How strange is the fate each human being has to live with. There are many stories that indicate that human life can change in a moment from one situation to another due to the many circumstances that affect human beings.
As such, we tried to reflect on some of the tragic situations that Omani families suffered in Zanzibar after the coup in 1964, which resulted in the death of many innocent people.
Many people would be in agreement, but others would be opposed to what happened to this Omani woman, who suffered greatly to finally reach the palace of the leader of the coup against the Omanis in Zanzibar in 1964.
This coup claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Arabs, Omanis and Swahilis against the backdrop of the strife between the National Party, the majority of whom were Arabs, and the Afro-Shirazi Party after the independence of Zanzibar, which was under the rule of the Omani sultans for several centuries, in 1963, after the British mandate.
What is worse is that some of the Arabs were involved in this coup, such as Abdul Rahman Mohammed, known as Babu, who was known among his colleagues as the “Comrade” and they were largely responsible for the assassination of many Omanis and for burying them in mass graves.
We are referring to the biography of the Omani, Fatima bint Mohammed bin Salem Al Barwani, who was famously known as Fatima Jinja. She was born in Zanzibar in 1930 to Omani parents. Her mother was Sharifa bint Nasser bin Ali Al Barwani, who died while she was very young while giving birth to her child Salim.
When her mother died, Fatima was just two years old and she received all the care and love from her father, and grandmother Shannouna bint Salem Al Busaidi, as well as from her relative, Al Sayyida Nunu bint Ahmed Al Busaidi, the wife of the Sultan of Zanzibar, Al Sayyed Khalifa bin Harib Al Busaidi.
As such, she grew up in the royal palace among caring family members, who also took care of her studies and education; she excelled in high school and graduated with the highest marks among all the Zanzibari students that year. On the other hand, Fatima depended strongly on her father, who was one of the most prominent intellectuals of Zanzibar and had a strong personality that was acknowledged by everyone as a result of the principles he fought for. He excelled scientifically in Zanzibar and travelled to Britain on an academic mission by the Zanzibar government in 1938.
He received a Bachelor of Arts from Cambridge University in 1942. He then obtained a Master’s degree from the same university in 1945 and then returned to Zanzibar as a teacher.
There was also a permanent clash between him and his British director at the school regarding the nature of education and curriculum for students. This clash continued to the extent that Al Barwani refused to receive his salary despite needing it, as a result of his adherence to the principles which he believed in. Her father continued to always defend Zanzibar, until the coup against the Omani rule took place in 1964.
Later, he was accused of trying to form another coup by the group of Comrades led by Abdul Rahman Babu, so he was imprisoned and tortured with cruelty until he was executed by a firing squad after his colleagues and him were forced to dig their graves with their hands. This Omani martyr died after suffering greatly in prison in 1965. Before this incident, Fatima had been married to a Yemeni businessman called Muhammad Ahmad Al Shajri in 1952. She abandoned the idea of completing her studies in England after secondary school because of this marriage.
She gave birth to her daughters Shadia and Eman, but after a while her husband moved to Mogadishu and wanted to take her with him. However, she categorically refused to leave Zanzibar with her children, and so she was divorced. After a period of time, the Omani, Salim bin Hamad Al Barwani, married her in 1955 and she gave birth to her children Ahmad, Abdullah, Sabri and Zeneida. However, this marriage did not continue after the coup, because the coup leaders imprisoned her husband and he was dismissed from his job as a police officer in Zanzibar.
He then managed to escape to Yemen in 1966, and from there, he tried hard for six months to invite his wife Fatima and her sons to join him, but Fatima refused to leave Zanzibar because she was the sole breadwinner of her family after the bloody events, and was needed by her grandmother and 15 relatives. She could not leave them alone after everyone had failed them and everyone had fled after the coup.
Fatima suffered a lot in these circumstances, as she was a beautiful young woman lacking protection from the chaos that took place in Zanzibar after the coup. She did not have a job after being expelled from her service. At the same time, she tried hard to learn sewing and cooking to sell food to passers-by along with her daughters to earn their living in very harsh conditions, in which all Arabs and Omanis were either fugitives or burdened with poverty and grief as a result of the martyrdom of their beloved ones and their families.
The bad conditions led to many crimes against children, women and elderly people. Fatima and her family were always subjected to inspection, humiliation and intimidation by the coup forces and their followers, especially those who were called Comrades.
Fatima reached her worst moments while she bore the responsibility of her children and family who could not even have bread for their meals. She worked day and night, sewing and cooking to get them food, to the extent that she had to ask her 10-year-old daughter Shadia and her nine-year-old daughter Iman to sit by the roadside and sell the food she cooked to pedestrians.
She could not bear all of that and found that she was alone in the face of the coup leaders and their followers. So she tried to cope with the harsh conditions and waited for the destiny written by God for them. Fatima complained to Sheikh Mohammed bin Nasser Al Lamaki, who did not leave Zanzibar and always tried to help her. One day, Al Lamaki advised her to meet with the leader of the coup army, Yusuf Humaid Muftah, of African origin, to complain to him about the intimidation and continuous inspection she faced from his army and followers.
She asked to meet him, and he responded to her and gave her promises to protect her, and at the same time offered to marry her. Fatima faced a difficult choice between her poor conditions and her marriage to a big figure in the coup army who could protect her and her children, thus ending their physical and psychological conditions.
She agreed to this marriage (after all the circumstances had been against her in 1966) so, her fate was to be with one of the leaders of the coup against the Omani rule, which ended the reign of Sultan Jamsheed bin Abdullah bin Khalifa bin Harib bin Thuwaini bin Said bin Sultan Al Busaidi, the last Omani sultan in East Africa, who chose to stay in England after the events, and does so to this day.
This marriage continued for 14 years, and she gave birth to her children Mansour, Amani, Sharifa and Marissa, but after many years, she preferred to break away from her husband as a response to his marriage to another woman. It is worth mentioning that Fatima, in this period of her life, was able to establish for herself and her children a decent life free of hardships after years of pain, destitution, loneliness and fear, leaving behind her all the criticisms that she faced because of the events that took her to the leaders of the coup, particularly Yusuf Humaid Muftah, after she was brought up in the Royal Palace in the days of her childhood.
After some time, Obaid Karumi, the leader of the coup and the then ruler of the country, asked her to get her daughter Shadia married to his son Amani Karumi. The marriage was solemnised and Amani later became president of Zanzibar from 2000 to 2010. In addition, her son Mansour, who later became a minister, married Aisha, the daughter of Obaid Karumi, who had an Omani wife among his many wives.
Fatima Al-Barwani lived a very different life from that of her peers, especially with regard to her marriages before and after the coup, and her divorces. In 1980, she married the Egyptian, Maher Naguib Al-Gizawi. Al-Gizawi was a Christian, so in order to complete their marriage, he announced his conversion to Islam. She moved with him between Cairo and Zanzibar, until they separated in 1982 as a result of a dispute between them regarding their religions.
In 1983, she returned to marry her ex-Omani husband, Salim bin Hamad Al Barwani, and moved with him to live in England for 10 years, travelling between her home in Zanzibar and her home in Britain. She was so upset because of the instability that she asked for a divorce and they separated again and she forever returned to Zanzibar.
The story of Fatima and her life has been a subject of controversy among many people, some of whom blame her, while others understand her circumstances, especially with regard to her marriage to the leader of the coup and her relationship with Obaid Karumi. As such, we conclude this part of the biography of this Omani woman and her family and the martyrdom of her father and his colleagues.
Reference: Memories of the Beautiful Past, Dr. Asia Al Buali, First Edition, 2015, Al Nahda Press - Muscat - Sultanate of Oman.