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Everything You Have Told Me Is True: The Many Faces of Al Shabaab

Date posted: 31 May 2019

Congratulations to Mary Harper on the launch of her excellent book about Al Shabaab.  The book was launched at the iconic Frontline club in West London last week.



Mary Harper is the Africa editor at the BBC and has been writing on Somalia for 30 years.


The title of the book is a reference to the chilling manner in which Al Shabaab track Mary’s movements in Somalia. Notwithstanding the high level of security precautions that she takes Al Shabaab telephone her and give her an accurate description of minuscule details of her movements and arrangements whilst in Somalia.  It is a demonstration of the extent to which they are able to penetrate security.


The book provides a detailed account of the history and growth of Al Shabaab, analysing the way in which it has exerted such influence in Somalia and remains in control of significant territory.


The chapter “Who am I ?,” explores the varied motivations lying behind allegiance to Al Shabaab and particularly highlights the Somali nationalist motivation following the intervention of Ethiopian troops in 2006 and the overthrow of the Islamic Courts. The relationship with the diaspora is also discussed and the particular vulnerability of forced returnees from the West to recruitment.


Further chapters provide a detailed description of the treatment of women and children and the manner in which Al Shabaab controls not just territory but exerts a continued influence in significant parts of Mogadishu. The book is replete with illustrative anecdotal accounts.


Mary has demonstrated the highest ethical standards of journalism with her commitment to reporting on Al Shabaab and events in Somalia. At enormous personal cost and danger she has persisted in telling the story of Somalia and helping to keep the suffering of the Somali people in the eye of the world.


We thoroughly recommend “Everything You Have Told Me Is True” to anyone involved in representing Somali asylum seekers, or responsible in the Home Office for making decisions on refugee claims.


Mary Harper is already an established expert on Somalia and has been able to make her expertise available through expert reports submitted to the Home Office and the immigration courts in connection with Somali applications for asylum. She has been recognised as an expert by the upper tribunal in the country guidance case of MOJ & Ors (Return to Mogadishu) Somalia CG [2014] UKUT 00442 (IAC) and more recently in the Court of Appeal case of FY (Somalia).


Wilsons have been involved in representing Somali asylum seekers since the early 1990s and have been involved in many of the test cases.   This work by Mary Harper will be of great assistance in understanding the nature of  the current protection claims advanced by Somalis.


“Everything You Have Told Me Is True: The Many Faces of Al Shabaab” is published by Hurst and is easily available through the Hive online booksellers.