Information on the Shanshiye and/or Abi Sheik and their conditions in Somalia [SOM29591.E]

In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a doctoral student at York University, in Toronto, who specializes in the history of the Benadir people, stated that the Shanshiye (also spelled Shanshi) are one of the major clans which compose the Reer Hamar (16 June 1998). He said that before the war in 1991, the Shanshiye lived in the coastal area particularly in Mogadishu and Merca but could also be found in Brava. He explained that historically, the Shanshiye were the first immigrants to arrive in Mogadishu 1000 years ago (ibid.).

The doctoral student explained that the Shanshiye, who tend be light skinned, do not belong to the Somali genealogy and mainstream Somalis consider them to be foreigners. They were relatively well off merchants and fishermen and for that reason, they were viewed with suspicion and envy. He stated that the Shanshiye "suffered immensely" during the war as their properties were looted and their women raped (ibid.). Matt Bryden, a consultant employed by the United Nations Research Instititute for Social Development (UNRISD) in Nairobi, corroborates this information and states that "the Shanshiye form part of the 'Gibilcad' group of coastal communities, of Arab or Persian origin. As a relatively wealthy merchant class, the Gibilcad were targeted by marauding militia groups in the early days of the war, suffering looting, displacement and rape. Many of them have left Somalia as refugees" (17 June 1998).

The doctoral student clarified that "Gibilcad" is not another clan but rather a Somali word meaning "fair-skinned" one (18 June 1998). He further stated that most of them left Somalia and went to the Benadir refugee camp in Mombasa while some of them have been resettled in the USA. The doctoral student and Matt Bryden are not aware of the Abi Sheik clan.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate 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.


Bryden, Matt. UNRISD, Nairobi. 17 June 1998. Letter received by electronic mail.

Doctoral student, specializing in the history of the Benadir in Somalia at York University, Toronto. 16 and 18 June 1998. Telephone interviews.

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Confidential [London]. 1998. Vol. 39. Nos. 1-11.

_____. 1997. Vol. 34. Nos. 1-24.

Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series. Vol. 34. Nos. 1-12.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter. January 1997 - June 1998. Nos. 747-764.

Cassanelli, Lee V. 1982. The Shaping of Somalia: Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People, 1600-1900. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. 1998. United States Department of State. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.

Gilkes, P.S. September 1994. The Price of Peace: Somalia and the United Nations 1991-1994. Bedfordshire, U.K.: Save the Children's Fund.

Horn of Africa Bulletin [Uppsala, Sweden]. January - April - June 1998. Vol. 10.

_____. January - December 1997. Vol. 9. Nos. 1-6.

New African. January - May 1998.

The Invention of Somalia. Edited by Ali Jamale Ahmed. 1995. Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press.

Lewis, I. M. 1994. Blood and Bone: The Call of Kinship in Somali Society. Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press.

_____. 1988. Rev. ed. A Modern History of Somalia: Nation and State in the Horn of Africa. Boulder, Col.: Westview Press.

Electronic sources: IRB Databases, LEXIS/NEXIS, Internet, REFWORLD, World News Connection (WNC).