken this documentary to over 26 cities in europe and the U.S in the past few months and are continuing their travels. Originally, Channel 4 in the UK offered them 13,000 pounds (Roughly 20,000 Australian dollars) for their footage, but they turned it down, fearful that it would be edited incorrectly. They instead edited the film themselves.
When asked how they fund their cause, it truly shows the grassroots nature of the project . They have raised money from student donations, selling t-shirts, badges and wristbands and are driven by a passion and extreme determination to expose the genocide that is happening in Ogaden.
To find out more information and to help the cause, visit www.silentcry.co.uk.