Victims recount ordeal in Nigeria torture school
A survivor of the Nigerian “torture house” raided by police has described being there as “living in hellfire”.
“If you are praying they will beat you. If you are studying they will beat you,” Isa Ibrahim, 29, told the BBC on Sunday.
Nearly 500 men and boys were on Friday rescued from the building in Kaduna, which was being used as an Islamic school and correctional facility.
The police said it was a place of human slavery, with many detainees found in chains. Some of the victims had been tortured and sexually abused, the authorities say. There are concerns that similar abuse may be occurring in other such institutions.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned reports of shocking abuse at the institution.
He urged religious and traditional leaders to work with the authorities to “expose and stop all types of abuse that are widely known but ignored for many years by our communities”.
Many families in this mainly Muslim part of the country can’t afford to send their children to school and those that can often enrol them in poorly-regulated Koranic schools.
Seven people, including some teachers, have been arrested. The government says it will investigate other schools.
Ibrahim said he was sent there two weeks ago by his family, apparently to “correct his behaviour”. He said he had tried to escape the day before the police arrived.
He described being chained up to an old generator and also being subjected to a particularly cruel punishment, known as “Tarkila”, where his hands were tied up and he was left hanging from the ceiling.
“I have many injuries. Almost all parts of my body have injuries,” he said. “Even if you are sleeping - they’ll use (a) cane to wake you up.”
He said he had been starved and was only given plain rice to eat.
Children as young as five were among those rescued from the school, which is believed to have been operating for several years. Most of the men and boys in the school were from northern Nigeria, but two were reportedly from Burkina Faso.
Relatives are being reunited with their children at a camp in Kaduna where the victims were taken after being rescued.
Some said they had been prevented from seeing their children at the school.
“If we had known that this thing was happening in the school, we wouldn’t have sent our children,” said a parent named Ibrahim.
The Kaduna state government says it will now carry out checks on all Koranic schools across the state.
“This is an eye-opener for us,” said Hafsat Baba, Kaduna State Commissioner of Human Services and Social Development. She added that if this scale of abuse was happening in the main city, she didn’t know what might be going on in rural areas.
“We have to map all the schools. And we have to make sure that if they violate the government orders then they have to be closed down completely,” she told journalists.