When we visited Jos prison today we were met with pity and anguish at how our justice system works. Indeed we saw persecution at its peak. To say I was shocked is an understatement. Visiting prison is not new to me. We used to visit the place atleast four times a year. We started visiting prisoners assisting them with the little we can in 2008, after the Jos sectarian crises. We go there under the aegis of a registered NGO called Al-ansar foundation. Hajiya Luba Ladan, my sister and myself were its founding mothers. The three of us have bailed a lot of women accused of petty crimes, sometimes even paying fines of women convicted of not serious civil crimes.

Truly we enjoy this humanitarian job a lot, and with time we introduce it to Sisters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria based in Jos. I can remember vivdly that they do visit the prison during special occasions like the birthday anniversary of the Daughter of our noble Prophet, Sayyida Fatima Azzahra (AS), during Ramadan and Eid festivities. In fact there was a time we repaired a leaking roof of one of the prison cells during the rainy season. Two years ago, during the acute scarcity of water in the metropolis, we arranged for the delivery of 2 water tankers to the prison daily, to the appreciation of the prisoners and the warders there.
Therefore Hajia Luba Ladan is not new to the Jos prison yard and most of its warders, because most of the time we visit the place together if the need arises or when we want to undertake any assistance to the inmates. There was even a time when we were called by phone to come to the rescue of a girl abandoned in the prison after she conceived a child out of wedlock. We seriously struggled together before she eventually regained her freedom and faith.

I started with this narration just to buttress my point that Hajia Luba is not new to the prison yard; any warder there knew our NGO works and us. Suddenly Hajia Luba was brought to the prison yard as an inmate on Thursday 13/10/16 after the vicious attack on mourners of Ashura in Jos by a consortium of soldiers and some hired jobless youths. We were late for the visit today due to my commitment at a hospital attending to a patient who was wounded during the ill-feted attack. Though we were there after the visiting hours but I went straight to the gate and gave it the customary knocks. Behold it was opened for me.

The fact that since the Zaria massacre in December, 2015 we haven’t visited the prison yard made me saw some new faces among the warders. I however asked of the Welfare officer, and he came. On seeing me he said “Hajia you are welcome. I was shocked when I saw your colleague in the house.” I replied, “thank God you recognised her.” He said, “haba, how can she escape my recognition after all the good works you have been doing to us?” I started seeing other warders with whom I was familiar with, all of them expressing their sympathy to us because of how we were treated by the state.

Hajiya Luba was called for me. On sighting me, we embrace each other crying. I couldn’t look at her in the eye because of remorse. She said, “See the limitless of the power of Allah. Unknown to me It has been ordained for me to stay here.” I console her, “You are not a criminal here. That is how the path of Allah is. It is your love for Imam Husain that brought you here. Don’t forget that few of the Imams escaped being imprisoned by the powers that were.”

We started crying again. She showed me how the soldiers beat her mercilessly, causing her hand to swell and wound her. She said they also beat her daughter such that she couldn’t even walk. I said, what have you done, why? She replied that they were arrested while they were inside Keke-Napep with children. She was the only person wearing black hijab, but the soldiers stopped them and single them out for torture and arrest, as if somebody whispered to the soldiers that they are also Shia.
When they were taken to the army’s headquarters, after giving them a thorough beating, they stripped them of their hijab, and poured cold water repeatedly. Among the 46 arrested, 25 are women including a pregnant one that could deliver her baby any moment. Four are married women, many young ones and even several minors who were unfortunately not spared of the molestation by the soldiers. What have they done that they deserve to be left without food and drink for a whole day?

Surprisingly when they were taken to court the following day, they were accused of carrying arms and ammunition, though the police couldn’t tender them before the court. When aske where are the arms found with the Shiites? They responded by saying they will bring them later. The case was then adjourned to 16th November 2016. Most disturbing is the women among the detainees who are on menstruation, because no pad was made available to them, leaving them to the mercy of infections. What a pity! Finding an activist, humble and religious person like Hajia Luba is not easy among the folks nowadays. For two hours we were allowed to discuss our fate, with the warders expressing their sympathy towards us.

After meeting Hajia Luba, I went to the brothers of the Islamic Movement who were wounded during the attack. There was on with a broken leg that couldn’t even move. One has a bullet lodge in his body. And the soldiers were bragging that they won’t take them to the hospital, and might even finish them off. Surprisingly when they saw me they weren’t concern of their condition, but asking about the health of Sheikh Adamu Tsoho, hoping that he wasn’t among those arrested. What a brotherly love they showed! With all the travails facing them, they weren’t thinking of themselves but their brother. All of them weren’t given anything to eat till when we arrived. Only the minor arrested were given half a loaf of bread to eat.

From the army headquarters they were taken to CID office, where a Lawyer visited them for a possible bail. But all efforts towards that failed. I specifically requested from the Welfare officer the opportunity to be serving them cooked meal from our homes. He obliged, but said we should write an application to that effect.

After them, we visited the 14 young children arrested. They were all within the age bracket of 3-15. They were locked up in a single cell. We waited for almost one and half hour waiting for it to be opened. When they were opened they all rushed to me crying “Mommy! Mommy!” It was a pitiable site that made me cry. All of them cried profusely. When we gave them food, they ate it like someone who has gone for days without food. I asked them were you given food since your arrival? They answered they were given only bread and pure water. Myself, Muhsina, Ummi, Mujahida who are my daughters and Jawwad with whom we made the visit all cried for the detainees.

There was a girl of 3 years that held onto me crying. The scene was like a mourning session. The girl is an orphan, sister to brother Saifullah M. Kabir, who was arrested in the company of her mother and two elder sisters who are all minors though. It was somebody who knew them in their town Saminaka that informed the soldiers on the checkpoints before entering Jos that they were Shiites even though they did not wore the black hijab. If you see them, they can make you shed tears because of their innocent look.

They told us that the soldiers also stripped them of their hijab, pouring cold water over them. What a torture! What have this underage did to deserve such brutality? What have they done? Two were male, the other 12 females. One of the male embrace me, and I felt his body temperature very high, an indication that he has fever. On closer examination I found out most of them exhibited symptoms of fever. What a world, had it been there is no hereafter, some would have gone unscathed of their evil deeds! But surely Allah await them at the crossroad in the hereafter. Among the detainees is a 10 year old girl, still in her school uniform when she was arrested. To cap it all, when they were paraded before a Judge he denied them bail and adjourned their case to 16/11/16.

THIS IS CHILD ABUSE OF THE HIGHEST ORDER! What type of persecution is this? We don’t know of any criminal offence these people committed. Let us not forget we are in a democracy. Which law of the land permitted the detaintion of minors that are not criminals by their activities? I therefore call on people of conscience to exert the necessary pressure on the authorities holding them captive illegally to release them without any condition. I rest my case.
Every other organization advocating human and children rights

By Hajia Fatima