Over 1,000 Victims Freed from Abusive Islamic Reform Schools in Northern Nigeria Since Government Started Crackdown

Children are seen shackled at their place of confinement in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, in a photo released by Kaduna Police.

Hundreds more have been freed after authorities began cracking down on illegally operated Islamic reform schools in northern Nigeria, where mostly male students have been chained, beaten, enslaved, starved and, in many cases, raped. 

The government of President Muhammadu Buhari announced on Oct. 15 that it would no longer tolerate abuse and inhumane conditions at institutions known as Almajiris — schools where many parents throughout the region send their children for Islamic education, rehabilitation or discipline.

The announcement followed a September raid in Kaduna state where over 300 men and boys were rescued, many of whom showed signs of abuse. Authorities discovered children as young as 5 were being chained to metal railings with their feet shackled together.

Since the announcement, more victims have been freed from Islamic reform centers raided by authorities in Kaduna and Katsina states, including one center located in Buhari’s hometown of Daura.

“Mr. President has directed the police to disband all such centers and all the inmates be handed over to their parents,” a presidential spokesman told the media. “The government cannot allow centers where people, male and female, are maltreated in the name of religion.”

Authorities announced on Oct. 19 that they raided a second Islamic reform center in Kaduna, freeing 147 people.

The raid marked the fourth operation in a month against Islamic reform centers in northern Nigeria. According to Reuters, over 1,000 people have been released from the schools.

Unlike other raids, the most recent raid on the school in the Rigasa area of Kaduna yielded the release of 22 female captives, a Kaunda government official told Reuters.

The raid was ordered by Kaduna Gov. Nasir El Rufai.

The school in Rigasa was owned by the same person who owned one of two schools raided in Katsina earlier last week.

The Daily Trust reports that until last week, institutions known as the Malam Bello Mai Kawari and Malam Niga served as traditional reformatory and rehabilitation centers in the Katsina local government area.

But both institutions were closed down by local police. Police raided the institutions after some of the victims revolted and escaped. About 67 people were rescued last Monday during the raid on the center located in Daura where at least 300 inmates were held.

“In the course of investigation, 67 persons from the ages of 7 to 40 years were found shackled with chains,” Katsina police spokesman Sanusi Buba said in a statement. “Victims were also found to have been subjected to various inhuman and degrading treatments.”

Many were sent to the school to learn the Quran or to receive drug addiction treatment.

“Victims were also found to have been subjected to various inhuman and degrading treatments,” Buba said, according to Reuters.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith