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Children Rescued from Muslim Torture in Kenya By: Gray Phombeah
BBC News | Friday, January 31, 2003


Kenyan police have rescued 11 boys from an Islamic correctional centre in the capital, Nairobi, where they were kept in chains and tortured.

Most of the teenagers came from Kenya, but others were from the United Kingdom, Sweden and Ethiopia.

In a dramatic raid at the Khadija Islamic Institute of Discipline and Education, the police were forced to fire in the air to fight off residents pelting them with them stones - before rescuing 10 teenagers who were being held at the centre.

They were kept in chains and secured by padlocks in small rooms with little ventilation or light in Eastleigh, a Nairobi suburb inhabited mainly by ethnic Somalis and refugees from the Horn of Africa.

The raid followed a tip-off from one of the teenagers who was himself later rescued from a hospital where he had gone to seek medical help.

'Lashes'

Nairobi police boss Stephen Kimenchu led the late evening raid.

"We found the children running around in chains. It was some kind of extreme confinement you cannot imagine to be happening in this country. We were not aware of this until yesterday when we got there."

At the Kasarani police station, five kilometres from where they had been rescued, the children narrated their ordeal at the hands of Islamic teachers bent on turning them into good Muslims.

Guleed Ahmed, 16, from Leicester in the UK, says he spent eight months at the centre:

"It was a terrible place, they chain both legs and both arms, sometimes hands and feet together," he said.

"They beat you at lunch time, dinner time and grab both legs and hands and give you lashes on the buttocks."

'Plain rice'

Fellow student Abdikalik Jama from Eldoret in western Kenya talked of four months of torture and beatings:

"We sleep in chains, eat in chains, go to the toilets in chains. Sometimes we are hooked on the roof in chains and left hanging. We have to memorise the Koran and get punished if we cannot recite the Koran in the classroom.

"Our food was tea and bread in the morning, plain rice for lunch and rice and sugar for dinner," he said.

Nairobi police boss Mr Kimenchu says the children were sent to the centre by their parent who pay $1,500 per child for a two-year stay.

"I think the parents believed their children were learning the Koran. I don't think they were aware of the actual conditions their children were living in," he said.

In Eastleaigh, local councillor Kullow Ibraim Haji also condemned the cruel treatment of students:

"I support the school and the parents who bring their children here to be taught discipline. But I don't support torture and chaining of students," he said.

"Islam does not allow children to be tortured. Teaching and disciplining them is one thing - but not torture."

By Monday night, police were making frantic efforts to contact the parents of the children and also verify the nationalities of some of the rescued teenagers.

They will probably charge the owners of Kadhija Islamic Institute for cruelty against children.


Gray Phombeah is with the BBC's Nairobi Bureau.


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