Boyfriend concerned she's in jail for refusing arranged marriage
Oct 03, 2007 04:30 AM
The mysterious disappearance of a 23-year-old Toronto woman in Somalia has Canadian officials looking for her, and her boyfriend worried she's being punished for their relationship.
Najah Jama has not been heard from since August when she called her boyfriend at the Toronto apartment they share, telling him she was jailed for refusing to marry a local Somali. Jama had left Toronto with her mother in March for a six-month vacation in northern Somalia. It was the first time she had ever visited her mother's homeland.
The couple stayed in touch during her vacation, but in July a distraught Jama called her boyfriend, Seifu Getahun, to say she had been taken into custody. She said her mother had asked her to marry a Muslim man from her hometown and became upset and called police when Jama insisted she wanted to wed Getahun, a Canadian of Ethiopian Christian heritage. Ethiopia and Somalia have a long history of war, most recently exacerbated by the presence of Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu, the country's anarchic capital.
None of Jama's relatives could be reached for comment.
Getahun said he last spoke with Jama on Aug. 1, after she said she bribed a guard to use his cellphone. A telephone bill of that conversation shows a 27-minute call to a Somali cellphone. Calls to that number went unanswered this week.
But Getahun said he also received a call earlier this summer from Jama's brother asking for money. Her brother told him that Jama was in jail because she had gotten in a fight with another woman and needed money to get her out. Getahun wired $50, after which the brother's phone number no longer worked.
When asked what he believes has happened to his girlfriend, Getahun replied, "I trust her. When she was here we were together 24/7."
Before Jama left, the couple had made plans to meet in Ethiopia in September..
Getahun met Jama at a downtown coffee shop almost three years ago and they have been dating since. The 34-year-old works as a cleaner at an upscale condo near King and Sherbourne Sts. Jama did not work, so spent most days with Getahun at the building where residents grew to know her well.
"She'd give you the shirt off her back. She's a very gentle, kind person with a childlike quality to her," said resident Maureen Muscott-Smith. A government spokesperson confirmed that officials are trying to determine Jama's whereabouts, but would say little of the case, citing privacy laws.
The Canadian government's only representatives in the area are stationed at Nairobi's High Commission in neighbouring Kenya.
Further complicating the murky story is the fact that the normally calm region in northern Somalia where Jama is allegedly detained has erupted in fighting