Catholic Charity Calls for Release of Somali Women Detained for Converting to Christianity

Credit: ACN

Catholic pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) international, is appealing to the international community to intervene in the arrest and detention of two women in Somaliland who converted from Islam to Christianity.

Hanna Abdirahman Abdimalik, 21, and Hoodo Abdi Abdillahi, 27, are being held in different Somali detention facilities after they were arrested on separate dates last year.

In a Monday, May 8 report, ACN calls on the international community to further ensure that the two women are protected against any form of harm after they are released.

“The Catholic relief organization Church in Need is … calling on the international community to intervene with the government of the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland so that they will be released soon and receive the necessary humanitarian protection under international law,” ACN says in the report.

Born in Hargeisa, Hanna was on 30 May 2022 “arrested for converting to Christianity and sharing her faith through a Christian Facebook group,” ACN says. 


According to the charity foundation, Somali police showed no warrant for her arrest during the ordeal.

The police are said to have confiscated Hanna’s necklace with a cross attached to it and questioned the girl without a lawyer present. 

“They repeatedly asked her who had converted her to Christianity, adding that if she revealed that person's identity or converted back to Islam, she would be released,” ACN says, adding, “Hanna refused.”

On 27 June 2022, Hanna was charged with "crimes against the religion of the state". Authorities wanted her to respond to charges of blasphemy, insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad through social media and spreading Christianity. Two months later, the Hargeisa Regional Court reportedly sentenced her to five years in prison.

ACN reports that during the hearing, Hanna confirmed that she had converted to Christianity, but denied any proselytizing or sharing Christian messages with third parties. 

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She was transferred to a prison in Hargeisa, where she was not allowed to practice her religion or possess any Christian items, the charity foundation reports, adding, “Hanna's lawyer appealed to the Court of Appeal in Hargeisa and is awaiting a hearing date.”

Hoodo Abdi Abdillahi, on the other hand, was sentenced to seven years in prison and has been held in Gebiley women's prison since October 2022 for her conversion to Christianity. 

ACN says that during Hoodo’s trial, the 27-year-old allegedly had no lawyer and no contact with her family during her imprisonment.

The two women’s case is reportedly before the Somaliland Court of Appeal, pending a final verdict.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.